Speed Reading Myths

Myths on reading speeds

Let's try and dispel some of the more popular myths on speed reading and individual reading speeds

Reading faster than 500 words per minute is impossible

Not true at all. The ability to talk fast (and clearly) is more difficult than the ability to read fast. Take a look at this video of John Moschitta for a FedEx advert. John once held the Guinness World Record as the fastest speaker and was able to talk at a pace of 586 words per minute. All the techniques and exercises to help develop reading speed are based on the ability to take in more than one word at a time. The capacity to take in groups of words means we have the ability to 'read' in excess of 1000 words per minute.

Faster reading speeds result in lower levels of comprehension

False. On the surface it would make sense reading faster would result in lower levels of comprehension and retention but whilst there may be an optimal point between reading speed and comprehension, a well-paced reading flow helps the mind work at a more effortless and effective pace. 'Reader Regression' is the biggest hurdle to reading flow.

Words are read one at a time

We don't read for the words. We read for the meanings. We read for information. We also read for the experience it gives us.

This myth of reading one word at a time stems from the way we learn to read. As children we are taught to read individual letters. Next we started sounding out syllables. Next we read whole words. This is where, for the majority, we stopped. Traditionally we never moved from letters, syllables and words, to reading phrases, sentences and paragraphs. Improving your reading speed does not focus on increasing the rate at which you read individual words. Improving your reading speed focuses on improving your ability to absorb and read groups and groupings of words. Our natural reading speed appears to be limited by the way we were taught to read.

Speed reading results do not last

Both true and false. Reading is a skill and like any other skill, if it is not practised or exercised for a while, can become a little rusty. If you spent years learning to play a guitar and then returned after not having touched a guitar for 10-15 years, you certainly wouldn't be as sharp as you used to be. The good news is that reading, like with any other skill, keeping sharp just needs a little occasional practice.

Only smart people can read fast

Fortunately, not true. The reasons we consider 'smart people' to be natural fast readers is perhaps more down to the fact that they simply love reading. When you enjoy what you do, you do it more and are more sensitive to learning more. It could actually be that those who love to read, read fast and end up smart!