Reading Rate

Reading rate is a function of content and/or purpose.  Reading a magazine article for fun is far different than reading a chemistry textbook for an exam.

There are several ways that reading rate can be improved, but accuracy and comprehension might be affected.  Reading faster is not always better.

Self-monitoring for understanding is very important while trying to increase speed.
(See our free Reading Habits Self-Help Test Grade 1-2 or Reading Self-Help Test  Grades 3 & Up)

Various programs teach speed reading to normal readers in different ways. Some train readers to fixate on the center of the page, ignoring the sides.  Others focus on reading in “thought chunks,” ignoring small, common words. Some programs concentrate on eliminating subvocalization (reading aloud in your head).

Other courses teach the skimming process by teaching that the first or second sentence (paragraphs in longer selections) contain the main theory, those following contain supporting details, and the final sentence (paragraph) summarizes the main theory again. They decide the purpose for reading and locate the information that way.

Some scanning techniques teach reduction in the number of eye fixations while reading.

Many of these methods can increase speed among normal readers. If an elementary-age child has a severely slow reading rate, there are several other effective methods to try.  But first, it is necessary to be sure the slow reading rate is not caused by inappropriate word recognition skills for that reading level. Then, these ideas can be tried:

  1. Eliminate vocalization. The child must be taught how to read silently by not moving his or her lips.  Begin with audio CD recordings of books, encouraging the child keep lips still while following along.
  2. Try poetry. Poems often have clear chunking patterns that the child does not have to figure out.  At lower levels, they also often have clear rhythms, which improve fluency and speed.
  3. Read easy materials.  Practice often, on below level reading texts. (See our QRLE) in our free Tip: Choosing Books for an easy method to evaluate reading levels. Easy reading builds word recognition, fluency, comprehension and, most importantly, confidence.
  4. Repeated reading of the same material several times has been proven by research to improve reading in thought units and speed. Time the readings and chart them. Charting improvement can be very motivating.

Often older students must be taught how to adapt their reading speed to the purpose of their reading. They can be taught to peruse books or the internet for certain key words while they gather information for a project.

It always important to remember that speedier reading can cause loss of detailed comprehension.  It is easy to understand how particulars are important in math and sciences, but even in literature, loss of detail might limit understanding of tone, characterization, and other aspects of literature. Faster reading is not always associated with better comprehension.

Be sure to also check out our Free Tip: Why Fluent Reading is Important.

In the end, the best way to increase speed is to read much, often.

Turn off the TV! Power down the cell phone!

20 minutes of free reading daily, 1 hour daily in summer, is not expecting too much of an elementary age child.


© Reading Spotlight 2020