7 days and 8.5 books later, I think I’ve got the hang of speed reading. I’m no Roosevelt (yet), and I still have plenty of room for improvement, but using a flash-based program I can comfortably read at a rate of 1000wpm, as I push it up to 1100wpm I start falling behind and losing track. I am able to understand the general idea of what I am reading but after a few minutes I get frustrated. I’ve also found four words per cluster to be my ideal setting. I found it was easier to read with word clusters of three-four words per screen instead of two. My speed still decreases when reading from a passage or an actual book, it’s a lot easier when the words are already clustered together without me having to think about it. I started using an index card to cover what I have already read and it has eliminated the temptation to skip back to previous text.
The iPhone app, Accelereader, was one of the most useful tools for practicing. Whenever I was on the bus or train I would practice reading. The app also has a bunch of ebooks available to read. I read “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes“, “Through The Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There“, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and “The Time Machine” while going through the app’s different exercises.
In addition to those books, I read “Cat’s Cradle“, “A Game Of Thrones“, “Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West“, “A Walk In The Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail“‘, and finished “Guns, Germs and Steel“. With that I was able to put a little dent in my stack of books to read, and the rest of the stack no longer seems so intimidating.
So, here’s my advice:
Practice; read, read, read.
Commit at least an hour to speed reading every day. The first two days I had to make a conscious effort to speed read, but as the week went on, I was naturally applying speed reading techniques to all of my reading. I still made sure to spend at least an hour (usually in 20-30 min segments), doing speed reading exercises to increase my speed.
Use online free resources, there are tons of them! I really liked Read Speeder which I posted about before. It was nice being able to see how much I improved each day, and over the course of the week.
Use your finger or a pen to guide your eye and set the pace for your reading when working with hard copies. There’s no need to feel self-conscious about it. People will be too focused on the speed that you are moving through the text at, to think that it’s childish to use your finger when reading. It’s not childish, it’s smart, and there’s a reason most students are taught that technique in grade school.