As a speed reading expert and author, I am frequently asked if a person can really speed read. I love this question because it gives me a great opportunity to do what I love to do best – educate!
I explain that many people have a misconception about what speed reading is, thinking it is a person’s ability to read the voluminous War and Peace in 5 minutes and then say it’s a book about Russia (thanks to Woody Allen for this inaccurate quote!). This kind of “speed reading” is superhuman and only achieved by a very select gifted few (see the Guinness Book of World Records . . . )
For us mere mortals, being able to read faster is definitely possible but not the same as described above. What I talk about is the idea that everyone has FIVE GEARS built into their eyes and brain. The first two gears, one and two, are the slower gears while gears three, four and five are the faster ones. Most people are stuck in gears one and two because they were never shown HOW to get into gears three, four or five! Once you know how, you have CHOICES you never knew existed before.
So let’s say you are an average reader reading at 250 words per minute to start. Then you learn the many options you have for reading faster and are now able to double, even triple your starting rate. This doesn’t mean you read this fast all the time, rather you choose what speed you want or need to read depending on many factors. These factors can include why you are reading the material, what you need it for, whether it is for pleasure or school or work, where you are reading, how tired you are, how interested you are, and more. You get the picture!
Speed reading is part strategy and part common-sense education (like reading in bed could slow down your reading because you fall asleep!). In the academic world, some might call some of what I teach developmental reading. Whatever you call it, I think ALL readers can benefit from learning speed reading strategies. They will become more focused, confident, interested and satisfied.