Everything You Need to Know About a Speed Reading Course | Iris Reading

Everything You Need to Know About a Speed Reading Course

When you think of a speed reading course, do you picture people flipping pages rapidly and finishing huge novels in a matter of minutes?

If so, you are thinking about the wrong type of speed reading course. Most scientists agree that this type of speed reading course is impossible because while the reader has “finished” reading the material, he will not comprehend or retain anything he or she has “read.” 

We like to refer to this as the Hollywood style. It looks good on film and it is great in theory. Who wouldn’t want to read an entire Harry Potter novel in less than an hour? 

Sadly, this Hollywood-style speed reading has given legitimate speed reading courses a bad name. 

At IRIS Reading, we understand that reading quickly doesn’t serve any purpose if you can’t comprehend what you are reading.

That’s why the IRIS Method focuses on three pillars: speed, comprehension, and retention. 

The goal isn’t to get you to read a giant novel as quickly as possible. The goal of a genuine speed reading course should be to make improvements to your reading speed without sacrificing comprehension or retention.

In fact, a speed reading course should also help you improve your comprehension and retention. 

If you are curious to learn more or think this would be beneficial, read on to discover everything you need to know about a speed reading course.

Why Everyone Should Take a Speeding Reading Course

Let’s begin with a series of questions.

  • Do you think you are a slow reader?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of material you need to read for school or work?
  • Do you have a wish list of books you’d like to read?
  • Do you struggle with comprehending what you’ve read?
  • Do you often forget what you’ve read soon after you finish reading it?

If you answered yes to any (or all) of the above questions, a speed reading course is for you.

However, we believe everyone should take a speed reading course.

Reading has been proven over and over again to significantly improve our lives.

According to Book Riot, “Book readers were shown to have a 20% “reduction in risk of mortality” over 12 years, compared to non–book readers in a 2016 study.” Additionally, “A 2001 study showed that people who participate in mental activities like reading, puzzles, or chess might be 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who don’t engage in as much mental stimulation.”

That’s not all.

Book Riot also shares, “One study showed reading reduces stress by 68 percent, more so than listening to music, having a cup of tea, or taking a walk.”

Reading also helps in our educational and career pursuits.

We Are Teachers reports, “Reading skill matters for more than just reading! Students in the top tercile (i.e., the top third) of reading skill answered 70 percent more math and science questions correctly than students in the bottom tercile, even on questions with low reading difficulty.”

Moreover, they found, “Students who get lots of high-quality reading practice every day are much more likely to be college and career ready.”

Therefore, it is easy to see why everyone should improve their reading speed, comprehension, and retention. 

Read 500 Pages Every Day

You have probably heard the saying, readers are leaders. This saying is popular because it is true. 

Warren Buffet is quoted in Inc. as saying, “Read 500 pages every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”

Read 500 pages every day. Is that even possible? The answer is yes.

But, you will only get there when you master the art of speed reading.

Our lives are busy and filled with distractions. 

As a result, we read slower than previous generations. It is harder to focus on what we are reading because so many other things are competing for our attention that simply didn’t exist in the past (email, social media, text messages, etc.). 

If you allow yourself to become distracted, you will not be able to read 500 pages a day.

However, while you likely won’t be able to read a Stephen King novel in an hour, a speed reading course will boost your reading speed and help you get closer to Buffet’s amount of daily pages.

A speed reading course is an exercise for your brain. The more you practice, the more you’ll strengthen those reading muscles. 

Reading is a skill, just like playing a sport or advancing levels in mathematics. With practice, like any other skill, reading can be improved.

The Reading Habits That Slow You Down

Most people learn to read during their elementary school years when they are taught how to sound out groups of letters according to systematic phonics instruction. It is an effective teaching method for little learners.

According to Reading Rockets, “Between the ages of four and nine, your child will have to master some 100 phonics rules, learn to recognize 3,000 words with just a glance, and develop a comfortable reading speed approaching 100 words a minute.”

However, just as you learn more efficient ways to study as you grow older, you should learn new ways to read.

Unfortunately, most people still read the same way they were taught in elementary school.

This is because what they learned as a young student has now become a habit.

Let’s look at three old reading habits that slow down your reading.

