The basic skill of rapid reading is learning to read in phrases.
This simply means taking wider visual bites as your eyes move across a line of type. As I explained in the introduction, your eyes read words in a series of stops, or fixations, jerking to the right after each stop to take in the next portion of the line. You read only when your eyes are stopped. The more words you can take in at each bite, the fewer stops will be necessary on each line and the faster you will read. By widening what is called your span of recognition, you automatically increase your reading speed.
To test your present span of recognition, try focusing your eyes on the sixth word in the next line. Although you will be consciously fixed on a single word, your span of recognition should let you read the word to the left and the word to the right – perhaps a bit more. As you practice stretching your side-vision, the span of recognition will widen, and you will absorb more words with each fixation.
If you were reading a list of unrelated words you would have to read word by word. But in normal reading the words are held together by the broader meaning of phrases and sentences. Sentences are made up of units of meaning. The eyes and mind can be trained to absorb these units of meaning far more readily if you read in phrases rather than at the plodding rate of one word at a time.
The Three Kinds of Readers:
To understand more clearly how phrase reading improves skill, let’s find out what kind of reader you are now. There are three types, and it is a simple matter to test yourself.
First, He forms words with his lips, just as though he were reading aloud, and so he can grasp only one word at a time. You could still be a motor reader, even though your lips do not move. Give yourself this test: Put your fingers on your throat. Now go on reading. If you feel any movement in your larynx now (except from the pulse there), you are still a motor reader, grasping only one word at a time. This means that you can read silently only as fast as you can read aloud.
Second, Though his lips and larynx do not move, he hears every word in his mind. You can test yourself on this, too. Open a novel, if you have one handy, though any book will do. Fix your eyes on a page but before you start reading say aloud some such nonsense phrase as ”Mary had a little lamb.” Repeat it several times and then start reading, still saying aloud ”Mary had a little lamb” as you try to read. If you are unable to comprehend what you are reading – if the words are just a meaningless jumble – then you are definitely an auditory reader. Even though you understood fully what you were reading in spite of the nonsense you were repeating, you could still be an auditory reader. Read the next few paragraphs in the book on which you have just tested yourself. Now stop and think back. Were you conscious that you were reading words? Did you hear them in your head? Then I am afraid you are still an auditory reader. The auditory reader can read much faster than the motor reader, but he is still handicapped in reaching high speed, because he is held back by the necessity of ”hearing” words in his head.
Third, With him, the eye-mind relationship I described in the introduction is fully adjusted. His eyes photograph words which are translated by the mind instantly into ideas without the aid of either the vocal or auditory senses. Obviously he has a head start toward becoming a rapid reader as quickly as he is trained in the techniques which will make him aware of how to use his talent.