In order to understand the reason for our present method of reading, we must think back to the way we were taught to read.

Whilst several ways to teach reading have been used over the years, like the Initial Teaching Alphabet of 44 sounds and the “Look and Say” method, most of us were taught the Alphabet first.

Having learned it by rote, we then learned that the letters had sounds – the phonetic alphabet.  From this we were taught to “SOUND” the letters in a simple word, such as CAT.

So that from the sounds C-A-T coming together it makes a sound that the reader recognises and understands.

At an early stage of learning, a child firmly fixes reading with speaking.

We have to read out loud when we first start and continue to do so until we become more fluent and have an increased vocabulary.

Then we are told to “sit down and read to yourself”.  But we continue to use exactly the same process as we had when we were reading aloud.

The Physical Elements in Reading

When we look at improving the physical process as a basic step in reading development.  Once this part of reading has been dealt with, you can then concentrate on the mental process and begin to improve comprehension.


There are three handicaps that prevent the physical improvement of reading.  These must be understood and tackled first.  They are:

             Self-Talk (Sub-vocalisation)

             Regression.

             Word by Word Reading.


Self-talk is the movement of the lips, tongue and larynx during silent reading.  This habit becomes so firmly fixed in our reading process that we then believe we can’t understand without it.

If we read unsuccessfully at school, we were told to read “more carefully” which meant more slowly and with even more self-talk.

There are four different degrees of Self Talk:-

             Speech – which is inefficient and unnecessary.

             Hearing  1.   Actually hearing every word – also unnecessary.

             Hearing  2.   Hearing about 50% of the words.  Seeing, understanding but not hearing words like ‘is, was, but, so, and if.’  These words make up half of our normal vocabulary.

             Hearing  3.   Very few words mentally heard.  (This is limited to very fast readers).

There is evidence that self-talking rapidly or “THINKING” the words, especially the key words, helps retention.

We may not wish to cease self-talk or hearing all the words, but continue to hear and register the KEY WORDS.  This can still be done at speeds up to about 800 words per minute.

This results up to three quarters of the capacity of the brain WANTING to be taken up so it will search for other things to interest it.  This causes more problems.  When our mind wanders, we do not stop our eyes passing over the print, even when nothing is going in.  After a page or so of this, we stop, realise we haven’t been assimilating the text and have to re-read.  This is called regression.


There are two types of regression:-




Voluntary Regression

This is where the reader decides to stop, go back and voluntarily re-read, either because the piece has been poorly written, or the mind has wandered.

This is due to the small amount of information passing to the brain.  This allows the dormant part of the brain to occupy itself with matters other than that in the text.

The brain has two sides, Logical (Left) & Reflective (Right), reading is predominantly a Left Brain activity, if concentration lapses then the Reflective side of the brain starts to “wander off”

The solution is to increase the information being passed to the brain and occupy the brain more fully.  This forces concentration and fills up the capacity of the brain, which helps avoid distractions.

Readers should only voluntarily regress after they have read a complete paragraph and have not grasped the meaning.

Involuntary Regression

This is often caused by the way we were first taught to read.  We take in each word as it is presented to the brain.  The habit we adopt is to focus down onto each single word and accept them, one at a time, and gradually build up the meaning as we go along.

Unfortunately, we do not take these words in by moving the eyes regularly from one word to the next, from left to right.

As we are learning to read, long words are a problem.  We have built in a habit of glancing forward to long words that we see coming out of the corner of our eye and to preview them before we reach them.

If we can learn to move the eyes from left to right without flickering forward or back skipping, we will be reading more efficiently, with a smoother eye movement.

Word by Word Reading

Very often, it is inefficient to read single words at a time.  Reading single words at a time is like looking at a painting through a screen, seeing only one square inch of the painting at a time.  You have to store that memory, then move on to take in another square inch.

By reading words singly, you place the same level of mental importance on every word.  Obviously, certain words require more mental attention than others.

Writers do not think in words, they think in concepts and ideas.  Words are only used as tools to communicate those concepts and ideas.  If you can learn to read for concepts and ideas, you will not only read faster, you will understand better.

This means you must develop the ability to read words in groups where appropriate.


We must try to read as near as possible to “thinking” the words instead of saying them all.  We must try to gather and understand the words in meaningful groups.

An author writes in ideas, built up of groups of words.

We must try to increase our pace of reading in this new effective way so as to feed much more information to the brain to help us concentrate.

So, by overcoming these three bad habits and installing the new method by practice, we will quickly become a much more effective and successful reader.  We will be able to improve both our comprehension and speed of reading.

Checkout the great new Readfaster App – designed to help you improve the speed at which your eye muscles work – available on Google Play Store for just £1.99 ! – try it out and send your eye muscles to the gym !