Summer is the perfect time to catch up on all the reading you've been meaning to do. Whether you've got a ton of beach reads on your Kindle, you have lots of papers to get through for work, or you're finally enrolled in that class you've been wanting to take, sometimes the quantity seems daunting. Not to worry, there are certain things you can do to make it easier, like following these reading hacks from a speed reading coach. It's not just about reading faster, but also making sure you comprehend what you are reading.
Just like when you are learning a new swing in tennis or golf, much of speed reading is about retraining yourself. It takes practice. As Tom Corson-Knowles, author and founder of TCK Publishing, says, "The goal during speed reading exercises is to change your muscle memory and improve your reading habits and eye movements." This is totally doable and if you invest your time in the training, it will pay off by saving you time while you're reading.
While summer can have a whole different pace than the other times of year, it's still important to set aside time to learn this. If you can, schedule in speed reading practice time and then actual reading time like you would a haircut or an office meeting. Block the time out on your calendar, find somewhere quiet to go and then take care of yourself and read.
Some of these tricks might even work for your kids but Abby Marks Beale, speed reading expert and author and creator of Rev It Up Reading, advises that many kids younger than 12 don't have a large enough sight vocabulary or background knowledge to be able to truly speed read. So while it's tempting to teach them speed reading to get them through their elementary school summer reading list, you may want to let them read at a more leisurely pace. As they hit seventh and eighth grade, speed reading is something you can introduce to them.
Kathleen L. Hawkins, author of Speed Reading Made Easy ($5, Amazon), tells Romper that a great way to know if these methods have worked is to tell someone else the details about what you read. "You’ll know right away what you remember or if you need to go back and read something over again," she says.
Whatever you choose to read this summer, these tips can help you make the most of your reading time.
1. Make sure you have the right environment
Where you read is almost as important as how you read. Beale says being aware of your environment, gives you a greater chance of setting yourself up for success. She feels that if you can't concentrate, you won't be able to focus and she suggests having a designated space. This can be anywhere — a cleaned off dining room table, a desk in an office, etc. Steer clear of soft couches, your bed, or a beach lounger when you are trying to speed read because you need a place where you body knows it's time to get to work, Beale advises. Comfy places make it too easy to doze off and lose focus.
2. Preview before you read
Hawkins advises skimming non-fiction material before you read it. Of course, you probably don't want to use this tip for fiction. As Hawkins says, "There’s no need to skim a who-dun-it novel or you’d find out who did, and then why read it?"
3. White card method
While logically, you might think that using a white card for speed reading means holding the card under the words, so you can keep your place, Beale says it's actually the opposite. She recommends you hold a white card above the lines you are reading. This prevents your eyes from going back to skim and review what you've already read, which can be a big distraction.
4. Time yourself
It's all about reasonable expectations. Beale recommends timing yourself to see what your typical reading speed is. After you figure out how long it takes you to read a page, you can look at your book and see how many pages there are, determining how long it will take you to read the entire book. If you know a book might take you five hours, you can then make sure you have five hours available to finish the book. And if five hours is too long for you, you may need to spiff up your speed reading skills and get faster.
5. Pace yourself
This is a different approach to the white card method. Hawkins feels that if you, "Pace yourself quickly and smoothly with your hand under the lines on the pages as you read...(it helps) you to read faster, focus well, and remember more."
6. Avoid pronouncing every word
Whether you pronounce words out loud when you read or to yourself, Hawkins feels that this could slow you down. "Key ideas are basically nouns and verbs," she says. "Your mind will tend to see and silently register the connecting words, like 'and,' and 'the.'"
7. Turn off your phone
It sounds obvious, but every ping, ding, and vibration will take your attention away from the reading. Beale thinks it's too easy for your phone to distract you.
8. Set time limits
Hawkins recommends setting short time periods for intense focus. "Read flat out for about 15 minutes, pacing as you read, and then stop and think about what you read, she suggests. "You’ll read faster in that short time period than if you just read until you wind down." Of course, if the 15 minutes ends and you are close to the end of a chapter or section, finish that out for a sense of closure.
If speed reading is something you want to explore further, there are plenty of resources online that will help you perfect this skill. The great thing is that you don't need to go to a hotel or conference center to take a course. Pull up your laptop, Google "speed reading courses" and find one that suits your availability and budget.