6 Scientific Ways to Speed Up Your Reading

You have a lot of goals to achieve and knowing how to read faster will help you do that, so as a Reading Specialist, I want to share 6 scientific ways to speed up your reading.

But first things first. Before looking at the simple fixes for the habits that may be slowing your reading down, ask yourself this – what does reading feel like to you?

And I’m not referring to the content of what you’re reading – I’m talking about the experience itself.

Chances are, you’ve never been asked this question.

And yet, it’s one of the most important questions of all. Because knowing how you “feel” when you read, and understanding whether you get tired, feel visual stress, skip lines or re-read what you just read is your biggest clue to speeding up your reading.

Table of Contents

1. Learn to Read Faster than You Speak

2. Cut Down on Rereading What You’ve Already Read

3. Avoid Getting Stuck on or Skipping Words

4. Turn What You Read into Mental Movies

5. Reduce Visual Strain When Reading on Screens

6. Address Any Underlying Visual Stress or Perceptual Problems

6 Simple Ways to Speed Up Your Reading

1. Learn to Read Faster than You Speak

6 Scientific Ways to Speed Up Your Reading

Do you sound out each word out loud in your mind as you read?

You might be doing this because, like a lot of other people, you learned to read with phonics.

Phonics teach you to tell apart the different sounds letters and combinations of letters create, and how these string together to create the sounds for different words.

Subconsciously, you might still be relying on sounding out each of these words, because this is how you’ve originally learned to read.

However, this process of sounding words out as you read, sub-vocalization, can greatly slow your reading down.

And the reason behind this is simple – you speak a lot slower than your brain can read.

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Most people speak somewhere between 110 and 150 words per minute (WPM). And while some people, like sports commentators and TV show hosts, may talk much faster, more around 200 WPM, you probably don’t talk that fast in everyday life, right?

On average, most people can read between 200 and 300 WPM. So, if you’re reading at the same pace as you speak, you might be halving your reading speed unintentionally.

It might be a struggle to get through books and reports, and you might end up focusing so much on the sound and pronunciation of a word that you don’t focus as much on the content of your reading.

How to Reduce Sub-Vocalization

6 Scientific Ways to Speed Up Your Reading

One simple fix for sub-vocalization is reading with your tongue pressed into the roof of your mouth, to keep yourself from subliminally falling back into the habit of sounding out words in your mind.

A quick strategy that might work wonders to help you overcome sub-vocalization is using a text-to-voice reader to read out the text you need to cover. There are lots of free text-to-voice readers that are free online.

By adjusting the speed to one that you’re comfortable with, the audio of the book keeps you moving through the text at a steady pace without getting stuck on sounding each word out!

To figure out if you’re struggling with sub-vocalization, or any of the other reading obstacles in this article, I highly recommend taking the Eye-Q Reading Inventory.

By completing this inventory, you discover your own, personal experiences and challenges with reading, which then lets you choose the strategies you need to address them!

2. Cut Down on Rereading What You’ve Already Read

6 Scientific Ways to Speed Up Your Reading

Does this ever happen to you – you’ll be reading a book or article, and you’ll find that you have to keep going back over words or sentences you’ve already read?

It could be because you lose where you are in the text, or because you’re distracted and you quickly forgot what you just read.

Rereading means you’re experiencing reading regression and it’s easy to solve.

Think about it this way. If you had to drive somewhere, but every couple of blocks had to stop, reverse, and start again, how long would it take to get to your destination?

And how do you feel, every time you have to stop and undo your progress, and do it all over again?

As you can imagine, it feels tiring, frustrating and demotivating. And just as you won’t enjoy driving like this, regression can also suck the joy of reading out of you.

Regression causes your brain to work overtime, trying to make sense of what you’re reading, stopping in its tracks, and doing it all over again.

Not only does it greatly slow you down, it confuses you too, and disrupts your brain’s ability to comprehend and recall what you’re reading.

But there’s a simple fix for regression and re-reading – using a tracker or a pacer!

How to Fix Regression

6 Scientific Ways to Speed Up Your Reading

When you’re reading, move your finger or a pen under the line as you read. This gives your eyes a moving target to track, and you’re less likely to lose your place in the text.

If you’re reading on a screen, use your cursor to track what you read. You can also install an app or browser extension that highlights the words as you read, so you don’t lose your place.

Doing this instantly gets rid of reading regression! Plus, amazingly, it improves your comprehension too.

3. Avoid Getting Stuck on or Skipping Words

6 Scientific Ways to Speed Up Your Reading

Do this – close one of your eyes, and then very gently, place the pads of your forefinger and middle finger over your eyelid.

Then, continue reading this article.

Do you feel these stops and jumps as your eyes track the words?

These are fixations – where your eye lingers on a word for a moment – and saccades – where your eye jumps from one fixation to another.

The more you tend to fixate on specific words, and the more your eyes jump from one fixation to another, the slower you’re reading. And the harder it is for your brain to comprehend what you’re reading, since it’s picking up bits and pieces of information, in stops and starts.

Again, using a tracker – a pen, your finger, or your onscreen cursor – helps you reduce these fixations and saccades, by giving your eyes something to follow as you move through the text.

By following this moving target, you’re not getting stuck on certain words for too long, and your eyes aren’t making jumps from one word to another.

And the more you practice, the more you’ll be able to reduce your fixations and saccades, and the faster you’ll be reading!

4. Turn What You Read into Mental Movies

6 Scientific Ways to Speed Up Your Reading

A lot of the tips you’ve read so far tackle challenges that slow your reading down and therefore hurt your ability to learn and recall.

But if you want to easily recall anything you read, duplicate what excellent readers do naturally.

Visual learners are naturally good at remembering what they read because they’re automatically turning what they read into mental movies in their minds.

