Speed Reading - Use your Peripheral Vision

Remember how when you were first learning to read and your parent or teacher would point at one word at a time, wait for you to read it and then move on to the next one. Now that’s a great introductory reading technique, unfortunately most of never get taught anything beyond that level, and so decades later we still habitually read one word at a time.

The truth is that isn’t how it has to be. The brain can process collections of words all at once, phrases, even whole sentences. In fact anything your eyes can see, your brain can read, all in the same time you would usually take to read just one word.

To find out how much you can read all in one go, you need to test your peripheral vision. Pick a word rough in the middle of this paragraph, somewhere roughly in the middle of the line, and with a line or two both above and below it. Now keep your eyes focused on that word, and notice how many words either side you can still read clearly without having to move your eyes. On their first go most people can usually read a couple of words either side (depending on the length of the words).

Now to put this into practice, for this you’ll need a standard paperback novel sized book (A5). Now slide your finger down the middle of the page and while keeping your focus on the word just above your finger, read the entire line using your peripheral vision. This is a slightly more tricky exercise than forcing yourself to read faster, after all we’ve all had some experience of reading at slightly different speeds at different times in our life, but most of us have never had to practice reading entire lines of text in one go before. Just take it nice and slowly to start with, even if this means the first few times you use the technique you actually end up reading slower than you would do normally. The important thing is just to get your mind used to reading whole lines at a time.

Because you are reading whole chunks of text in one go, you no longer need to say each word in your head as you read it, just let your brain take in the whole line in one go. Again this will take some getting used to as it goes against how you’ve been reading your entire life up until now. Just trust your brain to do, it is incredibly powerful and can easily read and understand the words in front of it at incredible speeds.

Practice reading about 5 pages like this, and then take a break for a couple of minutes to give your brain and your eyes a rest. After a quick break, come back and read another 5 pages, again just slide your finger down the centre of the page and read an entire line at a time. After just 2 or 3 of these short 5 minute sessions you will begin to notice you are already becoming more comfortable reading entire lines of text at a time.

Once you feel comfortable reading whole lines at a time, you can move on to combining the ‘Peripheral Vision’ and ‘Force Yourself to Read Faster’ techniques together. Just slide your finger down the centre of the page slightly faster than you have been while practicing the ‘Peripheral Vision’ technique so far. Do this for about 5 pages, have a short break for a few minutes, and then come back and have another go, this time moving your finger even faster. As with the ‘Force Yourself to Read Faster’ technique don’t worry about comprehension at this stage just make sure your eyes are following your finger and your peripheral vision is taking in the whole line. Do this exercise as many times as you want (the more the better), but make sure you do it at least 3 times through.

Now it’s time to see how much your reading speed has improved. Get your stopwatch and time yourself for reading 5 pages. Just read at whatever speed feels natural to you, reading a whole line at a time. You can use your finger as a guide or not, its entirely up to you.

Finally check your new time for reading 5 pages against your original reading time. You will find it is dramatically quicker, it is not unusual to find you are now reading at twice or even three times the speed you started!

And this is only the beginning, you can keep improving your reading speed further by practicing these two techniques. Take the ‘Peripheral Vision’ technique to the next level by reading 2 or even 3 lines at once, practice until you can read at that rate comfortably and then add another line in, see how far you can go!


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