The Stage Reader is one of our favorite projects and one we have put a lot of effort into. But in order for you to understand why this project is so important to us, you need to know a thing or two about speed reading.
In this post, we are going to go over some aspects of reading, how fast you read, how you can read faster, and how the Stage Reader can help you in that. You can also check out some of the best speed reader applications, such as Speed Reading Android and Speed Reading IOS. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
But, if you want to be more precise with speed calculating, utilize our Reading Speed Calculator.
Why do we read?
Reading is, in today’s day and age, a natural thing that basically every person needs to be able to do in order to survive. But have you ever actually thought about the definition of reading? Reading is essentially the process of looking at words, letters, or symbols, understanding their meaning and forming a thought based on what you have read.
It is a skill we are taught to develop from a very young age. In order to read, you need to know the meaning of the various symbols you are looking at. Whether we are talking about letters, symbols, or pictograms, you need to know their meaning in order to understand the message that is being sent. If you don’t know their meaning you could either not get the message, or even worse, get the wrong message.
Although this is a rare occurrence, it can happen, on account of the different languages and lexicons we use. A word in one language can have the opposite meaning to the same word in another language. This can be problematic when learning new languages, and especially problematic when learning multiple new languages, but more on that later.
A language is a complex and organized system used for communication. Languages are made up of words, which are made up of letters. Every language is made up of two components:
- The grammar – essentially the ruleset of the language (its structure)
- The vocabulary – consists of the words (the free components)
For humans, language is the primary method of communication. It can be conveyed through speech, signs, and writing.
Ways of conveying messages
Speech is unique to humans because they are the only creatures that can actually perform that action. There were even attempts to teach chimps how to speak a human language, however, they quickly found out that chimps are physically incapable of controlling their vocal cords as we do.
Signs on the other hand are a bit less versatile, but nevertheless a great method of communication. The aforementioned chimps were taught sign language and could actually use it pretty well.
Writing is the method we are most interested in this post because it allows for longevity. Written messages can live a lot longer than spoken or signed ones.
Ways of receiving messages
Keep in mind, that the three methods mentioned before refer to the methods of sending a message. When receiving a message, we can use our senses: auditory, visual, and tactile.
Auditory reception of messages refers to a person hearing words being spoken. So, one person (the sender) speaks words out loud, and the other person (the receiver) hears the words being spoken and receives a message. We use this method every day, however as we age, our ability to either speak or hear deteriorates.
Visual reception of messages refers to a person seeing a message, be it in written words, sign language, or a pictogram. Written words are the most commonly used in this category. Sign language is usually used as a substitute for the auditory reception of messages, for the hearing impaired. A person who can not hear the words being spoken can receive messages using his visual senses. A pictogram is exactly what it sounds like. A picture that is supposed to send a certain message. These can be traffic signs, warning signs, such as biohazard or radiation signs, and anything else that fits this template.
Tactile reception of messages refers to a person using their touch to receive a message. This method is used by people who are visually impaired as a substitute for written language.
A language family is a group of languages with the exact origins, ie. they all come from the same ancestral language. “Ethnologue” tells us there are over 7000 living human languages that can be categorized into 142 distinct language families. Throughout history, there have been many more languages, many of which are considered dead, either because they are not spoken as a first language by anyone, or because no one knows how to speak them.
Literacy refers to the ability of a person to express and understand messages in a written form. When we say a person is literate, they can read and write. Similarly, if they are illiterate, they can’t read or write, or can do so to a limited degree.
In the past, literacy was a special ability, usually possessed by the wealthy and powerful. Even as back as 200 years ago, many members of the general population did not know how to read and/or write, as their jobs mainly relied on manual labor. It wasn’t until the 19th century in, that charity schools started popping up in England, thus giving the lower class the opportunity to learn how to read and write.
Why is literacy important
There are two reasons literacy is important, and they both tie back to what we talked about before:
- Preservation of knowledge
Earlier in the article, we mentioned ways of conveying and receiving messages. Among these we mentioned, you guessed it, reading and writing. This method of communication has become a lot more prevalent in the 21st century, with the introduction of instant messaging. Sure, e-mails were a thing before texts, as were written letters before e-mails, but e-mails and letters are much different than text messages, both in the content and the speed of communication they allow.
To put it differently, you have probably sent hundreds of messages today and received just as many. This was not possible with e-mails, and especially not letters. When you write a letter, you have to send the piece of paper the letter was written on, to the intended recipient, which takes a lot of time. The only reason you would use letters is that the person you want to communicate with is far away, and a telephone call is not possible for one reason or another.
So, it would take days or weeks for your letter to be delivered, and days or weeks for the reply to your letter to arrive. E-mails were similar in the beginning before the internet was introduced. They would take longer to arrive than they do today, but they were still a decent method of communication.
