We know reading is an important tool in learning and in life, so it makes sense that we want to find new ways to read faster and more effectively. The question is, do speed and efficacy go hand in hand or are we really just missing the mark?
We often get asked “how can I learn to read faster?”
Students want to be able to complete assignments sooner, breeze through textbooks and retain all of the knowledge within their pages at a glance. The trouble is that reading for speed or to simply “get through it” doesn’t capture the big picture behind scholastic reading, which is to gain deeper knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.
If students treat reading as their gateway to knowledge and understanding, it can not be something they rush through or treat like a race to the finish. Instead, they must embrace the journey and with each page, allow their brains to exercise imagination, critical thinking and conceptualization. This type of engaged reading builds a framework for deeper learning that they will carry with them throughout their lives.
Reading is meant to take time, dedication, and mental energy and like anything worth doing, it’s worth doing right from the beginning. A recent study published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest stated that “there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy. It is unlikely that readers will be able to double or triple their reading speeds while still being able to understand the text as well as if they read at normal speed”. This makes sense, we know that the faster a person moves through anything, the more they tend to miss. How can we expect the outcome to be any different with reading?
Rather than encouraging children to read faster, we must encourage them to read deeper.
Setting aside time just for reading is a great start, as it allows for the process of reading to take time and be uninterrupted by other pressures to perform and produce. When reading is rushed, sure it takes less time, but it gives students a false sense of learning. It then needs to be redone later when a student’s knowledge gaps become apparent. We say “go back and read it again”, but without instilling proper habits of how to read for understanding, we are setting them up for failure.
Rather than encouraging speed and falsely empowering our children with a dangerous combination of an overconfidence in their reading abilities and the limited surface knowledge it provides them, it’s important to encourage them to dig deeply, slow down and read thoroughly. After all, if students can’t find the time to read properly today, where will they find the time to re-read properly tomorrow?
The Good News?
Engaging in proper reading habits now, allows children to build genuine confidence and knowledge, which in turn, gradually allows them to read faster and become better students! As with anything that requires mastery, practice makes perfect and it is only through practice, not speed, that our children will improve their reading abilities. Have your children dedicate time to engage with their reading material and value the outcome of time well spent!