Last week, a new speed-reading app was announced by Spritz, a technology developer. The company claims that:
“Reading is inherently time consuming because your eyes have to move from word to word and line to line. Traditional reading also consumes huge amounts of physical space on a page or screen, which limits reading effectiveness on small displays…Now, with compact text streaming from Spritz, content can be streamed one word at a time, without forcing your eyes to spend time moving around the page… Our “Redicle” technology enhances readability even more by using horizontal lines and hash marks to direct your eyes to the red letter in each word, so you can focus on the content that interests you.”
When the app was announced, Internet commenters immediately weighed in, mostly with positive feedback. However, is this app–and speed reading in general–a good thing for reading? According to a recent article in The Atlantic, this is not the first time that speed reading has promised to revolutionize reading and reading comprehension. “In the 1950s, a schoolteacher named Evelyn Nielsen Wood discovered that she could read at a much faster pace than the normal 250-300 words per minute by sweeping a finger along the page as she read, reading entire groups of words at a time, and by avoiding sub-vocalization, or saying each word mentally. These techniques helped Wood reach 2,700 read words per minute, she claimed, and it was these principles she espoused in Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics, her speed-reading business. By the 90s, though, the speed-reading craze slumped again. Perhaps because its students found the method to be harder than it sounded, or perhaps because those early Clinton years were simply a more relaxed time.”
People do speed read on their own to a certain extent, by skimming an entire text or reading key sections to pack in the most information in a short amount of time. However, according to The Atlantic, “a 2009 study found that skimmers did not remember very many details, nor could they make inferences from the text.” Most research points to a correlation between reading quickly and a lack of comprehension: that is, as reading speeds up, comprehension goes down.
The fact is, when we allow our brains to process the words individually, we are able to understand the text more fully and be able to speak to various layers within the text. Ultimately, what is important to reading comprehension–and quicker reading–is practice. According to Michael Masson, a psychologist at the University of Victoria, “what differentiates fast and slow readers is not how they read, he points out, but their overall language skills and vocabularies…Beginning readers can expect to read faster as they gain more practice, but eventually we each reach some upper limit. The simple answer, then, is ‘read more.’”
Here are some ways My Learning Springboard thinks about reading: