From Speak Reading to Speed Reading?

Posted: June 14, 2011 in culture, Education
Tags: , , ,

It surprised me to find data that do not seem to correspond with the theories on reading and comprehension. Reading experts believe that comprehension is positively related to reading rate. That the faster one reads, comprehension also increases with it.

A bunch of freshman students I have now batted at an average a reading rate of 132-200 wpm. Studies inform that the average reading rate is around 150 wpm, that is the same as the speaking rate. First, those who scored above 150 but still within the range below 200 wpm were happy. But, when they realized that the reading rate of 100-200 wpm does not fit a college students, they were shocked.

Studies show that a reading rate of 100-200 wpm is that of 6-12 years old. This is just enough for grade schoolers who are still learning to read by mere decoding. They have the tendency to vocalize and subvocalize what they are reading, and that their comprhension is not that stable to score at 60% or below 50%. The data, without exaggeration, implies that the reading ability of students even in college, is the same of their reading rate back in grade school.

For a college student, I see this rate as case of reading conveniently. This trend shows the reading proficiency level of students brought by poor reading instruction back in high school. College students are not to be blamed, but the dilemma is a terrible challenge for college reading. The demand for reading in college is just so voluminous that such skill would be inconvenient.

While my students scored high in comprehension, they feel confident that their reading rate is just fine. However, if students are tasked to do research for small assignments and big ones, surely they will suffer and try to sneak away from the academic task by mere plagiarizing. This will be vicious cycle until the students learn and apply strategy in reading. That will only come when they realize that their reading proficiency is rather problematic.

Reading for convenience is not reading at all, but it is a mere decoding process.  It is speak-reading, and it can never be speed reading because the reader rests his confidence of understanding the text by vocalizing, subvocalizing and hearing the text. Speaking and hearing are more convenient abilities for any one, because they are common day to day activities we engage in. Reading is inconvenient for anyone who does not have the skills.

Speed reading is silent reading. It is an eyes and mind activity. Ears are not involved in it, nor the mouth, the lips, the throat, or the diaphragm. It is not a virtual experience of being silent, but a total silence when the eyes are focused on the texts and swiftyly moving over them. One does not hear a tiny voice in the head when speed reading.

It is not an ordinary skill, but a strategic technique to help learners take more of what they read and read even more with greater efficiency and control. Clustering helps develop the skill of speed reading. That is fixating the eyes at groups of words rather than word by word. However, it takes time to develop such skills, but surely it can be learned over time.

Speak reading may seem convenient, although in reality it is not. With speak-reading, there are more senses used that makes the reading activity more tiring. With speak-reading, one articulates the words to decode them and so uses the throat muscles and other muscles in the oral cavity. One tries to hear the words and so affects the mind to process the printed information. With speed reading, only the mind and eyes work.

Well off course a little help of the fingers as crutches could help facilitate the efficient reading, but nothing else is needed. One does not even have to be conscious of understanding the text. Simply, it is because understanding only comes upon completing the reading the task. That’s the same logic applied in testing comprehension, questions appear after the reading material, not before, not within but at the end of the text.

Speed reading is easy reading. It is in a veryvital study and thinking skill that college students need to master. Reading is not an innate ability, it is a skill. So is speed reading, it can be learned, it can be developed and it can be applied in any discipline required for a college student reader to learn. One needs to step up, upon learning how speed reading could help increase comprehension, enhance vocabulary and so enrich one’s knowledge.

I still have to prove to my students how the theory on reading speed and comprehension really matter by giving them more reading tasks in increasing difficulties.But with the task at hand to read a book, the requirement adds to the challenge. Check this video to help you get through that demanding reading task:

  1. Argee says:

    Great Post!

    Speed reading is really a valuable skill and has served me well ever since learning in before entering college.

    I hope to teach my students in the grade school speed reading too.

    Perhaps you can introduce speed reading to your students via Tony Buzan’s books like mindmapping and speed reading.


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