Speed Reading: Challenges and Software Solutions
Developing a software product that would help you shorten your “To-Read” list
What Is Speed Reading?
The most essential asset for a person of the 21st century is knowledge and experience. Since early years, children are taught to read. However, they are not taught to read efficiently.
Speed reading is an important cognitive skill, which lets a person perceive and comprehend textual information with minimal effort and in the shortest period of time possible.
While schools pay little attention to this skill, most people have to learn to speed read on their own in their adult years. And this is where speed reading software tools come into play.
Oleksiy Pletnov, the CTO at KeenEthics, came across the idea of learning to read fast when he got acquainted with Hordiy Ostapovych.
Hordiy Ostapovych is one of the best Ukrainian coaches in Speed Reading & Brain Training. After taking an intensive speed reading course, I have learned to read faster by two times from 669 to 1298 signs per minute, and this is not yet the limit. Today, I want to share some of my speed reading tips.
Alex Pletnov Chief Technical Officer
How to Measure the Speed of Reading?
Speed reading as the name of a skill to be developed is somewhat deceptive. Speed reading is not just about reading. It is about perceiving, comprehending, and remembering information from the text. Therefore, the skill is measured not as the speed itself but as the product of speed and comprehension.
To assess one’s speed reading ability, a person is given a text of a certain length to read. A comprehension test of 10-20 words follows. The number of questions answered correctly is divided by the overall number of questions, and the result is the perception rate.
Subsequently, it is necessary to multiply the number of signs in the text by the perception rate and to divide the product by the number of minutes spent on reading. The obtained result is the actual speed of reading. The higher it is, the faster a person perceives information and the better he or she remembers it.
How to Master Speed Reading?
Extract the Essentials
Depending on the structure of the language and the writing style of the author, about 50–70 percent of words in the text are not essential for the understanding. For instance, you may easily omit most auxiliary verbs, prepositions, pronouns, conjunctions, articles, or interjections since most of them are self-understandable or easily predictable. Therefore, the first step towards becoming a fast reader is to learn not to fixate on those less necessary words and constructions but to pay attention to the essential ones.
After you have learned to extract only meaningful words, you get to realize that some of them convey more important messages while others are less significant. For example, the text may include some facts about events, people, phenomena, and data and some descriptions or subjective opinions which you care much less about. Respectively, the second step on your way to read faster is to learn to skip unimportant information and to focus on essential facts.
Once again, as a fast reader, you read all the text from the first word to the last word, but you do not pay much attention to excessive linguistic words or constructions and disregard unimportant information.
While you are working on your reading skills and speed reading techniques, it is a great idea to train your memory to improve both reading speed and comprehension. There are two techniques that Oleksiy recommends as he personally tried and tested them.
Train Your Memory: The Roman Room
The first technique is called The Roman Room. Imagine that you have a room inside your head, which has a lot of shelves and hangers in it. Once you need to remember something, you enter the room and place it on a shelf or a hanger. It is important to give yourself a few seconds to visualize the process in order to develop a distinctive association. Moreover, the more emotional, extravagant, unusual, absurd association you have, the better. For instance, if you have a meeting with someone later in the day and you are afraid you might forget about it, enter your Roman room and hang the person on a hook by their collar. Next time you enter the room, you will remember the person hanging there, so you will not forget about the meeting.
Train Your Memory: The Journey
The second of the speed reading techniques is called The Journey. Imagine a route that you know perfectly. Let’s say it is a path from the front door of your house through the kitchen and to the bedroom or a route from your house to work. If you need to remember a procedure or a sequence of items, you learn to associate each part of it with a certain point of your journey. For example, you have a shopping list to remember and you do not want to go to the grocery store twice. Then, you imagine that there are bananas growing at your front door; when you step in the corridor you drop a bottle of milk; when you enter the kitchen, you step and slip on an egg; when you enter the bedroom you see your cat eating cottage cheese. In this way, when you enter the grocery store, you recall the journey in your head and remember to buy bananas, milk, eggs, and cottage cheese. Once again, the associations should be as absurd and unusual as possible.
Interestingly, it is a proven fact that criminals have the best memory skills because the scenes they imagine or witness are the most emotional, unusual, or dangerous. Imagine yourself seeing an elderly lady crossing the road. Are you going to remember her in a week? Not likely. But what if a car hits this lady? You will definitely remember her for months and years to come. The example is cruel, but this is how the human memory is working.
