The fast-paced, information age can make absorbing vast amounts of data overwhelming. Whether you're attending school or working on the job, assimilating information quickly is essential. Activities to increase your reading speed help you increase reading fluency to become a more productive reader. Understanding how you read and how to practice faster reading help you reach your goal.
Most people learn to read by vocalizing words out loud. As you get older, you begin to read silently -- subvocalizing -- to increase your reading speed. Though subvocalization can help you understand and follow readings such as narratives or dramas, it isn't necessary for comprehension of material. As you get older, subvocalization slows reading down, so learning to reduce it will increase your reading speed. According to Texas A&M Health Science Center, you can reduce subvocalization by expanding the number of words read at once, using a pointer to force yourself to keep pace, and eliminating unnecessary rereading.
Active reading uses strategies to stay focused on the material you are reading. It is reading with the purpose of absorbing information. At first, this may seem to slow you down, but with practice your speed will increase. According to the Cook Counseling Center at Virginia Tech, an effective active reading strategy is SQ3R -- Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. To survey, gather information needed to focus and set goals. Ask questions as you read to help comprehend the material, and read one chunk at a time while you keep your questions in mind and develop new ones. Recite the answers to your questions from memory and look back at the text if necessary. Then review your questions to build memory.
Adjust Your Rate
An effective reader adjusts reading rates according to the difficulty of the reading material. According to the University of Utah School of Medicine, easy and interesting material uses a maximum reading speed, while unfamiliar material and information that must be thoroughly digested uses a slower reading speed. Your plan and purpose, as well as the nature and difficulty of the material, determine the rate of speed to be used. Adjust your rate from article to article, and when necessary, within a given article.
Read, and read often. According to the University of Alabama, reading for 15 to 30 minutes each day, checking your word-per-minute rate and summarizing what you read will improve your reading speed. As you're reading, force yourself to read faster at an uncomfortable speed that still allows you to comprehend the information. According to Saint Mary's College of California, you should retime yourself and check your comprehension as your rate increases to enhance learning.
Based in Virginia, Susan Harlow is an adjunct English professor and writing resource coordinator. She specializes in education and technical communication. She holds a Master of Arts in English with a concentration in literacy, technology and professional writing from Northern Arizona University.