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Monday, 6 October 2008

Rapid reading: Further barriers to be overcome

More about the barriers to rapid reading and how to overcome them.

Remain focused: Determination holds the key to overcoming many of the barriers.
No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet,

gracious discourses of my book friends.

— Helen Keller

Last week we listed eight reasons that make rapid reading difficult. There are many more of them. Our desire to read rapidly will be fulfilled, only if we identify the barriers and overcome them.

• Dislike for reading: It is difficult for you to become a rapid reader, unless you love reading. You have to be a motivated reader who enjoys reading. You should nurture a positive attitude towards reading. You would have seen people for whom r eading is as natural as breathing. It is a way of life for them. Though it may not be possible for all to fall into that category, you can cultivate an interest in reading. Often reading is a sheer necessity for discharging official duties. Normally, reading is our main source of information. If you have no interest, you will continue to be a slow reader. Generating interest in reading is the first step to speed.

• Poor vocabulary: If you desire fine comprehension along with speed reading, you should have a rich vocabulary. Every time an unfamiliar word appears, you cannot afford to run to a dictionary. You cannot develop a rich vocabulary overnight. There has to be sustained effort with the right goal in view. Special books for improving one’s vocabulary would suggest certain shortcuts. They may be followed. But that alone cannot help. Love for words is essential for developing one’s vocabulary.

• Lack of stamina: You may feel tired after reading for a few minutes, if you are not interested in reading. Even if you have interest, you may get tired after a few hours, especially if you are speed reading, which requires sharper concentration. You can however build up stamina in due course, by repeated effort. You should have the will to challenge fatigue as it sets in, and to continue reading. You try to maintain concentration, despite the feeling of physical exhaustion. Gradually you will improve your stamina.

• Word blocking: This is the habit of stopping at every unfamiliar word. This will prove to be a major obstacle to speed reading, especially if your vocabulary is not very good. A practical method is to guess the meaning of the strange word from the context and continue reading without losing the rhythm. Afterwards you may gather the exact meaning from a dictionary and confirm your guess or make corrections if found necessary.

• Lack of flexibility: Suppose you have planned to increase your reading speed from 200 words to 250 words per minute(wpm). You should realise that your objective is not to be able to read any passage at 250 wpm. That figure represents your average speed. You may have to increase or decrease the speed depending on the difficulty level of the passage. Some people have a habit of trying to maintain a constant speed of reading irrespective of the nature of the passage. This lack of flexibility is a serious barrier in ensuring satisfactory comprehension while reading fast.

• Back-tracking: Back-tracking or re-reading will slow your reading speed. This is different from regression. Owing to lack of confidence, the reader decides to go back and re-read the whole passage or a substantial part of it.

Try the Evelyn Wood technique, which is simply placing your right hand on the page and slowly bringing it straight down. This draws your eye down as you read. Go slowly and evenly, letting your eyes rake back and forth across the page as you go. Following your finger will prevent you from backtracking and keep you focused. This technique is only for practice. Once you get rid of the faulty habit, you start reading normally without the help of the moving finger.

• Too much of analysis: It is true that you should attempt the best possible level of comprehension. It does not imply that you have to analyse each word including its origin, or each idea to its logical limit. The broad objective of reading a passage should not be forgotten. Too much of analysis may slow your reading significantly, and it may even end up in ‘analysis paralysis’. Your approach has to be practical.

• Lack of concentration: Your mind should be totally focused on the subject. It should not wander. Since rapid reading demands full concentration to co-ordinate physical eye movement and for the complex processes of assimilation of ideas, there should be no laxity in maintaining concentration. Lack of concentration may be caused by absence of interest, attempting too high reading speeds, complexity of text, lack of motivation, physical pain or disabilities. If you feel that your concentration is waning, take a short break and then resume reading.

• Procrastination: A hangover from the habit of slow reading leads to the tendency to procrastinate or delay the reading process. You should jump headlong into rapid reading, without waiting for a better moment. If you feel that reading is a chore, you are likely to procrastinate. Face reading cheerfully. If the text is too long, divide it into parts and focus on one part at a time. Fix deadlines.

• Distraction: Keep away from the telephone before you start a long session of reading. Never play even soft music in the background. Ask others not to disturb you while you are reading.

• ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or Hyperactivity): It is a disorder beginning in childhood and carried forward to adulthood. Restlessness, inability to remain seated, unusual impatience, difficulty in concentration, trouble in listening, daydreaming, inability to follow instructions, making careless mistakes, getting bored before finishing a task and switching to a second task before completing the first are some of the symptoms. Three per cent to five per cent of the population may have this problem. This has to be treated by medication or counselling.

We have listed various barriers to rapid reading. All these are relevant in any effort directed towards achieving reading speed. But advanced techniques become relevant only if basic requirements such as good vocabulary and a fair level of comprehension have been achieved by the reader. None can force another person to practise drills for increasing reading speed. Once the facts are presented, the desire should come from within the person. To make the practice easy, interesting stories or narratives should be selected. Complex prose or matter with diagrams may be avoided in the drill. What is most important is your determination for improvement. Perhaps you can schedule your practice at a particular hour each day, so that your self-imposed discipline forces you to practise regularly. During the initial phase, you may fear whether increased speed damages comprehension. Go ahead with a positive frame of mind; you are sure to achieve higher speeds through regular practice. You may also attempt rapid reading, while you handle the daily newspaper.

Source : The Hindu

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