  1. Fixation: Fixation is the habit of fixating your eyes on every single word on the page. As a kindergartener, you were taught to read by focusing on one word at a time. But you’re not a kindergartener anymore. The word-by-word reading basis doesn’t match our abilities or needs as adults. It causes us to have tunnel-vision as we read, which slows us down. Fixating word-by-word is an unhelpful and unnecessary visual habit that must change if we want to become faster, more efficient readers.
  2. Regression: Regression is the habit of going back and re-reading passages that have already been read. The average person spends a third of their reading time going back and re-reading passages (which means for every hour spent reading, twenty minutes was wasted re-reading). One of the major reasons for regression is lack of concentration or focus. If we are easily distracted, we will find ourselves regressing while reading text. Another reason for regression is because it is a learned habit from childhood. When we learned to read on a word-by-word basis, we would go back and reread any words we mispronounced or words we didn’t immediately understand. With that being said, a little regression is a good thing when done efficiently. There are times when rereading passages of text is necessary and worthwhile. In our speed reading course, we don’t encourage students to do away with regression completely. Instead, our goal is to help students learn to reduce the overall amount of time they spend going back over the text due to poor concentration.
  3. Subvocalization: Subvocalization is the habit of sounding out words in your head as you read. Like the other habits, this is one you learned as a beginner reader. Once you reached a certain level of proficiency, you were taught to read the words silently in your head. I bet you probably still do this – maybe you are even doing it right now. In fact, many people even feel like this is a sign of their superior reading skills. Ultimately, this technique simply works to recreate your talking speed. You are reading internally as fast as you talk. The truth is that you don’t need to say a word in your head to understand what it means, and pronouncing each word in your head actually slows you down. When you read out loud, two things are going on in your brain. Part of your brain is trying to comprehend the text, the main ideas and the details, while another part of your brain is focused on pronouncing the words. Hence, subvocalization prevents you from reading any faster than you talk, but your thinking speed is much faster than your talking speed.

Habits become routine and ingrained, so we do them subconsciously. You likely didn’t even realize you were doing these things until you read about them. 

But, like many habits, they are more hindrances than helpful tools. 

The good news is a speed reading course can help you break these habits that are slowing you down and hindering your progress. 

How Fast You Currently Read

The first part of any speeding reading course is discovering your current reading speed. This will give you an idea of where you stand so you can see your progress. 

Your reading speed is measured in words per minute (WPM). It is just how it sounds. Time yourself for one minute and then count how many words you read during that minute. Go ahead and give it a try.

How does your reading speed compare to the average? If your reading speed was somewhere between 150 – 250 words per minute (WPM), then you are reading at average speed. Keep in mind that this average reading speed is based on medium level reading material.

There are some things to keep in mind about reading speeds. It’s best to think of your reading speed as a range rather than a set number. This is because your reading speed is fluid and will change depending on the type of reading material. For example, you might read medium-level material (such as fiction or news stories) at 200 WPM, technical material (such as a textbook) at 100 WPM, and easy material (such as children’s books) at 300 WPM. 

Likewise, your reading speed will fluctuate based on a variety of scenarios, such as lack of sleep or focus. Or, if you are easily distracted when you are reading, it will slow down your reading speed. 

For those individuals who discovered they already read faster than average, a speed reading course can still help you. Above average readers can continue to make improvements to their reading speed, as well as boost retention and comprehension skills. 

How to Improve Your Focus While Reading

As we’ve mentioned, one of the major hindrances of reading speed is lack of focus. If you struggle to focus while you are reading, you will regress. Plus, you will struggle to comprehend and retain what you’ve read. Therefore, one of the lessons covered in a speed reading course is how to improve your focus. 

Let’s get one thing out of the way. Many slow readers simply struggle as a result of poor concentration. As a result, their reading speed and comprehension suffer. These people mistakenly believe they have poor comprehension skills. The reality is they simply need to improve their focus.

Faster readers have sharper focus and get through material quickly with better comprehension because they maintain a high level of concentration while reading. Cultivating your concentration will allow you to read faster while maintaining (and likely improving) your comprehension.

The simplest thing you can do to sharpen your focus and read faster is to start using your hand to guide your eyes. Use your finger to guide your eyes along the line of text. Because your eyes are naturally attracted to motion, they’ll follow along the line as your hand moves from left to right across the page. This will help you focus on the text as you read. You can also use a pen or other tool that feels comfortable. 

