5 Tips for Beginner Speed Readers

In a recent post I highlight in my Third Movement: Reading that I speed read. Namely, I have engaged in the skill and refinement of reading rapidly and now average ~600 words per minute (wpm) (The average college graduate can read 250 wpm, which actually is the fastest the eye can read untrained and unaided). This allows me to consume 2 average-size books a week, if I make the time for it.

I received a number of responses and questions regarding this feat, so many in fact that I wanted to write and highlight a few thoughts of mine. Anyone can speed read. Anyone can practice this skill. Anyone can achieve this superhero power. Even you.

I’ve wanted to speed read for many years and previously thought that it was only a matter of reading hundreds of books to naturally “get faster”. While this indeed happens and is an avenue to quickening your reading consumption, there’s an easier, less time consuming method. I want to share 5 of these tips with you, all of which will give you results immediately.

I do not intend to plagiarize here, but desire to simply relay information I have gathered from Peter Kump’s work “Break-Through Rapid Reading”. My observations borrow heavily from his work in the field, in addition to a few of my own. Should you purchase the book? Absolutely! As I said, speed reading is a skill, not a talent, and Kump gives excellent drills to hone in your speed reading skills. For $10, it’s a life-skill worth spending the money to acquire.

Now for the 5 Tips:

  1. Start reading everything with your finger.When first learning to read we are taught to use our finger to guide our eyes. As it turns out, our eyes move so fast and often regress from the text that a finger gives our eyes something to fixate on to concentrate on reading. This is crucial in learning to read. It’s crucial in speed reading too. Go ahead and start reading everything with your finger. You’ll increase you words per minute by 100–200 words. It’s that helpful.
  2. Stop reading the words in your head. Also when we are first learning to read, we are encouraged to read out loud–mostly as proof that we are pronouncing words correctly, and actually reading the assignment. This slows readers down significantly and we all to some degree still “read out loud” in our head. Start practicing not saying each word–or any word–“out loud”. In time, you’ll speed up ~50–100 wpm.
  3. Before you start reading define how you want to read. Not everything can be read quickly–nor should it. And likewise, not everything needs to be read. Before sitting down to read discover the purpose of what you are reading: Is it for an exam? Read more thoroughly. A work memo? Read a less thoroughly. A novel/biography? Read quickly. Scripture and devotional material? Read meditatively. Before this concept it never occurred to me to read different content in different ways, but it makes so much sense, right? Inevitably you will read faster once you refine this skill, but knowing what you need or want to get out of the text helps immensely in speed reading.
  4. Read in your peak productivity hours. Reading right before you fall asleep every night, while convenient for a busy schedule, will invariably lead to slow (or no!) reading. Identify your peak productive time of day and set aside 15–45 minutes to read what you want. For me, this is in the morning after my devotional time and before going to work. Sometimes it’s after dinner. If I read before bed, it’s because I need to fall asleep, but need an escort to the sweet land of slumber.
  5. Start with modest gains, easier reads, then build up from there. My friend wanted to speed read legal documents, immediately. While it’s possible, it’s probably a good idea to start with some easier reads, like novels or biographies. I prefer biographies because usually the plot is someone’s life events and it’s easy to follow along while practicing these new skills. I recommend these books to new speed readers:
    1. Steve Jobs
    2. Les Misarbles
    3. The Chronicles of Narnia
    4. Harry Potter

That’s my handful of tips I suggest to future super-heroes and super-heroines who want to speed read. May they aid you to discover imaginary worlds and a wealth of knowledge!

Do you speed read? If so, share your tips below!

If you don’t speed read, does this seem achievable now?


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