Myths and Facts about Speed Reading

Speed reading courses and programs are widely available today through accredited educational institutions and through a variety of less reliable internet web sites. Unfortunately, advertising can be very misleading, and sometimes gives the impression that speed reading is a simple matter that can be mastered instantly by almost anyone. Exaggerated claims lead to unrealistic expectations, and many high school and post-secondary students have achieved nothing put frustration and disappointment for their efforts. Others have been pleased with their results, and they have found that with time and effort their reading skills have improved significantly.

Different expectations have led to different response to speed reading programs. Students are bound to be disappointed if they see the speed reading course as the solution to all their reading problems. If they expect to double their reading speed in a few days, they will quickly discover that this is not possible. Furthermore, speed reading is no quick fix for problems like dyslexia and other linguistic deficiencies. Indeed, it is usually recommended that people with such problems should concentrate on reading more slowly and carefully in order to assure maximum comprehension.

Speed reading is meant to assist those with an urgent need to read large amounts of material in as little time as possible. There is no benefit to high speed if it interferes with the normal enjoyment and satisfaction that comes with reading a good, interesting book, and those who are quite satisfied with an average speed of 250 words per minute have no need for speed reading. In fact, they would be well advised to stay away from it as there is no need for them to change.

Readers who do need speed must be realistic in their expectations, and they must understand that time and effort are needed. Strong visual learners seem to have the most success as they are better able to pick out the general information from a page of text. Younger people also seem to have an advantage over those who have developed their own reading strategies over many years of practice. But circumstances and need can vary from one person to another, and if specific objectives are identified, speed reading can help in a number of ways.

Many speed reading students have found that their fluency and comprehension have improved significantly as a result of the program, while their actual speed has increased only marginally. This is an interesting result, and it seems to indicate that the program or course was worthwhile. Comprehension is what reading is all about, and it makes no sense to read quickly if the reader is not able to understand what has been read. The value of a speed reading course, then, must be stated in terms of improvement in both comprehension and speed.

Whether a speed reading course is beneficial or not depends of the expectations of individual students. Slow readers can improve their speed to some extent, and all readers can expect some improvement in fluency and comprehension. Many readers do not need to increase their speed if they gain reading enjoyment at their current levels. It is a matter of individual choice. For those who decide to embark on a speed reading course, plenty of choice is available. It is important to choose carefully and to be realistic and clear about what can be accomplished.