How to speed-read. Following along with your finger is excellent if you want to read a little faster, but speed-reading is a different ball game.
Brief background: I learned how to speed-read after some googling. I did this search because I had AP Bio and AP Econ summer reading due in about 12 hours, I hadn’t even begun, and I did not want to spend 12 hours reading. I tried to find the page, and I’ll add it in as an edit if I can find it. I learned to speed read because of my own laziness, but on a bad day I read at least 5 or 6 times as fast as I used to.
Let’s start with basics.
Most people read word by word, and often say the words to themselves using the voices in their heads. Why do we do this? I fully blame kindergarten reading programs, which force children to read out loud both in class and at home. Who thought of this? Anyway, that is not at all the most effective way to read, in terms of both speed and comprehension. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is eliminate the voice inside your head. This took me at least 1 hour to do.
Read with your eyes. ONLY.
Whatever you do don’t use the voice inside your head. As you learn to do this part go ahead and read word by word and go over the lines with your finger. Just work on eliminating the voice. Why? You cannot say words nearly as fast as you can comprehend them, believe it or not. Don’t limit your reading speed to your speaking speed. This process really sucks, by the way. If you really believe that the voice in your mind is your enemy, you will probably be extremely frustrated for the first half hour of your journey. You may get better, then get a snack, then come back to continue your training and realize you are back where you started. Feelings of hopelessness will arise. Be a man/woman, and push on.
A tip for those who are having trouble not subvocalizing is to hold your breath as you read. As Sean O’Connor pointed out, we breathe out as we read, even when we do so silently, since we’re used to speaking the words aloud. A lot of the time, you even notice yourself making movements with your mouth, though it’s closed. Hold your breath as you begin trying to eliminate subvocalization. Breathe in when you need to. (Don’t force discomfort or anything) Once you feel that you’ve effectively eliminated that voice, try to return to normal breathing. Remember to use breath-holding as a crutch whenever you are having trouble. It has no noticeable effect on your speed or comprehension, and it helps immensely when you are having a rough time.
Once you are able to pretty much eliminate the voice inside your head, you have unlocked a huge amount of potential in terms of how fast you can now read. Since you’re reading with your eyes, try reading two or three words at a time, and then move up once you get comfortable. Trust me, if you don’t skip the voice elimination step, you will make progress fast. After a couple days I was reading pages out of an assigned novel within 15-20 seconds, the book was The Guide, and with full comprehension. I am not exaggerating. This is when I got really in the zone of course. Not having the initial tunnel vision can be frustrating but after about 10 minutes you get it down and you fly through pages. I was reading about a line at a time. One tip I have that helped me read more words at a time is to think about opening your eyes REALLY WIDE. Actively try to take in as many words at a time as you can and try to move along the lines as fast as you can while doing this. You’ll build your own rhythm eventually.
Hopefully this helps someone. It really helped me. I was able to finish estimated hour-long reading assignments in 10 minutes or less. I’m out practice right now, but I want to get back into it this summer so I can complete the books listed on the answer wiki for Books: What are some potentially life-changing books?
P.S. Here’s a link (thanks Mike Stenhouse) that teaches you a lot of about speed-reading technique. The explanation it gives encompasses a lot of what I’ve said, and I found it pretty useful in cleaning up how I read and in increasing my reading ability generally: Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes
Reading has a significant number of benefits, and just a few benefits of reading are listed below: 10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every DayFeatured photo credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy via Flickr