Slow & Fast Reading: Which is Best for You

As exercise strengthens the body, reading the mind. In reading, you gain much, concentration, stress relief, analytical skills, a strict memory, and a world to which you can leave immediately as the real one does not satisfy you. Thus, rather than why read, how should one read is the vital question. Therefore, how do you read for the most gains - in retention, comprehension, and enjoyment of the story?


Reading - judging and processing visually symbols of the sounds of a language - is unnatural. Instead, speaking, listening, and visualizing (as in pictures) are, as seen in human development. Only between 3500 to 3000 BCE in Sumer, Southern Mesopotamia did humans form the world's first written language. Named cuneiform, it is marked in wet clay made by reeds. It began in pictographs, and because Sumerians wanted communication over great lengths for trade. Here, the Sumerians seemed to like their beer. From pictographs, they went to phonograms, sounds as symbols. With phonograms, they could relay action and importance of action. Thus, the first literature became possible. History's first writer was Enheduanna, daughter of Sargon Akkad. She wrote the Mater of Aratta, a collection of four poems. Then came history's first great epic, The Epic of Gilgamesh.Egyptians then appropriated cuneiform and constructed hieroglyphics, surpassing cuneiform in complexity. Still, from cuneiform, the Phoenician writing system came to life, branching into the Greek and after Roman. The Mayans formed their own system independent of any influence. China, too, created theirs independently. Theirs began by etching marks onto skulls, heating them, and divining the cracks from the heat's meaning. This became the base of Chinese script.

Understanding How Humans Understand

History, therefore, displays human development. It is from letting out and recognizing sounds to interpreting pictures and determining the meaning of marks, letters. Letters - and words - lag behind the rest. So, eventually, the brain will conform to writing, but not yet, because evolution is snail-like.The natural ways brains interpret language are through sounds, pictures, and processing. Now you can understand the better reading method.

Fast Reading

Fast reading seems beneficial - read Hamlet in one hour and understand it as though you did in six. Companies claiming to teach fast reading rarely collect and post results. Average words read per minute are 200 to 400. The UC San Diego cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Schotter thinks 500 to 600 to be the limit for maximum understanding. These companies say they'll multiply it to 1000 words per minute. Whereas Schotter says that to read with such speed and understand the text is impossible.When you read, there's subvocalization, the voice repeating the text in your head. It's vital to comprehension. Your eye, or fovea, also does not read every word in the sentence, but lands on one or two. It snaps a mental picture of these landing points. Then with your knowledge of the language, your brain processes the mental pictures. The distance between the words is saccades. And regression is when you read a sentence again to understand it. You take 80% of your time finding those points, and 20% is for your mind to process them.These companies say you should suppress subvocalization, widen saccades, and never regress, even when you do not understand. Acting so speeds your reading while distorting your comprehension, as found in a Japanese study. This is because you disregard how the brain learns naturally. In that, you take away the sound, subvocalization. You take the mental pictures too far apart to be understandable, widen saccades. And you do not process, never regress.Does fast reading have use? Yes. It is skimming. Read text fast before you read it slowly. This study showed skimming to increase comprehension. Or, read a summary of the text. Also, if the text is short and you know what you want from it, fast reading is normal. Let's say your objective is to learn from that science article the most science words. Then, your goal is to augment your vocabulary, not comprehend. Therefore, you read fast for your goal.Some, like Ann Jones, have mastered speed reading with full comprehension, but like her, they are usually professionals

Slow Reading

Slow reading, or amongst scholars 'reading', is reading between 200 and 400 words per minute, or lower. Usually, the more you understand, the more you enjoy. And slow reading promotes understanding the play or book or poem. It is best for plays, books, poems, and other complex literary works. Here, use your subvocalization, shorter saccades, and regress. You can also boost retention by visualizing the events as they occur. And periodically break off from reading to summarize. Also, some read well with a pen guiding their eyes. Most importantly, since in slow reading comprehension is key, comprehend every word. In fact, with slow, treat reading as studying and behave as though you would take a test on the book.Overall, fast reading should be for light reads, and slow for complex ones. But, for you, it may differ.