How to Improve Comprehension 

Let’s be honest. The speed you read at is irrelevant if you do not comprehend what you are reading. If you don’t understand while you’re reading the material, you are wasting your time (even if it is less time than you’d normally spend reading). That’s why our speed reading course places emphasis on improving comprehension, as well. 

Before we move on to discuss how to improve comprehension, it is important to distinguish comprehension from retention. Sometimes people use these terms interchangeably, but they are actually two different skills. 

Comprehension is what you understand what you read while reading. Retention is what you remember after you’ve already comprehended the material. One refers to what you understand in the present, while the other refers to what you remember later on. 

For now, let’s focus on how to improve comprehension. Improving concentration requires a shift in thought. We are no longer going to read for words (or on a word-by-word basis); instead, we will read for ideas. Getting caught in the details and focusing on each individual word is a stumbling block to faster reading and comprehension. You need to see the big picture. 

Another way to improve your comprehension is to vary your speed as you read. Changing your speed will force you to pay attention. Consider the last time you had a conversation with someone who spoke with a monotone voice. You probably quickly lost interest in what the monotone speaker was saying and stopped paying attention. This is because the tone, inflection, and speed of their voice never changed. In contrast, when we read, we should pick up the pace or slow down the pace as needed to avoid a similar scenario.

Slow down and speed up according to the different types of material, paragraphs, and sentences. For example, when reading, there are times you should always slow down, such as the first sentence of a paragraph. 

Since the first sentence of a paragraph tends to be the main idea, you want to spend more time on this sentence. Next, pick up speed as you read the rest of the sentences in the paragraph. Then, slow down when you move to the first sentence of the next paragraph. This teaches us to pay attention and understand (aka comprehend) what we are reading. 

In a future section, we will discuss the IRIS Method that is an effective means for improving comprehension.

How to Improve Retention

As mentioned previously, there is a difference between comprehension and retention. If you are able to understand the material as you are reading it but then struggle to remember what you read, later on, you have a retention issue. Most people have great comprehension and poor recall. Concentration helps facilitate recall, but the most effective tool in improving recall is repetition.

Multiple exposures to the material are the most effective way to improve retention so you are able to recall the information days, months, or years later. Good comprehension can be achieved during the first read, but it’s likely that even with sharp focus, you’ll need to review the material to ensure you are fully familiar with the concepts. Whether that is rereading the material, taking notes, or talking about it, these are all strategies to improve retention.

How to Build Up Speed When Reading

Are you ready to learn the speed reading secret? Here’s the secret – there is no secret. Speed reading just takes practice. Just like learning to play an instrument, you must invest time and practice repeatedly to boost your reading speed. 

A true speed reading course will focus on helping people achieve realistic and attainable speed reading goals. It won’t magically teach them to flip through pages like you see on TV and increase your reading speed by 100x. Instead, a speed reading course can help you learn to read 2 – 5 times faster with better comprehension and retention.

Do you remember doing multiplication table drills or sports drills? The reason your teacher or coach had you do drills was that they are effective ways to help you get faster and stronger. The more often you practice 2×2=4, the faster you will be with getting to the answer. The same principle applies in a speed reading course.

The goal of a speed drill is to purposely read faster than you normally would. Keep in mind that during speed drills you are focusing solely on speed, not on comprehension. The reason speed reading drills are effective is that they train your eyes to see words much faster than they are accustomed to. The idea is that if we want to read faster, we have to learn how to see faster.

Speeding reading drills work by having you read the same material in shorter increments of time. The goal is to get to the same place in the material in less time as you progress through the drill. Here’s the format of a basic speeding reading drill:

  • Read at your regular speed for 10 minutes as you would for good comprehension. Mark how far you read.
  • Re-read to the same spot in 7 minutes.
  • Re-read to the same spot in 6 minutes.
  • Re-read to the same spot in 5 minutes.
  • Re-read to the same spot in 4 minutes. 

The point of the drill is to go much faster than your normal reading speed, even if it means sacrificing comprehension. Essentially, you are running sprints with your eyeballs and teaching your eyes to see faster. 

How to Read Faster on a Computer Screen 

Today’s readers spend much of their time reading on screens, such as a cell phone, e-reader, or computer screen. But, reading on screens slows us down even more (averaging a slow down of 32%). 

