Speed reading

Posted by: millersb02

Speed reading - 07/26/22 07:53 PM

Is the ability to read quickly a common trait for gifted people?
Posted by: Eagle Mum

Re: Speed reading - 07/27/22 03:14 PM

From the range of people Iíve come across, the people who have the ability to speed read are generally intellectually gifted, but I suspect some of the influences may also be greater interest in topics which motivated them to read, so youíd also get Ďpractice effectí.

In a literature search, I can skim through hundreds of abstracts potentially relevant to my profession in a few minutes to find useful references but thatís with an extensive vocabulary and wide knowledge & understanding in my fields. Itís a skill asset honed out of necessity during an extended period of time poverty but has impressed others in my workplace. Similarly, the books I read for leisure are areas in which I also have strong interest and knowledge. I wouldnít be able to speed read content of unfamiliar topics. My husband is a radiologist, so he is well practised at viewing a large number of images simultaneously and synthesising information from everything within his visual field, so we only recently had a discussion on how he was surprised to discover that he can now Ďreadí a page of written information at a glance which is very similar to what I do during literature searches.

Our youngest, who developed a strong interest in etymology at a young age, is the real bookworm in our family and she has true speed reading ability. She doesnít scan pages, she reads everything chronologically and remembers it all in great detail and I am impressed with how she gets through thick novels in single sittings.
Posted by: millersb02

Re: Speed reading - 08/06/22 07:30 PM

Thank you for telling me about your experience.

My son is 8 and enjoys books and reading. He devours books and has piles of books around all the time and also enjoys audiobooks. Heís a strong reader, but has preferred to read longer books with me. Recently he has started reading chapter books independently and he reads them so quickly, itís kind of hard to believe. I thought he might be tricking me a bit, but he tells me details and requests I get the next books in the series so Iím starting to think heís really reading, just very fast. He reads out loud well, but he tells me it slows him down and I see/hear his frustration sometimes when he wants to move faster.

I always thought people who read quickly were trained to do thatÖ didnít realize it comes naturally to some.
Posted by: Eagle Mum

Re: Speed reading - 08/07/22 04:25 AM

As with many skills, natural aptitude and training probably both have effects on functional ability. Sounds like your DS has made a very strong start early.

Reading aloud would definitely slow a speed reader down immensely. I would think that mechanical vocalisation of the sounds would be a slow and rate limiting step requiring a lot of coordinated neural & neuromuscular synaptic activity. Even silent subvocalisation slows reading speed compared to simply processing visual information.
Posted by: aeh

Re: Speed reading - 08/07/22 01:02 PM

Reading fluency is definitely a function of both natural aptitude and experience. Nothing improves fluency likes practice. But for speed reading with comprehension, I suspect natural aptitude is more critical to the upper limit on speed. One of my siblings self-studied a speed reading course while in high school, but didn't raise their speed much--of course, their initial reading speed was about 800 wpm, so that might have been the reason! That sibling also has atypical saccades and near-eidetic memory. One of my children was reading about 700 wpm (I measured) as a middle-elementary student in high-interest literary text, and a little under 400 wpm in low-interest, low-context informational text (it may be faster now, but hasn't been measured recently). DC notes that they do not engage in silent or other subvocalization while reading, with the result that much of DC's vocabulary acquired purely from text does not even have a pronunciation (in their mind) until DC decides to use it in conversation.

I am definitely limited by silent subvocalization, which appears to have capped my reading speed at about 400 wpm, while my siblings read about 800 wpm, with highly accurate retention. On a different, but slightly related note, the reading skill I do have (not, perhaps, particularly useful though!) is that I can read out loud, with good pacing and expression, without paying attention to the content, or while thinking about something else entirely. I've even been known to fall asleep while reading aloud.
Posted by: Eagle Mum

Re: Speed reading - 08/07/22 04:11 PM

Originally Posted By: aeh
DC notes that they do not engage in silent or other subvocalization while reading, with the result that much of DC's vocabulary acquired purely from text does not even have a pronunciation (in their mind) until DC decides to use it in conversation.

My early childhood was spent in another country where the remnants of the British empire left a legacy set of rules for pronunciation which differed from the rules of the local dialects. Immigration introduced me to a fourth set of rules, so it might be that I subconsciously shied away from subvocalisation to avoid these conflicts. I am mindful to vocally practise delivery of my lectures & presentations, otherwise I can actually surprise myself when the words are vocalised and then Iíll repeat the word(s) with different pronunciation and entirely lose the flow of my presentations.
Posted by: aeh

Re: Speed reading - 08/07/22 05:02 PM

Interesting. I know quite a number of people from a community where many members are multilingual in both alphabetic and ideographic writing systems, sometimes in multiple dialects. Several of them have told me that they frequently find themselves switching unawares between dialects, often--as you describe--in the midst of presentations. It appears to occur for both alphabetic and ideographic languages. I wonder if they are encoding both languages more ideographically.
Posted by: giftedamateur

Re: Speed reading - 08/07/22 07:37 PM

I find this a very interesting question. I figured out how to read fast when I was 7 years old. It's a bit hard to try to remember exactly how I learned it because it was largely intuitive, as I guess most things are at that age. For the most part, I would characterize it as impatience -- just in general, being a kind of speed demon when it came to all kinds of mental tasks, math and reading included.

