This article is part of a series of articles about our speed reading app – the Stage Reader. It focuses on helping you learn how to read faster. You can check out the main Stage Reader article for a broader view on this topic. As well as that, you can also check out the Android Speed Reading app or the iOS Speed Reading App. Without further ado, let’s dive deeper into this topic.
Learning to read
People will reach their peak reading ability at around 18 years old. They can still improve their reading ability if they wish to do so. But how do they get to that reading level? To answer this question, we have split the process of learning to read into a few stages.
We start learning as soon as we are born, we utter our first words before our first birthday, but we don’t start reading until about 6 years into our life. Because the process of reading is a lot more complex than speaking, it takes a lot longer to learn. In the first 5 years, we develop our vocabulary by listening to the people around us speak. Parents also read to their children when they are younger, which helps further build their vocabularies and imagination skills.
During that period, we also develop our phonemic awareness, which is the ability to recognize letters that are written down, as well as spoken out loud. While reading to your children might seem like a good way to speed up their learning process, however, it does not make much of a difference in terms of how fast they learn how to read. If you read a story to your child multiple times, it will eventually memorize that story, so it might look like they are reading, however, they are just speaking from memory. If you were to give them a different story, they wouldn’t read that one, but instead, they would recall the first one.
Once we start going to school, we actually start learning to read. How long it takes for a child to reach a fluent reading level, once again, depends on the intellectual level of the child, the environment, and the language they are learning to read. Different languages have different rules. In English for example, few words are read exactly as they are written. However, in my native language, Bosnian, we read words as they are written. This means that as soon as we learn how to string letters together, we are close to a fluent reading level.
In this stage, the child will put a lot of effort into decoding the words, so much so that they won’t really be able to understand what they read. It is nevertheless very important for a child to develop their skills in this stage, as it leads perfectly into the next one. Essentially, in this stage, they will start learning words by heart, not just their meaning and how to pronounce them, but also how they are written and read.
It might seem trivial, but when you think about it, it makes complete sense. You are reading this article, and you’re not giving much attention to how the words are written. You have read them so many times that you don’t need to focus on decoding them.
For a child in the reading stage, it might take a few seconds to read a word. For a person who has reached a fluent reading level, it will take a fraction of a second, unless it is a new word. Because of this, it is said that if you want to improve your reading skills, you should read more. By reading more, you learn new words, meaning you won’t have to decode them the next time you encounter them.
Fluent reading stage
At about the age of 9, the fluent reading stage begins. In this stage, the child can read at about 150 words per minute, which is a massive improvement in just three years of reading. Furthermore, the child will also start comprehending the text they are reading.
If you recall, we said that in the reading stage, the child puts so much focus into decoding the words, that they don’t even really understand what they are reading. If you have to think of the definition every time you read a word, you won’t fully comprehend the text you are reading.
Don’t be mistaken in thinking that a child who reads fluently fully understands what they are reading. It takes time from reaching reading fluency to fully comprehending the meaning of the text that is being read. Furthermore, even when they do understand every word they are reading, and by extension, the sentence they are reading, not every text is made equal.
They still do not possess the ability to understand figurative language and irony, so they will take everything they read at face value. This skill starts to develop as soon as they start fully comprehending the meaning of the text.
Expert reading stage
When children reach the age of 16, they have learned how to read fluently, fully comprehend the text they read, and understand figurative language and irony. That’s not to say any of these skills are developed to their maximum, but they are developed to the point where reading is an easy process that doesn’t require much focus.
From this point, children can improve their reading skills by simply reading more. Expanding their vocabulary, as well as developing their ability to understand figurative language and irony. Going beyond this, we finally start to delve into speed reading.
What is speed reading?
Speed reading is a skill that is developed through a variety of methods, and that allows the person who possesses it to, you guessed it, read faster. More specifically, it allows a person to read faster without compromising comprehension. Sure, I might be able to read this entire article in a minute, but will I understand everything I read? Probably not.
Because of this, there is a set of techniques people use in order to read very fast and still understand everything, but more on that later.
Determining how fast a person can read
Reading speed is expressed in words per minute (WPM). For speed readers, another metric that is important is the comprehension rate. So, when it is said that someone can read at 1500 words per minute with 98% comprehension, it means they basically understood everything they read. Most of us probably don’t usually read at 98% because it is not required if you want to understand the text fully. At 98%, you start to notice the little details that most people would just overlook.
Reading speed during the stages
Reading speed refers to how many words a person can read in a period of time. In the reading stage, as you can imagine, the reading speed is pretty low, at about 30 words per minute, which means 2 seconds will be spent on decoding every word. However, as we mentioned while talking about this stage, the comprehension rate is very low.
Heading onto the fluent reading stage, children reach a reading speed of 150-200 words per minute, with the comprehension rate being significantly higher. However, the comprehension rate still has a long way to go, as, in this stage, the child is still not completely capable of understanding figurative language.
Once children reach the expert reading stage, they can comfortably read at 250 words per minute. Their comprehension rate is above 90%, and they’re capable of understanding figurative language.
How do I get into speed reading?