Train Multiple Languages
It is also important to understand that, if you train speed reading in, for instance, Spanish or German, you cannot expect to automatically become a fast reader in English or any other language. Surely, the more languages you have trained speed reading in, the easier it is to acquire this skill in a new language. But in any case, it takes time and effort.
Avoid the Mistakes
In addition, there are two main mistakes to avoid: subvocalization and regression. Subvocalization is the habit of voicing the text in one’s head. If a person subvocalizes, the reading speed equals and cannot exceed the speaking speed. In turn, regression is the habit of going back a few words or lines back in order not to miss anything. Both these habits are supposed to improve comprehension, but instead, they badly slow down the reader.
Advantages of Speed Reading
Reading faster by a few times
If you spend less time reading a page, you can read twice or three times more than you usually do. You will notice that your “To-Read” list becomes not longer but shorter, the pile of documents to read and approve is smaller, and the learning process becomes more enjoyable.
You learn to stay focused, which is important not only when reading but also while talking to someone, listening to a lecture, doing a routine task, or driving. Your friends, colleagues, and family will enjoy how attentive and mindful you become.
Boosting comprehension and memory
Speed reading teaches you to better understand and remember the perceived material. Are you familiar with a feeling “What have I just read?” after you completed a paragraph? As a faster reader, you will forget about it.
As a result, speed readers are more efficient in surfing the Internet, reading instructions on how to assemble and operate newly purchased item, reading business letters, checking the news, or messaging with friends.
Advantages for Software Developers
For the software engineers, the speed reading skill comes in handy while they are reading documentation or code. As a faster reader, the software developer is able to:
- learn a new programming language or framework in a shorter period of time;
- read and comprehend iOS or Android Material Design Guidelines faster, without which the application cannot be deployed;
- get acquainted with the project requirements swiftly;
- scan the code quicker;
- keep a wider picture of architecture in mind while working on one of its pieces;
- communicate with the client more efficiently.
Such developers who learn to read faster are more effective in terms of their professional routine, more concentrated on the subject, and easier to communicate with. They learn faster, work faster, and communicate faster.
As of now, the CTO of KeenEthics – an avid speed reader – is preparing a training course in speed reading for our software engineers, QA specialists, UI/UX designers, Project Managers, and everyone else who wants to advance themselves personally and professionally.
Speed Reading Software
The current speed reading software market is represented by ZAP Reader, Spritz, Spreeder, AceReader, Iris Reading. A software product that Oleksiy, the CTO, actively uses while working on his speed reading skills is Spreed. Spreed is a Chrome extension, which enables a user to speed-read the content of any web page in this browser.
Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP)
All these applications use the Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) technique – one of the most popular speed reading strategies. One by one, words are placed in the center of the screen, which allows a user to read the text without moving their eyes – one of the most time-consuming parts of the reading activity. What makes Spreed stand out among other similar software tools is that it differentiates between words and numbers and displays the latter ones for a bit longer.
Yet, this approach is not perfect. This technique to improve reading speed displays words one by one, without context. Respectively, it does not let the reader use their peripheral vision, which could greatly boost the reading speed.
Ideas for Speed Reading Software
There are a lot of tools that help to increase the pace of reading. Meanwhile, there is no tool that would help a person learn to focus on the essential information as described earlier.
Therefore, KeenEthics is thinking about developing a software product that would analyze the text and highlight only linguistically and semantically important pieces of text. This is how a learner will know which parts they can skim and which parts they should pay closer attention to. Later on, as the user becomes more experienced, they will be able to do the same on their own.
To Wrap Up
Speed reading is a skill that everyone should be acquiring since primary school. Until the system of education does not offer such an opportunity to all pupils, the ability of a person to read efficiently depends solely on their individual desire and effort. In turn, speed reading software tools make the process of skill acquisition easier, faster, and more interesting. Therefore, signing up for a speed reading training course or at least working with a special software product would help you significantly advance yourself personally and professionally. Improve your reading speed since it is definitely an effort worth making.
The brain needs to exercise as much as the body does, and using effective speed reading strategies is how you do it. The more you train your cognitive abilities, the more powerful and enduring your brain becomes. Speed reading is a challenge, which seems impossible to master at first. However, do not underestimate the potential of your brain, and you will be surprised by what it can do. And the final lesson for each speed reader to remember is “Practice makes perfect!”
Yet, this approach is not perfect. This technique to improve reading speed displays words one by one, without a context. Respectively, it does not let the reader use their peripheral vision, which could greatly boost the reading speed.