Join Paul Nowak for an in-depth discussion in this video Three reading habits that slow you down, part of Speed Reading Fundamentals.
- Before we get started on improving our reading skills, let's talk about three old reading habits that may be slowing you down. The first old reading habit is called fixation. Fixation is something your eyes do while reading. They fixate on a word-by-word basis. Now when we first learn how to read, this was absolutely necessary. We had to fixate on each word because we had to break it down syllable by syllable, but eventually as you become fluent in a language, you don't have to fixate on each word because you're fully capable of reading groups of words. Actually you probably already read groups of words sometimes without realizing it.
For example, if you're driving a car and you a sign that says "New York City." Think about how your eyes would react. First, your eyes are initially fixated on the road. But as the sign comes into view, your eyes will only make one fixation on the sign and you'll read those three words no problem in one fixation. However, if those same words were in the middle of some paragraph, most people would fixate on every word and that's an old reading habit we need to change if we're going to start reading faster. As this course goes along, we'll discuss a number of techniques and exercises to help you read groups of words more effectively.
The second old reading habit we need to change is called regression. Regression is something that all of us have done at some point and that is going back to re-read material. Have you ever had a whole page of text and stopped to think to yourself, "I have no clue what I just read." All of us have had this happen to us and we know it's an issue with concentration. Sometimes our mind wanders off while reading especially if the material is dry and doesn't peak your interest. So in this course, we'll work on helping you improve your focus so you don't go back to re-read as much as you currently do. The third old reading habit is the one that slows us down the most.
It's called subvocalization and that's simply the voice you hear in your head while you're reading. Now just because you're hearing voices in your head it doesn't mean you're crazy. It's your voice after all, but this habit of subvocalization is common among all readers. You've probably noticed yourself saying each and every word in your head as you read through your material but there's a reason we need to change this habit. If you think about it, most of the words you read you've seen many times. Maybe thousands of times. So the question is, "Do I have to say a word "in my head to understand what it means?" and the answer is no.
You don't have to say a word in your head to know what it means. For example, when you're driving a car and you see a stop sign, do you say "stop" in your head? Probably not. You don't have to say the word "stop" in your head to know what the word means. But if the word "stop" was in the middle of some paragraph you were reading, you probably would say "stop" in your head and that's part of the issue with subvocalization. The main reason we need to change this old reading habit is because it slows us down. Think about it. If you're saying every word in your head, doesn't that mean you'll only read as fast as you talk? And there's a limit to how fast you can talk.
The average reading speed is 150 to 250 words a minute. Guess what the average talking speed is? It turns out it's exactly the same, 150 to 250 words a minute. Why is the average reading speed the same as the average talking speed? It's because of this habit subvocalization. If you say every word in your head while reading, then you'll only read as fast as you talk, and that's a problem. Subvocalization limits our reading speed. But I want you to know that you're fully capable of reading faster than you can talk because you can think a lot faster than you can talk.
So as we go along through this course, we'll do a number of exercises that will help you change this habit along with the others. To recap, the three old reading habits we need to change are: fixation, we need to be able to read groups of words; regression, we wanna improve our concentration so we don't go back to re-read as much; and subvocalization, we don't wanna say every word in our head because that limits our reading speed.
The course then focuses on improving comprehension by understanding how memory works, practicing the "read and recall" method, and breaking down technical terms. The final chapter introduces some advanced tips and strategies for reading different types of media: news and magazine articles, textbooks, technical material, and ebooks.
- Measuring your reading speed
- Reading faster on the computer
- Reading groups of words
- Previewing and overviewing
- Improving comprehension and retention
- Understanding the 80/20 principle of reading
- Reading magazines, textbooks, diagrams, and ebooks