Woody Allen famously went on a speed reading course and boasted that he managed to read War and Peace in 20 minutes’. ‘That’s great’, said his astonished friend. ‘What’s it about?’ And Woody replied, ‘It involves Russia!’

This story illustrates a common problem for people who are starting to learn how to read faster: their speed improves at the expense of comprehension. The result is that they feel that the whole thing is a waste of time and they give up. It’s not real reading if you can’t understand anything – so what’s the point?

But in fact it’s relatively easy to get the eyes to move faster using some of the ideas described in earlier articles in this blog. The difficult part is to get your brain used to absorbing information when your eyes are moving at a faster rate. Remember, it is the brain that does the reading and not the eyes. And for adults the brain has been in the habit of reading in a certain way for many years. However, with continued and consistent practice, your brain gets used to the new way of reading, and you will soon notice an increase in comprehension.

At first the faster reading feels strange and somewhat scary – it’s like careering downhill on a bike with the brakes off. But after a while you become used to the higher speed, you get in control again and soon it feels more comfortable and very exhilarating! You have to relax, let your eyes go and harness the brain’s ability to take in a huge amount of information very quickly.

When you are starting to learn to speed read, it’s important to practise the techniques as often as possible: looking for key words across and down the page, moving your eyes as fast as you can, harnessing the power of your peripheral vision and, most importantly, using a pen or finger to guide your eyes. Initially the words may seem blurred, but in time the brain catches up with your eyes and comprehension gets better.

Don’t start to learn on complex or highly technical material; use novels, newspapers or journals as practice material when you are beginning. This is because it’s important to perfect the eye movements and get your brain used the new speed before working with more difficult reading matter.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Smith, BA (hons), MCIPD, has a background in education, management and training. In addition to her role as a speed reading trainer, Jane is a writer of text and on-line learning and training materials. She also runs a range of management training and personal development workshops. She has written several successful management and business books.

Her company Word Smiths is a UK-based partnership with many years' experience in the design and delivery of flexible approaches to training and development. During this period, we have produced open learning materials, training programmes and training workshops for a wide variety of organisations and for learners at all levels. We also deliver a range of development workshops which aim to help participants to read, process and communicate information effectively.