DEBORAH CROMBIE: Talking about reading books straight through the other day started me wondering how fast I actually read. Years ago--college days--I took a speed reading course. Even though I'd always been a fast reader, I thought it might help with college texts. As it turned out, any gains I made were surely lost to those biology books painstakingly highlighted with yellow marker, and I'd never worried about it much since.
I read for work, and for pleasure, on printed pages and on all sorts of screens. But I've calculated, roughly, when I'm alloting my nightly reading time, that I read about fifty pages an hour.
Therefore it makes sense that I read the new Charles Todd, No Shred of Evidence, which is a little over three hundred pages, in six to seven hours. But how fast is that, really?
So I took a couple of tests. Here's one, from Staples. I tried several and tested a little under 400 words a minute, with 100% comprehension. Now the average is 200--400 words a minute, so this is not blazingly fast. (Although I suspect when I'm at the crucial part of a good novel, I read considerably faster...) Some speed reading apps and programs claim you can learn to read as fast as 1000 words a minute.
I did a little more research and discovered that speed reading has made a comeback, and that there are all sorts of different apps and different methods you can use to improve your reading speed. There are also lots of theories about the way reading on screens changes the way our brains process words. As you can probably guess, I found myself going down the information rabbit hole, and there is some fascinating stuff out there.
But does reading faster actually improve your reading experience? My take, both from my very shallow bit of research, and from my own experience, is that it does NOT.
While you may be able to hang on to comprehension, you are likely to lose emotional engagement. And if you read for language as well as story, appreciating good prose just takes a little time.
(How many of you reread the ends of books, because you've rushed through them in order to see what happens??)
However, there is a little nagging voice that says, "But given an hour-a-night reading block, I could read two books a week instead of one..."
What about you, REDS and readers? Do you know how fast you read? And are you tempted by the speed reading apps?