I always wanted to learn how to speed read. I read a lot of books and took few courses on speed reading. But my reading speed did not improve. I came across the classic book How to Read A Book by Mortimer Adler. This answered all the questions that I had on speed reading.
At what speed should I read a book?
Every book should be read no more slowly than it deserves, and no more quickly than you can read it with satisfaction and comprehension.
A simple trick to double your reading speed
Place your thumb and first two fingers together. Sweep this “pointer” across a line of type, a little faster than it is comfortable for your eyes to move. Force yourself to keep up with your hand. You will very soon be able to read the words as you follow your hand. Keep practicing this, and keep increasing the speed at which your hand moves, and before you know it you will have doubled or trebled your reading speed.
You can ask why should this improve your reading speed. The reason is because
- When you follow your hand it is harder to fall asleep, to daydream, to let your mind wander.
- Your mind can grasp a sentence or even a paragraph at a glance. But your eyes is not capable enough to provide that much information. Hence when you force yourself you can take in more number of words in a single fixation. This results in increased speed.
- Most of us subvocalize when we read. What does that mean? It means that we internally pronounce every word we read. This slows us down completely. When you force yourself it is very hard to subvocalize and hence we can increase our reading speed.
- Eyes of an untrained reader fixate as many as five or six times in the course of each line that is read. The eye is blind when it moves; it can only see when it stops. When you force yourself you fixate less often and it will increase your reading speed.
Should I need to understand every word or page of a difficult book?
Do not try to understand every word or page of a difficult book the first time through. This is the most important rule of all. Do not be afraid to be, or to seem to be, superficial. Race through even the hardest book. You will then be prepared to read it well the second time.