The following information for improving reading speed is only relevant for languages that you’re fluent in. (Thanks to @burgerlands2 for pointing this out. Check out post #18 for more details)
There’s a brain training app called Elevate (iOS and Android) which has several exercises that focus on reading speed (and a bunch of other skills as well). While doing these exercises, I learned some very interesting things about reading. As an example, I’ve copied information from the app about subvocalization.
Subvocalization occurs when you mouth or silently say words to yourself as you read them.
More on what is subvocalization?
Reading and speaking are separate activities, but some readers mouth words to themselves as they read. Even after learning to read silently, most readers continue to mentally say each word in their heads. This is what researchers call subvocalization and it creates a natural limit to the speed at which we can read.
Why do we subvocalize?
When we first learn to read, we begin by learning the sounds associated with each letter and how those are formed into words. When we read aloud, we pronounce each syllable of every word. This ensures that we read every word on the page and helps us comprehend what we read. However, it also leads many people to continue to say words to themselves even as they become stronger readers.
Why eliminate subvocalization?
When you subvocalize, you can only read as fast as you can speak. That results in a reading speed of around 150-200 words per minute. If you eliminate subvocalization, you can still comprehend all the words you read, but you won’t be artificially limited by the speed at which you can talk. It takes some practice, but doing so can allow you to double your reading speed.
How does the app suggest you overcome subvocalization?
Strategies for overcoming subvocalization
Begin to break the habit of subvocalization by keeping yourself from silently mouthing words as you read. An easy way to do this is to find something else to do with your mouth while you read, such as humming. This will be difficult at first, and you may lose focus, but keep practicing and eventually you’ll be able to read without mouthing words.
Break the auditory connection
Even if we don’t mouth or say words aloud as we read, we often speak them to ourselves in our head. As a result, we still associate the sounds of words with their meanings. The key to breaking this auditory connection is to find something else to silently say to yourself as you read. Try counting from 1 to 10 silently as you read. This will be uncomfortable at first, so start slowly. Try increasing your reading speed as it becomes more comfortable; eventually you’ll be able to read much more quickly than you could say the words yourself.
Other tricks they suggest for improving reading speed are grouping chunks of words (utilizing your peripheral vision) and strengthening your eye muscles. The app does a good job providing you with opportunities to practice whatever tip they provide.
Since I just started using the app, I can’t say whether it’s actually helped me to improve or not but it’s been pretty fun so far! The app also focuses on many other skills (e.g. math and vocab) as well so that’s a bonus!
Note on cost: The app is free to download, however, they will try to get you to do a 14 day free trial of their pro version (not free). If you do the trial and don’t cancel by the end of the trial, it will automatically charge you. To avoid this, when prompted about whether you want to begin the free trial, you can click on the “x” and this will take you to their free version. Also, if you do want to go pro, I suggest waiting until it goes on sale. They did a black Friday sale for 50% off so they might do another one around Christmas/New Years.