There are numerous terms for reading faster: Rapid Reading, Speed Reading, PhotoReading, skimming, scanning … and our own system, Spd Rdng. In many cases the terms are used indiscriminately, but for those in the know, there are differences. Read on. You’ll learn about them, and also learn how to do some of the techniques. Spd Rdng – which includes both ‘reading more quickly’ and numerous techniques for getting the information from large quantities of text swiftly – incorporates everything that follows.
Speed Reading – the most commonly used term – usually involves techniques for moving the eyes faster in order to gather information more quickly. This might include ‘skimming’ (glancing quickly down the page to get the message and see what it’s about) or ‘scanning’ (looking for specific information).
PhotoReading is a speed reading system developed by Paul Scheele (pronounced ‘she-lee’) which includes the photoreading step – this involves glancing quickly at each/every double-page in a book (you focus on the four corners of the book, not worrying whether it’s in focus or not, nor that you aren’t consciously understanding what you’re looking at). The information goes directly to your non-conscious mind – the learning brain – and is likely to ‘pop into your head’ when you need it. The challenging thing is that the information comes back as snippets (the bits you need) rather than in its entirety, so you won’t consciously remember what’s in the book. It’s therefore quite difficult to prove that it works. So if you’re a beginner, we recommend that you do all the conscious techniques to speed up your information gathering, and just trust that the photoreading (which in the Spd Rdng system we call ‘downloading’) is working.
Rapid Reading can be used as a synonym for Speed Reading (as defined above), but in the Spd Rdng system we use the term ‘rapid reading’ to mean ‘consciously looking at every page of a book to find the information on it’. This might be done after you’ve worked with a book using other techniques, just to make sure you haven’t missed anything, or it might be the only technique you use to get the information from a book – especially when that information needs to be read sequentially (eg biographies, history books), or indeed if for some reason you want to read quickly through stories or novels (rather than getting involved emotionally with the story, when we recommend that you read more slowly).
How to do Rapid Reading
If you’d like to try rapid reading, we recommend that you start with a book that you find relatively easy to understand with a consecutive story. Have a timer to hand, and read a few pages at your normal speed, and just notice how long you spend on a page.
Then set your timer for half that time, read as quickly as you can down the page and move to the next page each time your timer goes off, and just see how much information you get. The first couple of pages might seems a bit overwhelming, but once the panic subsides, you’ll be amazed at how much you can pick up if you go quickly. And once you’ve doubled your speed, you can double again … and again? You only need to read enough to know what it’s about and to get as much information as you need.
A couple of things which will help you speed up before you start Rapid Reading:
- Get into a good state – sit up straight, take a deep breath, relax, and smile.
- Open your peripheral vision by keeping your gaze on the opposite wall while relaxing your eyes and trying to see both ears at the same time. Notice how much more you can see to right and left without moving your eyes.
- Hold the book at a 45 degree angle in front of you – and a little bit further away than normal.
- do some ‘super-duper-reading’ to speed up your eyes and your brain before you start (you don’t need to know all these terms – just know how to do them). That means glancing quickly down each page in 10 seconds or less for several pages. You shouldn’t be understanding what you’re looking at – the aim isn’t to read at that speed (yet), simply to get your eyes and brain working quicker, so when you read more slowly, you seem to have more time – which allows you to read more quickly than you do ‘normally’.
Is it natural to read fast?
Remember that it’s perfectly normal to read quickly – we’re just offering you the things that ‘naturally quick readers’ have worked out for themselves. (Reading itself is not actually natural – animals don’t do it. It’s a man-made system. So doing it better or quicker is more ‘natural’ that staying stuck in the way you were taught to read as a child – good for then, not so good for now.)
If you want to practise Rapid Reading, then newspapers are the ideal opportunity – you’re probably using Spd Rdng techniques with newspapers anyway, and practising on your train or bus journey is excellent use of time.
Or a specific ‘natural’ exercise is to take random words from a book’s index and see how quickly you can turn to the page and find the word. And before you repeat the exercise with another word, just close your eyes and recall what else you noticed on that page while you were looking.
See how good you are? You’re well on the way to being a spd rdr already!
Find out more about rapid reading