Becoming a fast reader is a skill which is developed over time. The average adult reads 300wpm (words per minute), but that seems tiny in comparison to a world speed reading champions who averages at 4,700 wpm.
Regardless of who you are, reading fast has its benefits, its aids you taking in information, increases knowledge.
This post will take you through a variety of techniques to becoming a better reader from changing your attitude, to reading more frequently, and reading easier material.
Give this post a read and see if you can benefit from any of our tips.
So, how to read faster and understand?
In order to read faster and understand it is essential to practice every day. Also, you should avoid reading word-by-word, diversify your content and read something easier, especially in the beginning.
What's Included in This Post
How fast do people read?
According to Forbes, the average adult reading speed is 300 wpm, the average college student reads 450wpm, a high level executive 575 wpm, and a speed reader 1,500 wpm. How fast you want to read is up to you.
The best way to determine how fast you currently read is by accessing a free wpm test. Retake this test in approximately 6 months to see if you have gotten any faster.
Should I feel bad if I am a slow reader?
No! Of course not.
Like most things, becoming a fast reader takes time. The whole process is supposed to be fun and any negative feelings may actually put you off developing reading skills. Think back to childhood, even learning the alphabet was difficult.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) 21% of Americans are illiterate, that’s around 43 million people. Many of these people cannot read a single word, and/or have a basic, or below basic ability to read.
So, to be at the ability to be wanting to simply read faster means you’re already talented.
As Bell Hooks says, reading is a skill, and she went many years reading at least one book a day before giving up because the pressure was too much.
Can fast reading affect my comprehension?
Yes, and no.
Yes, if you are simply trying to race through the literature you may find that your quality standards drop. Rather than engaging with a story as you used to, you may be skipping words and paragraphs to go as fast as you can.
This is not the aim. Slowly developing the skill will have it come naturally.
No, if you slow develop the ability to read fast there should be no affect on your comprehension level. You should actually comprehend better.
How to read faster and understand (step-by-step)
1. Change your attitude towards reading
Take a moment to consider how your approach to reading. Do you consider it a strenuous task which you have to do, or an enjoyable hobby which aids your life’s development?
Your overall attitude will impact your speed and enjoyment. If you are looking at reading negatively then maybe try and run through some positive prompts before you begin.
Reading will aid my progress in life
Reading makes me a smarter, more knowledgeable person
I am reading because it benefits me, it is not torture
2. Read frequently
Another step to becoming a more proficient reader is to make sure you’re actively reading. If you don’t actually dedicate time to read, you cannot be surprised when you do not develop the capabilities.
The first step will be to determine how much you read, daily, weekly? You will need to increase this.
You could try and increase the amount you read weekly, and/or the time you spend reading when you do. Either way by reading more frequently you will find that you read faster.
3. Don’t read word by word
Reading word by word is a skill taught to children to aid them initially get used to reading.
The skill is usually to make sure that the child understands how to pronounce the word. Many adults wrongfully continue this reading word by word practice far into adult life.
You want to get into the flow of reading sentences not words, it’s a small progression which will see you reading faster. In this process, you will be breaking what is known as subvocalization.
Once you’re into the habit of reading sentences, you can then progress to reading paragraphs. Begin with the sentence below.
Once. Upon. A. Time. versus Once upon a time. Reading the sentence, as a sentence, flows better.
One skill I utilized when trying to read faster was reading one sentence at a time. Completing it as the author intended. This may not be something you realized you were doing.
4. Don’t read the same sentence repeatedly
Some people get caught in habits where they end up reading the same sentences over and over again. This is ultimately not productive when it comes to reading.
This technique will bore the reading and lead to a state in which you are deterred from engaging with the literature. If you are stumped at a point, and keep reading it over and over again, move on. This may be a flaw in the book, or part of the plot which is explained later.
5. Use a tool to track sentences
If you’re someone who very easily looses track of where they are reading then using a pen or finger to keep you on track can be useful. See this as a tool to aid your reading experience.
This is known as tracking and there is a good reason it is taught to children, it works!
6. Read easier material
Potentially, the literature which you’re reading is simply too difficult. There is nothing to be ashamed of admitting this. Try reading something which is considered ‘easier’
You may be shying away from YA novels, poetry, or mystery books. These genres oftentimes don’t have the most challenging literature but they can still include books which can spark interesting conversation.
Fahrenheit 451, Animal Farm, The Hate U Give, The Power. These are all best-selling books which shouldn’t be too difficult to read.
Easier? yes, less valued in the literary community, no.
7. Diversify your content
Reading fast doesn’t have to mean reading books fast.
Potentially, you work in a document-heavy field where it is part of your job to process large amounts of data. But reading news articles, blogs, and briefings will also aid your comprehension of a range of literature.
8. Keep a dictionary near by
As you’re increasing your vocabulary you may find that there are words you don’t know. Having a dictionary nearby will help you quickly search up the meaning of these words. The next time you’re reading and you come across this word you will be more likely to understand it in context.
9. Read Shorter Content
Longer books move more slowly, as they have a much longer time to get to the main hook of the story.
Potentially, the books you’re reading are too long and that’s why you’re reading slow. When a storyline catches you there is no moving slow through it as you’re captivated.
Why go for some shorter books and see if this speed up how fast you read. It could be that you weren’t getting to the good points fast enough to be motivated to complete the book, it doesn’t hurt to give this tip a try, also when you finish a book you get the little high of having completed.
Books such as Phantom at the Opera, Anna Karenina, and War and Peace, are probably too long for someone just getting into novels.
10. Don’t read out loud
Following on from the tip above. The next tip is to not read out loud. Children are often encouraged to read out loud so adults can ensure they’re pronouncing words correctly.
In this process, an adult can kindly correct them when they get a word wrong.
Then give them praise once completing the book to encourage them to read further.
As an adult, reading out loud simply slows you down. Words flow quicker in our brain, so if you have carried on the habit of reading out loud then now is a great time to break this habit. Every time you catch yourself reading out loud stop and begin reading in your brain again.
11. Don’t drift away from the book
It happens to everyone, you get to a great part in the book and suddenly get caught up in your own mind. Don’t do this! Try and stay present. Maybe your brain frequently goes on a tangent, but that fights one of the great aims of writing.
To increase your ability to stay on board, constantly bring yourself back to the book. Every time you feel you’re drifting away, bring yourself back. Slowly, but surely you will build
Now you know there are many steps which you can take to becoming a faster reader.
You’re on the right path. You know you want to become a better reader and have decided to take the necessary steps to become one. Incorporated some of these steps and see how your reading speed improves after a week, month, and year. Keep a file and update it.
Let us know in the comments section if anything has been left out which worked for you!