Useful, free speed reading tool

I came across a very useful and free speed reading tool a couple of weeks ago:

http://www.spreeder.com/

The words appear in the middle of the screen at the rate you set, and you can paste in your own text to read. This is a great tool for ‘overclocking’ your reading speed: basically, you set the speed to just a little faster than you can comprehend, and then immediately move onto the book or paper that you want to study. You’ll find you read a little faster than normal after doing this. It’s a little like running with ankle weights or a heavy backpack, and then taking the weight off – you run a little faster.

Set the font size to 10 or 12 so it’s comparable to things you will actually read. Also, set the chunk size to around 5, as you should try to get into the habit of looking at words in chunks and ‘jumping’ to the next chunk (these ‘jumps’ are technically known as saccades – it’s how we all read anyway you just need to find a way to jump along in the most efficient way).

When you look at each chunk of text, don’t look directly at the first word. Look at the second. If you’ve been trained as a left-to-right reader, you’ll have a little peripheral vision to the left of the fixation point, and significantly more to the right of it. So even when reading a book, your fixation points should never be at the beginning and ends of each line, but a little in from the left and right margins.

Overall I think Spreeder is a great way to train different speed reading skills in isolation – reading speed, concentration, comprehension, confidence, peripheral vision. Try setting the chunk size to 5 and speed to 400 words per minute. The average speed is 200-250 words, so if you can manage this you’ve probably almost doubled your reading speed.

There are pros and cons to Spreeder though:

Pros:

  • You can set your own reading speed
  • You can use your own text
  • Eliminates back-skipping completely (back-skipping is where you re-read something you’ve just read. It’s a bad reading habit as you’ll usually find you don’t gain much by going back, and you just need to be more confident that what you think you read is what you did read).
  • Very useful for skimming a text
  • You can alter chunk size to develop your peripheral vision

Cons:

  • You are not reading a line of text as you would in a book, so the you’re not developing the right eye-tracking habits
  • Not great for active reading – only really useful for training and skimming
  • I prefer to spend as little time as I can staring at a screen


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