How To Be a Better Reader

Today I went to a class that talked about how to become a better reader and it was really interesting.

The teacher started off by having us calculate our “words read per minute” I kind of messed it up because I thought we were supposed to stop once we reached the bottom of the page, even so my rate was about 380 wpm. Average.

Then he talked about how we learn to read. First we recognize letters, then groups of letters, then words, then word shapes, and then groups of words. Most people stop there.

But he talked about his friend who wanted to train himself to be a better reader. He followed certain techniques and worked on it for a long time. Now that friend reads 1100 wpm, four lines of text at a time. Crazy right?

But I know what some of you are thinking, speed doesn’t make you a better reader does it? You can comprehend more if you slow down a bit.


While speed doesn’t exactly make you a better reader, it is an element in becoming a good reader. Your brain finds that ideas are easier to connect and understand the faster you read them. And this man who followed the techniques found that he no longer saw words, or word shapes, or even groups of words, he saw pictures. Reading was like watching a movie for him because he was able to effectively absorb the text.

We were all aghast. How did he do it? That seems impossible. Four lines of text at once? That’s crazy!

Well, the teacher didn’t really expect us to be able to do that very soon, but he gave us some simple techniques to improve our reading skills:

When you have just finished reading something, especially in difficult text, pause for a moment and let the text sink in. If you don’t do think you could become “glassy eyed” and realize half-way through the next page that you didn’t comprehend anything you read.

Also a technique used mainly for difficult text. There are different ways to do this:
---If there is beginning info (i.e. author name, summation, etc) read that.
---Read the first sentence of the first few paragraphs so your mind knows what to expect.
---Or do whatever feels comfortable

Follow the text with your finger. Sometimes words themselves distract us and we miss what we’re reading because we’re thinking about the words on the page. By having your finger run along the page you have something to anchor yourself.

People weren’t meant to read sideways or upside-down. So unless you’re reading something that doesn’t need to be fully understood, read it right-side-up.

Why are you reading this? Is it for fun? School? A test? Adjust your technique accordingly.

Used mainly for very difficult text. If you don’t understand a paragraph, rewrite it in six words or less. Or you can you symbols and pictures.

These won’t come naturally. You have to practice them. It may seem like you’re taking a step back and that it takes you longer to read something using these strategies, but you’ll never get better if you don’t practice.


Those are the techniques. Some of them I don’t agree with, namely “Point” because I can never get my finger to move as fast as my brain or my eyes, but apparently it works. And hey, I wouldn’t complain if I could read 1100 wpm.

So that’s basically my entire class. It’s almost like you were there! ;)

ADDED: Because of this class, I got a perfect 36 on the reading portion of the ACT. It works! It really works!

~Enna Isilee


  1. That is really interesting.

  2. I just took a reading test online, and I read at 509 words per minute, with 91% comprehension. But that is just one test.

    I am very surprised. I know I read fast, but I'm better at reading stories than the kind of text they had me read. Which makes me wonder how fast I can read a real book. I read The Goose Girl in about three hours, and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow in about two, both with short breaks. With a real book, I may not read four lines at once, but I do see a picture in my mind, like a movie. No specific details, usually, but somehow...I still see what is happening.

    I also heard about someone who read one page at a time. He would just look at the page and get it all. And it blows my mind.

  3. Very interesting indeedy. That's crazy about that one guy!

    I'm in the middle of the most difficult, or possibly second most difficult book of my life - German novel from the 1600s - so I can actually summon the idea of difficult reading to mind right now. Blah.

  4. That's so cool! I'm a pretty fast reader, but my comprehension has never been top notch.

    Cuileann- what was your most difficult book?

  5. I took an online test and got 517 WPM, but what I was reading was really boring so I read slower.

    I think it depends on what your reading. When I'm reading I just sort of look at a group of words together, and I hear it in my head, but I also see it in pictures. Hmm.

  6. I read a book on reading, but I read slowly a lot of times by choice. I like to read slowly.


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