This is much, much more efficient, faster than trying to commit strings of words and sentences to your memory.

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What takes you longer – remembering the route to your school or workplace, or remembering the step-by-step directions on how to get there?

Chances are, if someone asked you to guide them to this location, you’ll first conjure up the mental map of the route in your mind, and then translate these into directions.

And even step-by-step directions can be confusing at times – wouldn’t it be better if you could just show this person a map of where they need to go?

Your brain processes images much, much faster than it does text. In fact, it uses 80% of its surface area in visual processing.

Images also activate more parts of your brain, accessing both cognitive areas which work with facts, logic and reasoning and emotive areas which process abstract concepts like courage and love.

Images are so powerful that they directly bypass your short-term memory, where your brain temporarily stores information as you learn, and embeds directly into your long-term memory.

How to Improve Recall When Reading

6 Scientific Ways to Speed Up Your Reading

So, do this when you’re reading – rather than focusing on the words themselves, focus on the ideas and concepts they represent.

Picture these in your mind as mental movies – make them vibrant, colorful, memorable, even ridiculous (your brain has a sense of humor and loves funny imagery!)

If you’re predominantly an auditory or kinesthetic learner, and even if you’re a visual learner who has been using their visual memory subconsciously, the more you practice visualizing what you read, the better your reading speed and recall.

In fact, visualization is at the heart of all faster recall strategies – it’s the secret to the strategies memory champions use to remember hundreds of random words, names and numbers.

To find out how you can use proven memory systems for everything from recalling your grocery lists to remembering everything you read, check out my course Total Recall Learning.

I go into more detail on creating and accessing your visual memory, and all the different strategies to help you speed up your reading and recall in a step-by-step, easy to follow way.

And this includes a hi-tech reading strategy where you can triple your reading speed, without weeks of drills and practice!

5. Reduce Visual Strain When Reading on Screens

6 Scientific Ways to Speed Up Your Reading

Be it for work, learning, or just the fact that written information is so accessible on your devices, a lot of the reading you might do may be on your screen.

And this might be at the heart of why you’re struggling to read for long stretches of time – your eyes aren’t built to handle the blue light coming off the LED screens of your laptop, tablet or phone.

Blue light is the part of the visible spectrum of light (i.e. the colors of the rainbow, and one of the color wavelengths you can see with your naked eye), and does occur naturally in sunlight.

And some degree of this blue light is good for you when mixed up with other naturally occurring light wavelengths. During the day, the blue light from natural sunlight helps keep you alert, awake and in a good mood by slowing down the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.

However, artificial blue light, the type that emanates from your device screens, your TV, even your LED lightbulbs and the streetlamps outside your home, can strain your eyes.

Blue light scatters the most out of all the other color wavelengths – in fact, this is what causes the sky to appear so blue on a cloudless day.

This means that when you’re staring into blue light for hours on your screen, your eyes are working extremely hard to focus and pick up contrast so you can make out individual letters and shapes.

If your head feels heavy after some time spent reading on your screen, your eyes feel irritated and tired, and you have trouble focusing or remembering what you read, blue light may be the culprit.

How to Cut Down Blue Light

6 Scientific Ways to Speed Up Your Reading

Thankfully, there are a couple of options to help you reduce the degree of blue light you expose yourself too.

If you can’t reduce the time you spend on screen for work, learning or leisure, look into blue light filtering screen protectors, from trusted brands like Ocushield.

These are more effective at reducing the blue light you are exposed to compared to the color temperature settings on your devices.

You can also pick up a pair of blue light blocking glasses. I actually chose a yellow tinted set of clip-ons I can use right over my reading glasses and they work wonders. You’ll feel the visual fatigue disappear immediately.

Yellow tinted glasses are the best for daytime use, since they block out the more harmful blue light wavelengths while letting the healthier, natural ones in.

Red tinted glasses, which completely block out blue light, are better for evening or if you like gaming because it tends to completely cut down the artificial blue light which might be straining your eyes and messing with your sleep.

If you want a round-the-clock option, photochromatic lenses might be great for you. These block both ultraviolet rays and blue light, and the lenses darken when you’re under sunlight to protect your eyes.

6. Address Any Underlying Visual Stress or Perceptual Problems

6 Scientific Ways to Speed Up Your Reading

Even when you’re not reading off a screen, you might be experiencing visual strain because your eyes are sensitive to certain frequencies of the visible light spectrum.

Like blue light, this can make it harder for your eyes to make out contrast and focus on the words on the page, and it causes them to work much harder when reading.

If you feel as though you aren’t seeing the words on the page the way you should be, get tired easily while reading, accidentally skip lines or punctuation, you might be experiencing underlying visual perceptual problems.

If this is the case, I recommend doing the following.

First, try out colored overlays. These are translucent, colored sheets of plastic that you place over the page to read.

Like the tinted glasses from the previous section, these may help sharpen the contrast your eyes pick up when reading and make it a lot more comfortable for you.

Second, make sure you complete the Eye-Q Reading Inventory I mentioned earlier. The comprehensive list of questions help you specifically narrow down the type of visual challenges you’re running into, and how to address them.

And third, if you find that you’re still experiencing reading difficulties, make an appointment with a developmental optometrist at COVD.org

This isn’t just your normal check-up where you read off a bunch of letters on a screen from 20 feet away.

No one covers one eye while reading from 20 feet away so when you hear that someone has 20/20 vision it has nothing to do with reading a book.

The exam that a developmental optometrist conducts will pinpoint precisely why you’re experiencing visual strain or perceptual issues as you read and tell you what to do about it.

pat wymanPat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com and an internationally noted brain coach known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.

Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, including Total Recall Learning™.

Pat is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!

Do you have a product or service that makes a difference? Apply for the Parent and Teacher Choice Award here.

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