Speed reading might seem intimidating at first, but believe me, it is a lot easier to get into than you would expect. Sure, not everyone is capable of reading 20000 words per minute, but everyone can, with a lot of practice, become a speed reader. So, how do you go from reading 250 words per minute to reading 750 words per minute? I’m here to help you with that.
Of course, you could use a speed reading app, such as the one we offer – Speed Reading Android or Speed reading iOS, depending on the system you use. But besides that, there are some techniques you have to learn if you want to get into speed reading.
This one might seem obvious when you say it out loud, however, it is a habit that is, for many people, hard to get rid of. If you want to get rid of it, you need to take it one step at a time. Firstly, if you move your lips while reading as if to say the word out loud but without using your voice, that is the first thing you need to get rid of. This is no faster than simply speaking, since moving your lips and tongue takes up a lot of time.
Once you do that, you might still be vocalizing, but internally. What I mean is, that you might not be moving your lips and tongue, but you are still reading in your head. Think of that little voice in your head you hear every time you read. Yes, the one you hear right now, as you’re reading this sentence. You need to get rid of that voice as well, as it is causing you to lose time.
So, once you have completely stopped vocalizing, you will surely see improvement in your reading speed. The skill you will develop is akin to scanning. You simply look at a word and you know what it means. But as you progress further still, you won’t even read single words, which leads to our next technique.
Reading ideas instead of words
Once again, very self-explanatory, but it is relatively difficult to master. For this technique, what you need to do is utilize the previous technique we mentioned, and instead of reading one word at a time, read a group of words. Try to string words together, similar to how you strung letters together in order to decipher words.
For example, if, in a text, you see the phrase “day of the week”, instead of reading the 4 words one at a time, you should instead scan the entire phrase, and understand its meaning from that. The reason I said it is relatively difficult to master is that similar to learning what words mean without having to think about them, this also requires memory.
To put it simply, as you read more and more you will see these phrases so many times, that eventually, you will know the meaning of the phrase when you see the first syllable of the first word. Once again, it boils down to: just read more, and make sure to diversify your reading material. If you read the same text over and over again, sure you will get better in general, but not by much. You will mostly just get better at reading that text and that text alone.
This technique ties into the last one. It might seem counter-intuitive, but it is very effective and easy to develop. Essentially, you need to develop your peripheral vision. Once you do, you will be able to read ahead, ergo read ideas instead of single words. So, while your central vision is the focus, your peripheral vision is a great assistant.
As you further develop this technique and the previous one, you will start to see that you can understand entire sentences in a fraction of a second. It sounds insane, but after some practice, you will be amazed at what you can do. You will see a phrase with your peripheral vision, then move on to the one before it, all the while your central vision is reading up to that point. You’re essentially halving the time it takes for you to read a sentence.
The first time I saw this technique, I was confused. I had attributed using a guide while you read is something children do while they are still learning to read. But in fact, it is an important technique used by all speed readers. It is as simple as using your finger or a pen to guide your eyes, which makes it easier for them to focus.
Once again, it might sound incompatible with the last method, but keep in mind that when reading ahead, you’re not reading three lines down. Reading ahead simply means scanning the rest of the line you are on. The guiding technique will help you with this as well.
Once you have a strict point to follow, your eyes simply won’t be able to lose focus. You won’t go back to the previous line or go three lines down, you will put all of your focus into the line you are on. I’ve mentioned focus many times up until this point, and that is to emphasize its importance. If you’ve tried reading in a public place or while listening to music, you know what I’m talking about. You can’t focus on the words you are reading.
You can’t form thoughts using the words you are reading because you are already thinking about something. Whether that’s about how ridiculous the lyrics of the song you are listening to are, or what a person in your close vicinity is doing, your focus is taken away from the text you are reading. Once your focus gets driven away, your comprehension rate suffers.
The best speed readers
Speed readers are people who have dedicated their time to learning how to read as fast as humanly possible. I mentioned before that with speed reading you can reach 700 words per minute, which sounds unbelievable in and of itself. However, some speed readers make 700 words per minute look like nothing.
The fastest reader is believed to be Howard Berg. Believe it or not, he can read up to 25000 words per minute, and even write up to 100 words per minute. These numbers sound unreal, however, as it seems, they are very real. While it is undeniable that he has talent, he has also put in a lot of work to get to where he is.
He currently works as an author. He writes books that help people learn how to speed read, and improve their skills. If you want to take your speed reading to the next level, you should look into buying his books. Learning from the master is always the right way to go.
Speed reading apps
Our speed reading apps, Speed Reading Android and Speed reading iOS, can help you read at high levels without much practice. You already have what’s required, all you need to do is try it out. For me, reading this way is even more enjoyable than reading normally.
You already spend a lot of time on your phone or computer, reading various texts, so why not get the best of both worlds? Not only will you read faster, without compromising comprehension, but you will also feel great pleasure in knowing you read faster than the majority of people do. So, what are you waiting for? You can download our speed reading app right now for free on android or iOS. If you want to read more about it, you can check out our other article – Speed Reading – Stage Reader!