Reading is a complex process that involves the brain's visual and auditory processes, phonemic awareness, fluency and comprehension. There are billions of pages available to read online, along with billions of print books sold every year. All this choice is making us want to skim our reading, as we are short of time.
There are trade-offs in this 'speedy' approach, as we are sacrificing the quality of understanding over the quantity of information.
Speed reading uses methods such as chunking, scanning, reducing subvocalization, and using meta guiding. For example, reading the first sentence of each paragraph can indicate if it's worth reading more or to move on. Or guiding your eye by using your finger.
Some researchers looked into speed reading and found there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy.
Speed reading can help you skim to content, which is useful at times. However, speed reading cannot help you read faster and retain more information.
Our eyes are designed only to see a tiny portion of our visual field with the precision needed to recognise a letter in a 10 to 12 point font. Everything outside that small area is blurry. The idea promoted by speed reading that we can use our peripheral vision to see whole sentences is biologically impossible.
While we spend most of our time reading forward, our eyes often go back to reread some text. This is the way our brain links content together.Speed reading attempts to help you read faster by showing one word at a time. This has a bad impact on overall comprehension.
According to the badge icon on my phone, I have 667 unread articles in my Instapaper account. I also have 12 un-downloaded novels waiting for me on Amazon's servers, 142 unopened emails, and suffer from what the Japanese call (an unwieldy pile of books and magazines annexed my nightstand and desk long ago).
Reading is dead. The nature of books has evolved. Society and technology have changed. Forcibly, our approach to reading has taken on new forms to accommodate a different way of life. The question is: For better or worse? Although books give us new ideas, spark discussions, and explore topics in detail, the same information can be delivered in a variety of formats.
Regardless of which reading method you use, the evidence points towards the fact that speed comes at the sacrifice of understanding.
Depending on what you’re reading, this might not necessarily be a bad thing: If you’re trying to get through a dry piece to capture a few key points or you are going through a short piece that’s easy to understand, speed reading strategies might make sense.