To help students navigate bulky tomes, educationists and psychologists are increasingly advocating speed reading techniques for children to improve their concentration and recall capabilities – Jayalakshmi Vaidyanathan
The secondary school years are stressful for adolescents as they prepare for school-leaving board exams and college entrance exams. They are swamped with academic and extra-curricular reading material and under pressure to excel in exams. To help students navigate bulky tomes, educationists and psychologists are increasingly advocating speed reading techniques for children to improve their concentration and recall capabilities. Speed reading is the ability/technique to zip through reading material by focussing on key phrases and sentences.
“Great leaders are great readers. In the knowledge-intensive 21st century where numerous tasks are competing for their time and attention, there is mounting pressure on children to read more in less time. Learning to speed read not only saves time, but also improves students’ concentration and comprehension. Speed reading techniques are easy to grasp and will immensely improve children’s academic and personal lives,” says Sq. Leader (Retd) Jayasimha, director of Hyderabad-based Jayasimha Mind Education Pvt. Ltd (estb. 2006), a company that offers study skills programmes for children and adults. President of the World Memory Sports Council for India, Jayasimha is cited by Guinness World Records for several memory-based skills.
According to Jayasimha, when children learn speed reading, they are able to read quickly, can cover the syllabus and absorb important content. “Speed reading techniques develop capability to read in chunks and form pictures in the mind, enabling comprehension. With practice, speed readers read more in less time, zipping past unimportant words and focussing on important sentences and phrases. It helps by reducing texts to critical paragraphs, and words which are visually recognised, to form a pictorial representation of sentences,” explains Jayasimha, adding that one can test reading speed with a timer and test comprehension through prescribed questionnaires.
According to Jayasimha, average adults read about 250 words per minute and a ten-year-old child 140 words per minute. But with speed reading, the word count can be increased three-fold.
Replace bad reading habits with good
For successful speed reading, common bad reading habits need to be shed. Among them:
Fixation. Reading one word at a time slows down the reading process. Practise reading in chunks of two or even five words at a time, starting with two words.
Regression. Rereading is an unconscious habit developed by many readers. When one reads the same line twice, before completing a paragraph or lesson, this interrupts the mind’s ability to absorb information. To break free of this habit, read like you are watching a movie. Conscious effort to read a complete paragraph without rereading lines increases reading speed.
Sub-vocalisation. Repeating words in the head (auditory reassurance) reduces reading speed. Try to read continuously and consciously avoid sub-vocalisation.
Speed reading apps
Several apps and YouTube videos provide introduction and initiation into speed reading. Among them:
• Quick Reader for ios
• Focus speed reading for ios
• Outread for ios
• Spreederios and website
• Reedy for Android
• Read Me! For ios and android
• Speed Reading for Android
• Speed reader for Android
• Free speed-reading assessments online: http://www.readingsoft.com/ or https://www.myreadspeed.com/
3 ways to boost reading speed
1. The pointer method
Utah (USA) school teacher Evelyn Nielsen Wood was one of the pioneers of speed reading. In the 1950s, she claimed that she could read up to 2,700 wpm (words per minute) if she swept a finger along the line as she read. This became known as the pointer method, aka hand pacing or meta guiding.
2. The tracker-and-pacer method
This is a variant of the pointer method where the reader holds a pen, with its cap on, and mentally underlines each line as she reads, keeping her eye above the tip of the pen. This will increase the pace at which you read every line, and improve your focus on the words. Whether you actually underline the words is your choice.
Try to spend no more than one second on each line and then increase your speed with each subsequent page. You will find that you retain very little information at first, but, as you train your brain and become more comfortable with the technique, comprehension will improve.
NB. An advantage of the pointer and tracker-and-pacer methods is that they reduce the need to skip back and re-read sentences — a hindrance to speed reading known as ‘regression’.
3. The scanning (or previewing) method
Scanning involves moving your eyes quickly down the page — often down the centre — identifying specific words and phrases. These can be key sentences (often the first sentence of each paragraph), names, numbers, or trigger words and ideas.
You don’t read every word, but your eye will focus on the important words to allow you to grasp the basic proposition. It may be helpful to use a mind map to organise the information you take in.