Preservation of knowledge
You may have heard the notion that words don’t die. And for the most part, this is true. Words that are written down have longevity. If famous scientists throughout history didn’t write down their revolutionary discoveries, they would have been lost to time.
There were some cultures that preferred an oral tradition, which means they didn’t write down their stories but instead passed down the information and cultural knowledge through speech from one generation to the next. This is, however, an ultimately flawed system, as the chain is straightforward to break, thus leading to the loss of all that information. Because of this, cultures that preferred writing down their cultural knowledge left a much bigger legacy than the ones that didn’t.
How do we read
Once you learn how to read, you learn how to read faster without compromising comprehension. This is achieved through pattern recognition. While you were reading, you read much slower, and still, perhaps you couldn’t understand all of it. Now, if you are an average person like me, you can read a 1000-word document in about 5 minutes.
While reading, your eyes perform a series of movements called saccades. Saccades are voluntary or involuntary eye twitches from one focus point to another. Imagine it like this: You read every text word by word. However, every word takes a fraction of a second to read, as long as you are familiar with it. Because of this, reading is very smooth, and we can read so many words in a short time period. But what if you didn’t have to move your eyes? Would you be able to read faster? Keep reading to find out!
The science of reading
There isn’t a defined science that has reading as its main area of study. Instead, reading is studied in part in a few different sciences, and combining all the information from those sciences, we have learned a lot about the origins of reading, how we do it, and how it fits into our civilization.
It might not surprise you when I say reading is only 5500 years old, unlike human speech which is estimated to be between 50000 years to 2 million years old. What can we draw from this? Well, first and foremost, unlike speech, the human brain did not evolve to read naturally. This means the brain has to adapt to the challenge of reading.
Reading is a lot more complex than speech because whereas speech involves you having a thought and saying that thought out loud, reading requires you to take in information and interpret it in a way that you think is right.
This involves using more areas of your brain than you do with speech. You have to use the visual area and the language area of your brain as well as some neural systems related to action, emotion, decision making, and memory. All of this is required for you to read one sentence of a text, and it is even more so to read an entire text and understand all the information contained in it.
Types of reading
First, we are going to quickly go over the types of reading, and later, we are going to go over the methods of speed reading.
This type involves sounding out every word as if you are reading to yourself. It involves moving your lips and tongue and sometimes even using your vocal cords. This is the most rudimentary form of reading, as well as the slowest. It doesn’t lose a lot of time, but having to essentially say every word in order to understand its meaning is something you should avoid using unless you are just reading to relax. People who read like this can read 150-200 words per minute.
This is probably the most common type, and you probably use it yourself. Auditory readers don’t engage any of their speaking organs, but they do silently say and hear the words in their heads. Think of that voice you hear in your head whenever you read. You probably hear it right now. If you do, that means you are an auditory reader. People who read like this can read 200-400 words per minute.
This is the fastest method of reading. In this method, there is either minimal or no vocalization at all. Instead, the reader visualizes the image in their head. They read fast because they don’t read individual words, but instead, they read ideas. You may have experienced this when re-reading a text. With visual reading, your reading speed can go up to 700 words per minute.
What determines how fast we can read
As we mentioned before, initially you read very slowly, but you get faster over time because of pattern recognition and better knowledge of the language in question. Most of us settle at 250 words per minute, with the others being either above or below that line. This depends mostly on how much you read and how intelligent you are. Naturally, intelligent people comprehend words faster, but even they need practice in order to get better. While on that topic, how can you actually get better? How can you train yourself to read faster than you do now?
How to read faster
The main piece of advice I can give you is to read more often. We mentioned pattern recognition before, and how important it is for reading faster. In order to improve your pattern recognition, you need to spend a lot of time with these patterns. But if your reading technique is not good, you won’t see much progress.
As you improve your pattern recognition, you will be able to take in words that appear in your peripheral vision. Peripheral vision is something you probably don’t think is important while reading, but it can be detrimental to reading faster and with better comprehension. While your direct vision is important for you to fully take in the words you see, your peripheral vision will allow you to prepare for what comes next, as well as give you some context to the words you are reading.
You need to be diverse. Don’t read the same text over and over again. If you do that, you will only get better at reading that text specifically. Instead, you need to diversify and leave your comfort zone. Read more difficult texts, and once you master them, anything below that will be a breeze. Reading difficult texts will also enrich your vocabulary, which will improve your ability to express yourself as well as your ability to read.
Finally, gradually transition from auditory reading to visual reading. As you improve, you will no longer need to read every word to understand the message. At this point, you can just focus on the keywords, and use them to visualize the message in your head.
People who have taken this to the extreme are speed readers.
Speed reading is the skill to, you guessed it, read very fast. More specifically, it is a set of techniques people use in order to read as fast as they can without compromising comprehension. We mentioned the average person can read around 250 words per minute, but speed readers put these numbers to shame. Most speed readers can read 1500 words per minute. That is 6 times more than the average person. But do you think that is ridiculous?
