1. Pushing your eyeballs to the maximum, to scan reading materials;
2. Reading as fast as possible, all manner of materials, causing you to lose the pleasure of reading certain materials such as novels and poems; or
3. Teaching you on how to obtain a photographic memory.
For me, speed reading is just about reading at an appropriate speed, which depends largely on the TYPE of reading material and the WHY you are reading it. It is designed to help you comprehend better and faster. Although this sounds oxymoronic, this can actually occur because most of us have bad reading habits, simply because no one taught us how to read properly.
However, before we begin on this journey – let us begin by understanding the four levels of reading. The information presented below are largely based on the book ‘How to Read a Book’ by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.
The differences between the levels must be understood so that we are able to improve our reading skills. Each level of reading must be understood before one can move on to the next level. This is because each level of reading is cumulative and forms the foundation to achieve the next level, forming a pyramid shape as indicated in the diagram above.
First Level – Elementary Reading
‘WHAT DOES THE SENTENCE SAY?’
To master this level, one must learn the rudimentary art of reading by receiving basic training and acquiring initial reading skills. This is ordinarily learned during primary school. I am certain all of us have achieved this level. Yet, even for those who have attained this level, some may have picked up certain undesirable habits such as sub-vocalizing, fixations and regressions. To read about Common Problems in Elementary reading, click here: Part I & Part II.
Second Level – Inspectional Reading
‘WHAT IS THE BOOK ABOUT?’
This level of reading is characterized by its special emphasis on time. At this stage, a student might be allowed a set time, to complete a certain amount of reading. Inspectional reading is the art of skimming systematically the material. Here, one attempts the best and complete reading that is possible given a LIMITED amount of time. For more information about Inspectional Reading, please refer to the following Inspectional Reading: Systematic Skimming and Inspectional Reading: Superficial Reading.
Third Level – Analytical Reading
‘CHEW AND DIGEST THE BOOK!’
At this stage, reading is a complex and systematic activity. This requires a thorough and complete reading. Unlike inspectional reading, analytical reading attempts the best and complete reading, given an UNLIMITED amount of time. The reader here, must ask many and organized questions. Since this is an intense activity, it is NOT REQUIRED for all reading. It is used only when you require an in-depth understanding of the particular book you are reading. For a bird's eye view of Analytical Reading, please click here.
Fourth Level – Syntopical Reading
‘GESTALT: COMPARATIVE READING’
The most complex and systematic type of reading, also requires the highest skill level. The reader must read many books and place them in relation to one another and to the subject at hand. Not only must he compare and contrast between these books, he needs to do much more! He must SYNTHESIZE the materials he has read, and reach observations and conclusions, that are not available in any of the books he has read.
With an overview of the four levels of reading, we can now explore them in subsequent posts. We shall identify, how best to improve our reading techniques, systematically at each level.