I used to be very interested in reading and writing, and although I wouldn't quite say I read all the time, I still read a fair bit. We used to have tests at school where we had to read 200 words a minute out loud, and I used to clock in at 35 seconds, and I definitely used to read faster in my mind, so I have a fairly accurate idea of my reading speed.

A question: Is there a step between reading out loud and reading in your head? From what I remember, I could always read in my head, but it's possible that there was an intermediate step, maybe before I was 4 years old or so. Regardless, I remember that I used to subvocalize initially, and I know that this changed eventually by the time I was reading novels. I can't remember how exactly this took place, and I don't think it was a conscious process. I just wanted to go faster, and somehow I did.

Another interesting data point I have now is that of a friend, a guy who said he had a poor reading speed, in his early 20s. He used to read at 250-400 wpm, and he got into reading fairly difficult books, about a hundred pages a day. A few months later, he told me his reading speed had gone up to about 800 wpm if he tried. Another friend who was quite intelligent told me his reading speed went up pretty significantly after reading a bunch of philosophy. Both the friends were fairly highly intelligent (I don't know their IQs but they're in STEM grad school).

Given all of this, I suppose it's a bit of a talent, and people who are naturally inclined can probably pick it up at different ages. I've read research which suggests that due to the number of saccades the eye can perform in a second, you can't really read above 500 wpm. What I strongly suspect is that fast readers pick up patterns in sentences, and therefore they basically skip over words while losing basically none of the content. After all, a lot of words in a given sentence are filler. This is what I suspect. It's very rare to see someone who can read at a speed of above 1000 wpm, and I think this is indicative of the fact that, after a certain point, the benefit you can get from pattern-matching and skipping over unnecessary filler content, and the speed at which you can do this recognition accurately, reaches some kind of limit for virtually everyone.

From what I've seen, I think language skills of various kinds really are a fairly accurate predictor of intellectual ability. I generally observe that the more intelligent the person, the quicker they can understand the nuances of a new culture and language, even if they may not agree with it. This might seem a bit of a tangent, but several of the people I know are academics for which English isn't really their first language. Some learned it as a second language, some only really picked it up properly in middle school. But they all read fairly fast and have good vocabularies. They are not as fast as native speakers in the same situation, but they often figure out how to read fairly fast, skim through research papers, etc. pretty well if a tad slower than fully native speakers.

I've been asked by people to teach them how to read fast, when they were adults at the time. And I've always wondered how I could answer that question, so I've thought about this question often. I wondered whether it's different learning to read fast as an adult vs a kid, and whether that would be relevant to the discussion, but from what I understand of critical periods, there really isn't a critical period for learning how to read script, because it simply is too recent in evolutionary terms for something of the sort to develop (so the anecdotes I've had where people did become fairly fast readers as adults should be relevant). On the other hand, understanding of language might bleed into reading speed because of intuitive knowledge of sentence construction etc. so it's not completely clear. Being good at anything which is evolutionarily novel tends to be a good indicator of intelligence, so it makes complete sense for reading speed to fall into that category.

I know this is a bit rambly and I didn't have a lot of time to format it. I wonder if your experiences agree with this.
Posted by: aquinas

Re: Speed reading - 08/09/22 01:05 PM

Originally Posted By: millersb02
Is the ability to read quickly a common trait for gifted people?

I assume so? There may be a component of eidetics for some of us. I tend to read in chunks of paragraphs unconsciously and backfill for detail.

This only became apparent when reading novels aloud to DS. Not infrequently, I'd unintentionally visually read a section down the page while reading a different section aloud.

Pleasure reading is a favourite activity in our household, and I usually withdraw about 5-6 new non-fiction books per week for myself from the library. I read most evenings for about 2 hours, usually skipping between sections of a few different books in that time - maybe about 300pps a day? (outside professional reading)
Posted by: aquinas

Re: Speed reading - 08/09/22 01:23 PM

On a different, but slightly related note, the reading skill I do have (not, perhaps, particularly useful though!) is that I can read out loud, with good pacing and expression, without paying attention to the content, or while thinking about something else entirely.

Useful in parenting or professional settings!
Posted by: millersb02

Re: Speed reading - 08/16/22 11:37 AM

Ok, I totally open Pandoraís box! But yes, Iím picking up some things that make sense. The part about reading in chunks & backfilling is interesting. My DS didnít learn to read particularly early. He did need explicit instruction, but he learned very fast. As he was learning and still now, heíll assume/fill in certain words. Most kids guess at a word but he would fill in with synonyms and almost never lose the meaning of the text. I wonder if he is scanning or reading ahead, but being slowed down by his speaking ability?

Thank you for the thoughts!