Howard Berg is, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the fastest reader. How fast can he read? Over 25000 words, in one minute. 100 times faster than the average person. To put that into perspective, 25000 words is about 80 pages, meaning he can read a full page in less than a second. This means he could read Stephen King’s “It”, a 1138-page book, in just about 15 minutes.
Speed reading techniques
So how do speed readers do this with any text they lay their eyes on? How is it even possible to read so fast, and still understand what you actually read? Well, there are a few techniques they use.
This technique involves using an object to guide your eyes. That object can be anything from your finger to an uncapped pen that draws an imaginary line under the text you are reading. Meta-guiding has a steep learning curve, as in the beginning, you will quickly find out you absorb very little information. However, as you keep practicing, your comprehension should greatly improve.
Skimming and scanning
These two combinations work in tandem. Skimming comes first, followed by scanning to fully understand the text that is being read.
Skimming is the process of looking for specific words and clues to the main idea. There are a few ways you can do this. You could read the beginning and the end of a text in order to get the summary. For a more in-depth understanding, you could read the first and last sentences of each paragraph. Skimming alone results in a lower comprehension rate, however, in terms of speed, it can get you up to 700 words per minute.
Scanning is exactly what it sounds like. You don’t actually read the words, instead, you scan the page looking for keywords and focal points. When combined with skimming, because you are not reading just a few selected sentences, it yields better comprehension.
So, at last, we get to the stage reader. What is it, how does it work, and why should you use it?
Earlier in the post, I asked the question: What if you didn’t have to move your eyes while reading? As you may have realized while reading this post, eye movement is a big thing. Even though our eyes move very fast, if we were to eliminate the need for them to move at all, our reading speed would significantly improve. You don’t lose much time per every flick your eyes make, but it adds up over time.
That’s where the Stage Reader comes in. It eliminates the need for eye movement. By focusing your eyes on one point, and only reading the words that appear at that point, your reading speed can be greatly improved. A person who reads 250 words per minute could easily go up to 400 using the Stage Reader.
In this app, you can easily configure how fast you want the words to appear on the screen. 400 words per minute may seem a lot, considering that is almost 7 words per second, but I assure you, it is a lot easier to read than you expect, and it won’t take much time for you to get to that point.
My recommendation is that you start at your normal rate, and slowly but surely improve it. Make sure you also keep track of your comprehension, as reading 500 words per minute is useless if you don’t know what you have read.
Features of the Stage Reader
The Stage Reader has a very intuitive design. When you install the app and open it up for the first time, you will be greeted by the home page, from which you can immediately start reading. As of this moment, you have two options in terms of reading material. You can either use the text in your clipboard or choose a file from your phone and read from that. As well as that, you can also choose the reading mode, which we will get into later.
The clipboard option is very versatile. For example, you found a very information-rich article online, and you want to read it as quickly as possible. All you have to do is copy the article into your clipboard, paste it into the stage reader, and start reading.
The “choose a file from your phone” option is pretty self-explanatory. If you have a book downloaded to your phone, and you want to speed read it, you can do so using this app. Once you select a file, you can configure your settings and start reading.
Configuring the app
So, what settings can you configure? First and foremost, you can set your pace in words per minute. As I mentioned before, I recommend you start at your usual 250 words per minute, until you get used to this style of reading, at which point you can start gradually increasing your pace. If all goes well, you should very quickly start to see improvement. This applies only to the speed reading mode.
The other setting you can configure is the font (style and size). The size can especially be useful if you’re farsighted. So, if you set the font size higher, you won’t need to look for your reading glasses, every time you want to read. Besides that, the style, although it might seem trivial, can be very influential on your focus while reading. I suggest finding a simple and straightforward font that will not distract you while reading.
Similarly, you can adjust the letter spacing, if you so desire. The default letter spacing is 0 px, but you can set it as high as you want. You can also turn off the “highlight the central letter” option, if that suits you, although I’ve found it helpful to have a clear point to focus on while reading.
Reading modes in the Stage Reader
There are two reading modes in the Stage Reader:
- Normal reading
- Speed reading
Normal reading allows you to read just like you would normally, with a few perks. For one, the first, or first two letters of every word will be highlighted, which will make it easier for you to know where you need to focus your eyes.
All the features I previously mentioned apply to this mode as well, with the exception of setting the pace, of course. This means you can set the font (style and size), the letter spacing, and the “highlight the central letter” option, which in this case applies to the first or first two letters of every word.
Speed reading is probably what you came here for. In the speed reading mode, words appear on your screen one at a time, all in the same spot. The purpose of this is to eliminate the need for eye movement. The central letter is highlighted by default, which makes it easier to focus on words. You can easily customize the pace at which you want to read, but the goal of the app is for you to learn to read faster without compromising comprehension.