Friday, July 4, 2008

Speed Reading - Part III


When reading, there are certain common reading habits practiced by unskillful readers. These are major impediments to efficient reading. Today, we will discuss about some of these unskillful habits, namely narrow fixations, back-skipping and regressions.

Narrow Fixations
Whilst reading, the eyes make small and regular jumps. The eye fixes at a certain point and then jumps to the next point. At each point, termed as a fixation, the eye encompasses a few words at a time. In reading, the eyes move in small jumps from left to right, stopping momentarily to take a few words at a time, before moving to the next fixation. The eye does not move smoothly, a word at a time from left to right. Unskillful readers generally have a narrow fixation. This means, at each stop, his eyes merely take in one or two words at a time. This slows down his reading, substantially.

In regression, one consciously returns to words, phrases or paragraphs already read earlier. This is usually because the reader feels that they may have missed or misunderstood the material read earlier. The reader feels a compulsion to go back and re-read the material in order to improve comprehension.

However, studies have shown that regression does very little in aiding or improving comprehension. Usually, the reader lacks confidence in their reading skills, resulting in acts of regression.

When a reader repeatedly regresses whilst reading, it may form into an unconscious habit, until he is unaware that he is constantly skipping to words or phrases read earlier. This unconscious act is termed as back-skipping. The reader is hardly ever aware that he has a tendency to back
-skip when reading.

Let us review reading material below to demonstrate the difference in reading styles between the Skillful Reader and Unskillful Reader.

Reading Material (approximately 60 words)

Romance of Three Kingdoms gives us a world of versatility in full scale---a rolling panorama of human passions and ambitions. What makes the book fascinating is its wide appeal to many kinds of readers. In Asia, children read the book like they do with fairy tales, whereas politicians embrace it for strategies, scholars wisdoms, parents guidelines, everyday people entertainment.

Unskillful Reader
The Unskillful Reader looks at this paragraph and breaks down this into 45 fixations, often taking in only one or two words at a time. Each fixation requires approximately ½ a second. Therefore, he requires approximately 22 seconds, reading this paragraph.

Further, the Unskillful Reader will have a tendency in regressing or back-skipping. Each regression or back-skip may take approximately ½ second as well. If he regresses or back-skips ten times in reading this paragraph, he has wasted an additional 5 seconds.

The Unskillful Reader will take approximately 27 seconds to read this 60 word paragraph. His reading speed is 2.22 words per second or 133 words per minute.

Skillful Reader
By habit, when the Skillful Reader looks at this paragraph, he groups large number of words together in one fixation. He is able to do this, as each group of words represents an idea or meaning, which he can quickly grasp. Therefore, the Skillful Reader only requires 12 fixations to complete reading this paragraph. As he does not have the habit of regression or back-skipping, no further time is wasted.

The Skillful Reader requires only 6 seconds reading this paragraph. His reading speed is 10 words per second or 600 words per minute. The Skillful Reader is 4.5x faster than the Unskillful Reader by having a wide fixation and avoiding bad habits such as regression and back-skipping.

To eliminate the bad habits above, you must first DISCIPLINE YOURSELF not to re-read the sections you believe you missed out. Secondly, you must gradually increase your reading speed by maintaining an even rhythm in your eye movements. The increase in speed will minimize or prevent regression and back-skipping, whilst improving comprehension. Thirdly, try to slowly increase your peripheral vision by absorbing more words in a visual gulp. By doing so, you will be able to widen your fixations to read more words in each fixation.



so it's all in the eyeballs?


Dear Anonymous,

At the elementary level, yes - it depends on your eyeballs and increasing your peripheral version.

However, there is much more to speed reading, but that will be the subject of latter posts.


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