Reading Types

My partner and I are reading a book series together, and when we first started, it made me feel like I was illiterate. 

I own the books, so I’m reading them first, then passing each one off to my partner when I finish it. I typically take a couple of weeks to get through a book, then he tears through it in a few days.

At first, this difference in reading speed drove me crazy. I don’t consider myself to be that slow of a reader, but he is an aggravatingly fast one. So to make myself feel better, I did some research on what makes some people read faster than others, and I found that there are three different reading types, according to the University of Chicago.

  • Subvocalization is when a person sounds out words in their head while reading. This is the slowest reading type, with sub-vocalizers reading at about 250 words per minute.
  • Auditory reading is when a person “hears” the words in their head as they read without sounding them out. Auditory readers like myself read at about 450 words per minute. 
  • Visual reading is when a person doesn’t “hear” the words in their head as they read; instead, they just look at the words and understand their meaning. This is the fastest type of reading, with visual readers like my partner going at about 700 words per minute.

That last definition confused me before I thought about some phrases I’ve read many times before, like “University of Wisconsin-Green Bay” or “Door County Economic Development Center.” I don’t have to manually read every word in either phrase; instead, I can just glance at the phrase and know what it means by visually reading it. 

If you’re a slower reader like me, here are a few ways you can speed yourself up, according to Iris Reading, an organization that offers speed-reading classes.

  • Reduce subvocalization. Being aware that you’re subvocalizing – and that you don’t need to do so to understand what you’re reading – is the first step to cutting down on the habit. Listening to instrumental music while you read can help distract yourself from producing an internal monologue.
  • Don’t re-read. Many people backtrack subconsciously as they read. If you’re reading for fun, remember that you don’t have to understand every word perfectly to appreciate the book; individual sections of the book that you find yourself struggling with or confused by aren’t what make the book enjoyable.
  • Pay attention to where your eyes are going. Focus on chunks of texts rather than one word at a time; read a chunk of three to five words, then go to the next three to five words. Your eyes should move in a “scanning” motion as you read. Guiding your eyes with your finger or a pen can help ensure you’re keeping your speed up.
  • Read, read, read! Like any skill, learning to read quickly takes practice – so stop by your local library or pick up a copy of the Peninsula Pulse to tone your reading muscles.

Of course, reading quickly doesn’t have to be your goal. I read to relax, and though incorporating speed-reading techniques can be fun, I prefer to take my time and really soak in my book – even if I have someone else itching to read it next. 

He can wait.