Reading with Your Finger (6 Steps to Master Finger Tracking Reading)
One of the most fundamental principles of speed reading involves the use of your hand as a guide, usually your index finger while reading, or also using your pen.
This way of reading is especially great for children learning to read. As they are deciphering through text using their index finger and tracking the text with their eyes, you will find that over time they can improve their reading speed with effective finger tracking exercises.
Finger tracking is also a core method for the Braille system. People who are blind or have trouble seeing run their fingers over the tiny raised dots to read letters that form words and sentences.
With the mastery of finger tracking, they can read plenty of books written in Braille!
In this article, we will go through 6 steps to help you master finger tracking when reading, the different types of eye movements, and their importance.
6 steps to master finger tracking reading
Here are the easy steps you should follow when trying to improve your reading speed with finger tracking:
1. Decide on what finger you will use
Usually, the pointer finger is used in this technique, but you can use whichever one feels the more natural.
The finger will act as a guiding point. Picture a light tower that guides ships to their destination. That is what the finger you use will do as you read.
2. Put your finger on the page and underline the words
Place your finger slightly below the text on a page, and underline the words from left to right in one continuous motion
When doing this you will find that as you slide through the text word by word, you are in charge of the pace you want to read.
3. Do not look at your finger
It is important to avoid looking at your finger. Instead, let it guide you from left to right “through” the line of text.
Focus on the text and not your finger, this will help you flow as you read without distraction.
4. Observe what is happening as you are finger tracking
Like a moth to a flame, your eyes will be attracted to each word as you underline it. The natural response for your eyes is their attraction to the motion from your finger. Your eyes will consistently follow through the text. Test it and see for yourself.
After doing steps 1,2 and 3, you will notice your eye movements switch to a smooth pursuit motion. This motion will economize the movement thus eliminating the multiple individual motions your eyes were doing before.
5. Start using your finger for all of your reading from here on out
When you do this consistently, you will always be eliminating the regular fixations and have your eyes conducting a smooth pursuit motion.
This simple, yet effective technique is a great way to almost effortlessly and immediately increase your reading speed.
6. Monitor the results of finger track reading
Try reading every day for one minute using your hand, finger, or pen as a guide. You might be surprised to find that by doing these exercises, your reading speed will increase tremendously! Only by the use of your hand as a guide.
This finger tracking method of reading is undoubtedly the easiest way to immediately boost your reading speed.
Moving forward, you will find yourself continuously using your hand as a guide. And don’t worry if you read a lot of material online. We’ll discuss techniques to read faster on the computer screen as well (you won’t have to use your hand and drag it across your screen).
The differences in eye movements
Although many speed reading programs will tell you to use your hand as a guide, not many explain why but it has to do with your eyes.
Just as mentioned briefly on the 4th step to mastering finger tracking, the eyes have a natural response dictated by its movement.
There are two basic types of eye movement: saccadic and smooth pursuit.
Let’s take a moment to discuss each of these eye movements in detail and how important they are to the way you read.
Saccadic eye movement
We’ll start with a basic fact. The human eye is naturally attracted to motion.
If you hold a pen out in front of your eyes and then proceed to follow it at a few different points, holding it steady for a second or two at each point over the span of a few feet, your eye will have made a few, albeit brief, staggered motions, also known as fixations (this can be observed by others or even by yourself using a mirror).
This observed, discontinuous small eye movement is called saccadic eye movement.
Here’s a video to help you get a glimpse of what the Saccadic eye movement looks like:
Smooth pursuit eye movement
Now repeat the same motion holding your pen, but this time, instead of a few stop and pauses along the way, guide the pen from one side to the other with one smooth motion (with no stops) and follow it with your eyes.
Your eyes, upon observation, will not have the individual staggered motion anymore while following the pen.
They will be smoothly fixated on the pen over the course of the movement in a single unbroken gaze. This is called a smooth pursuit eye movement.
When you are reading, typically, your eyes are doing what was observed in the initial example – moving in a staggered fashion while fixating on each word along the way.
All the small, discontinuous individual movements add to tiny fixations which slow our reading.
If you could somehow apply the smooth pursuit movement to your reading, you could then eliminate these multiple fixations. You can do this by simply using your index finger (or a pen) to read.
With the help of finger tracking reading, you have the potential to steadily progress into a fast avid reader.
Just do these 6 practical and easy steps mentioned:
- Decide on a finger to use
- Place it on the words and underline each word
- Focus on the word, not the finger
- Test your eyes
- Consistently finger track
- Monitor results
After following all these steps diligently, you can decide if finger tracking is for you.
Alternatively, you can enrol on one of Iris Reading’s speed reading courses to improve your reading abilities.
Paul is the founder of Iris Reading, the largest provider of speed-reading and memory courses. His workshops have been taught to thousands of students and professionals worldwide at institutions that include: NASA, Google, HSBC and many Fortune 500 companies.