Speed reading is a vastly popular keyword internet search term with several million searches per month. Many people want to discover how to do this vital information management skill today. However, before someone learns to speed read, it might be helpful to take a step back and observe something that is taken for granted. When you read, whether it is speedy or not, what does your mind do? If you take it for granted, you might be able to move through print quickly, but then you probably won't comprehend well.
There is no such thing as speed reading without comprehension. This has to be stated boldly. A common complaint I get when people have tried speed reading in the past is that they are able to speed up their pass through the material, but their comprehension suffers. There are various reasons for this to happen, but the fact is, if you don't understand anything in the material, then reading is not taking place.
Reading, whether it is done with speed or not, is comprehension, or understanding the material. In order to understand the material, you have to consider your mind's experience. As a brain trainer, I have come to understand that being aware of our thoughts is generally taken for granted. Either we're fantasizing the future, or we are reliving the past. True conscious awareness escapes most of us most of the time.
Let's forget about speed reading for a moment and just consider what does your mind do when you read? If you are like most people your mind is probably not present to what the print symbolizes. Your mind races ahead. Or, it wanders off into some other task that you should be considering. Or, perhaps you are remembering some pleasurable event that you'd like to be reliving, rather than paying attention to the task at hand. Or, any number of things could be occupying that mental space other than considering the print in front of you.
It should be noted that most people suffer from this at almost all times of their waking day. Focus and concentration is a precious resource that is scarce in today's busy world. Workplaces are abuzz with phones, pagers, cell phones, people dropping in, etc. Distraction is the norm.
Lack of focus and concentration is one of the biggest complaints I get from prospective learners. Try this experiment. Take something that you want to read. Hard paper copy is best for this experiment. Limit yourself to one page. Read the page. Count how many times your mind wanders off from where you are on the page.
Now for the good news! The brain/mind is a powerful tool that can be trained. You can train yourself to focus and concentrate better, both generally and specifically for reading. In fact, within a couple hours of speed reading training, most learners will see significant results in their ability to concentrate while reading.
Speed reading can improve your reading concentration. One of the reasons the mind wanders while reading has to do with what is called mind speed versus reading speed. If you are a slow reader, mind wandering is a natural result. Your mind's processing speed is exponentially faster than the average reading speed of around 250 words per minute. Some brain researchers have even estimated the brain's processing speed to be between 80,000 to 120,000 words per minute! Wow! Think of that! How fast do you read? What's the mind supposed to do if you're reading at an average speed?
Unfortunately many speed reading programs focus merely on the speed of moving the eyes faster and more efficiently. Yes, the eyes do need to move faster and more efficiently. But, the mind needs to stay along for the ride. What do you do to get the mind involved as well?
The short answer is to pay attention and think about what you are seeing. Make connections amongst the symbols on the page. Ask questions of the material. Constantly ask yourself as you are moving your eyes, "what's this about?" Reading comprehension is the mind's response to the print whether you read fast, or whether you read slowly.
Ed Caldwell is the creator and publisher of the "Masters Online Program: Dynamic Reading, Memory, and Recall" and other live and web-based learning programs. As former National Director of Instruction and Certification for the world famous Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics program, Ed has 30 years experience teaching and testing new strategies to help people from all walks of life learn more efficiently. Trainer, speaker, and writer, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the creator and president of Productive Learning Systems, Inc.. You can learn more at speedreadingtactics.com and download the free eBook, "The 10 Top Mistakes When Learning Speed Reading."