Learning to speed read can be a daunting challenge for those who want to master the skills in the very beginning. One of the biggest limiting factors of traditional reading is that as adults we read with a see-say-hear-know method known as subvocalization. It limits the speed you read to the speed of your voice. But when starting out to learn speed reading, too much attention is given to this habit, and not on learning how to replace it.

Subvocalization means you see the words on the page, then you say them in your mind, then you hear them in your mind, and then you finally understand them. This habit was ingrained from early reading development and is deeply ingrained in your behavior. When reading with this approach, you can only go as fast as you can say the words. The average speaking rate is between 150-250 words per minute. That's not very fast. Your mind wants to go faster, so one of the by products of subvocal reading is mind wandering. We get bored. The mind goes elsewhere.

When learning to speed read, we always start out explaining the old habits that interfere with your natural ability to read very fast. Subvocalization is the one that all people can easily relate too. Then in the early stages of learning, they go on a warpath against subvocalization. Often I've observed beginners shaking their heads during an exercise. When I ask them what's wrong, they will respond, "I'm still subvocalizing! I can't seem to stop it!" and voiced with consternation and disappointment with themselves.

Then I will tell them, don't worry about subvocalization. Follow the technique you are working on. Eventually the subvocal process will be replaced.

In fact, an effective speed reader's mind does not go silent! If your mind goes silent, then you do not comprehend the material. (I get so many emails and messages from people who say they bought a software program and they are now going at 2500 words per minute, but they don't understand anything!)Reading with comprehension means your mind is responding to the print in a meaningful way. If your mind goes quiet, then you are in a double bind.

How do you get out of this double bind?

First, get your eyes moving over the print at speeds well in excess of what you can understand the spoken word. This occurs at over 600 words per minute, but is most effective if done over 1200 words per minute. In fact there is great benefit to go even faster, perhaps 5000-10,000 words per minute initially.

"But I won't understand it at those speeds!" you say. That is correct, and not correct simultaneously. You will not understand the material the way you are used to comprehending reading in your linear, grammatically sequenced approach to which you are habituated. However, if you pay attention to the print as a whole piece, and not interrupt your mind by saying, "I'm not getting anything," you may find that you begin to discover some very interesting observations about the material. With continued intense practice sessions, you will re-train your mind to perceive the material in a new way. Combining this approach with effective comprehension strategies will make the double bind slip away.

Next, give your mind a reason for moving the eyes. What's your purpose? As you're moving, ask yourself, "what's this about?" Push your mind to respond.

This new perceptual patterning will then lead you into understanding comprehension in a new way that is very exciting, and very well focused. Additionally, you need to wake up your mind to start responding! The traditional linear and subvocal approach has been demonstrated through brain imaging scans, to put half of our brain to sleep. It is a left-brain dominant activity. However, when you learn to wake up your mind with effective comprehension strategies, and move your eyes more efficiently with this new dynamic approach, both the right and left hemispheres of the brain become engaged.

Imagine that! You not only become an effective speed reader, you can become a whole brained reader! I must caution though, without external support in your training, you will probably give in to your old ineffective habits. I have not met anyone who is truly a speed reader, who read a book and mastered the skills. I won't say that can't be done, but the chances are really slim. You know yourself best. How often have you learned a very complex set of behaviors required to master a new skill by merely reading a book?

Author's Bio: 

Ed Caldwell is the creator and publisher of the "Masters Online Program: Dynamic Reading, Memory, and Recall" and other live and web-based learning programs. As former National Director of Instruction and Certification for the world famous Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics program, Ed has 30 years experience teaching and testing new strategies to help people from all walks of life learn more efficiently. Trainer, speaker, and writer, he can be contacted at inquiry@productivelearn.com. He is the creator and president of Productive Learning Systems, Inc, and ProductivElearn.com, Inc. You can learn more at speedreadingtactics.com and download the free eBook, "The 10 Top Mistakes When Learning Speed Reading."