Reading Speed & Speed Reading

When I was in high school, I had a pretty solid group of close friends. The girls in this group spent so much time together that our mothers all became friends, too (the boys somehow escaped this fate). The moms used their friendship to plan a lot of things for us (I bet I went to more mother-daughter lunches than you did). This was fine. We all got along and I have wonderful memories of the things they planned for us. (Note: this makes me sound really lame but it really wasn’t – I think it was great that the moms all cared enough to plan activities for us).

Well one of the moms decided that us kids needed to take a speed reading class. We were probably juniors or seniors in high school and I guess this was a skill we would need for college. I didn’t object – I thought it would be great if I could get through my homework faster.

So every Saturday for a few weeks we all attended a speed reading class. Since we were teenagers, the class did not focus solely on speed reading but also gave us study tips and techniques. I disliked this part of the class and wish I had signed up for the adult version. But we did learn how to speed read. We would take tests that would measure our speed vs comprehension and the goal was to increase speed without losing comprehension. It basically comes down to forcing your eyes to see the words faster and, with practice, your brain learns how to process them. I actually did manage to learn this to some degree. But it takes practice and I was 17 so I’m sure I didn’t practice as much as I was supposed to (and now I’m remembering the Saturday morning ACT class the moms signed us up for once and how we would all show up at 8am on 4 hours of sleep after failing to even glance at the homework – education really is wasted on the youth, huh?).

I can’t remember how much I used the speed reading techniques in high school, but I know I used them in college when faced with a boring textbook. When I got to law school, I stopped because the casebooks were a little too dense for me to comprehend when speed reading.

The speed reading was always something I reserved for school. I always consumed my pleasure reading at a leisurely pace. And that pace is usually pretty leisurely. But lately I’ve been trying to teach myself how to read a little faster. I’m doing the best I can without sacrificing any enjoyment or comprehension. To do this, I’ve been using a bookmark to scroll down the page to keep my reading pace consistent. I’m hoping that if I do this enough, I’ll be able to read a little bit faster without the bookmark.

My end goal is simply to read more books. And if it turns out that it isn’t working, I’ll just go back to my slow reading. But it’s worth a shot.

I’m curious. Have any of you taking speed reading lessons? Have you ever tried to teach yourself to read faster? Are you happy with your reading speed?