Unfortunately, we can’t stay focused on the text by running our finger across the screen like we can with paper reading materials. That’s why we developed a free program called AccelaReader. This program utilizes a technology called Rapid Serial Visual Representation (RSVP). RSVP works by flashing the words on the screen according to the reading speed you select.

To use AccelaReader to speed up your screen reading, simply copy and paste the material into the textbox on the website and then click the “Read” button. You will then have the option to choose the speed and the number of words you want to see flashed on the screen. Then, click “Play.” At this point, the words of the text will flash on your screen according to your specifications.

You can also use the free program to practice speed drills online. Simply change to a faster speed and try to re-read the material in less time. 

The Fundamental Idea of a Speed Reading Course 

When it comes to speed reading, the eyes are key. Most people don’t realize they are allowing their eyes to slow down their reading speed. However, if you learn how to increase your eyes’ speed in picking up words and communicating them to the brain, your reading speed will increase. And this happens as you practice speed reading with drills. 

Speed reading drills also help you say goodbye to the habits that have been slowing you down. For example, moving through text at a fast pace prevents you from fixating on each word. You also learn to stop regressing as it proves to hinder your reading speed. Finally, you are reading at a pace too fast for you to hear each word in your head, which puts an end to subvocalization. 

Again, taking a speed reading course isn’t solely about increasing your reading speed. In a speed reading course, you begin by learning how to see words faster. Once you learn to see faster, you can read faster. After you learn to read faster, then we move on to improving comprehension, and finally, retention. 

The IRIS Speed Reading Course Method

The IRIS Method is designed to boost reading speed, comprehension, and retention. We can’t work on everything at once, so we’ll work on these skills separately. Then, we’ll tie everything together when we actually read for comprehension with the IRIS Method. This method will help you save time, comprehend ideas, and retain concepts long after the book is closed.

Inspect: The first step is to inspect your reading material. This step is critical to your success as a speed reader. The idea of inspecting is to get all of the main points before you dive into the nitty-gritty. This means starting by reading the introduction. Then, you look for the headings, subheadings, and titles of tables or charts. Next, you look over any boldfaced or italicized words. (Remember how textbooks use bold-faced words to signify new vocabulary or important concepts? These are bold-faced for a reason.) Finally, read the conclusion, which summarizes the main ideas.  By thoroughly inspecting the material before reading it, you get a sense of the big picture. This is better for comprehension and retention. 

Read: The next step is to read the material in its entirety. Use speed reading techniques, such as pointing to the text and timing yourself, to get through the remainder of the text at a faster rate.

Inquire: The next step in the process is to inquire. After reading the text, it is critical to make inquiries. Asking questions will help focus the mind and help you retain the information. Consider questions such as: What are the biggest takeaways? What are the main points? What did this teach me? 

Store: Lastly, store the information. What are some things you can do to help you retain this information long after you walk away from the material? As mentioned earlier, retention truly only occurs through repetition, so take notes or re-read the passages using speed drills. Find ways to talk about the material so it isn’t forgotten.

Ultimately, the combination of strategies taught in a speed reading course, such as the IRIS Method, will help you become a successful reader. You will boost your reading speed, but you will also walk away with a better grasp of how to read even the most complex materials. 

Take the Next Step: Register for a Speed Reading Course

As the trusted leader in the field of speed reading, IRIS Reading has had the opportunity to work with many universities, including Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, University of Chicago, Columbia, Georgetown, and NYU, and many other leading universities. We have trained executives at NASA, Google, Fidelity Investments, Northern Trust, and many Fortune 500 companies. And now it’s your turn.

If you are ready to boost your reading speed, consider enrolling in an Iris Reading speed reading course. In addition to teaching the fundamental techniques of speed reading, we also teach our students comprehension and retention strategies. We offer a variety of different speed reading courses to meet the needs of students across North America, including:

  • Live Workshops with live virtual instruction (a 3-hour workshop covering practical techniques to help you read faster, remember more, and boost productivity)
  • In-Person Instruction in several major cities in Canada and the U.S.
  • Multiple Online Courses (speed reading, comprehension, memory, note-taking, productivity, and more)

In addition to a speed reading course, many people also take our Advanced Comprehension & Memory course. If you struggle to remember what you’ve just read or forget passwords and birthdays, this course will teach you memory strategies that are applicable as you read, work, and live.

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