I always thought I was a fast reader—until I met my mentor teacher. She puts me to shame! I thought it must be some natural talent of hers, not something that I could learn. True teacher that she is, my mentor wouldn’t let me off so easily. Speed reading is a skill you can acquire. My mentor learned it as a child from a teacher who had a speed reading machine.
It was years before I figured out what a speed reading machine was—more on that later. But that summer, I took a course in speed reading through my local university. On the first night, we learned to track our reading with our fingers, just like a first grader. Then we practiced all summer.
And I consider it $350 well spent.
Yes, sliding your finger under the words like a first grader really will make you a faster reader. Our eyes wander all over the page, slowing down our reading. We reread sections and don’t even realize it. Tracking with your finger combats this human frailty.
People tend to vocalize the words we read. Little kids actually read everything out loud. Most older kids (and adults) tend to read silently, but we pronounce the words in our heads. By tracking with your finger, you can move faster than your mind can pronounce the words. With a little practice, you’ll get to the point where you feel like you’re reading with lightning speed—because you’re flashing past the words, absorbing their meaning but not pronouncing every phoneme.
In addition to just getting faster, there are unexpected uses for speed reading:
- It keeps you focused (and awake). Speed reading will help you pull an all-nighter.
- It gets you through boring text. Focus on the skill of speed reading, not the dull text you are required to read. College kids and those working on master’s programs, take note!
I found an online speed reading machine that teaches you how to focus your eyes. You can let your students use it individually in the computer lab. I like to project the online speed reading machine using our classroom computer-projector hookup. Then the whole class can practice together. The strong readers pull everyone else along.
You have to input your own text into the online speed reading machine. Use free books from Project Gutenberg or just pull text from online encyclopedias and articles for kids. My class and I had the best time doing that. I let the kids suggest topics for study. In this manner, we learned about everything from sea turtles to Justin Bieber. The kids had so much fun learning about a variety of topics that they forgot they were improving their reading fluency.
Want to learn more about speed reading? Click here for an article about speed reading from the Four Hour Workweek Guy.