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How to Read the Right Way: a Complete Guide

From Medium:

Reading is dead.

The nature of books has evolved. Society and technology have changed. Forcibly, our approach to reading has taken on new forms to accommodate a different way of life.

The question is: For better or worse?

Although books give us new ideas, spark discussions, and explore topics in detail, the same information can be delivered in a variety of formats. When it comes to exactly how we should absorbing books, the debate rages on.

Let’s take a look.

The Effectiveness of Speed Reading

Since the 1950s, speed reading has been touted as an effective way to get through reading material quickly. Scientists, psychologists, and teachers have come up with methods to increase reading speed, whether through manual tools or visual movements.

At the World Championship Speed Reading Competition, top contestants can reach 1,000 to 2,000 words per minute. Six-time champion Anne Jones reached 4,200 words per minute at one point.

Those rates seem phenomenal compared to the average adult’s 300 words per minute. So then, what types of strategies are speed readers using?

Here are four common methods:

1. Skimming involves quickly going through passages to find the main points. Instead of combing each word carefully, you go over first and last paragraphs, headings, and similar cues to find key ideas. Scanning, a similar method, involves running your eyes down the text to find certain words and phrases.

2. Meta guiding uses a pointer, such as your index finger or a pen, to guide your eyes along the lines of text. A pointer helps your eyes move horizontally, focusing on the word that you should be reading.

3. Vision span method uses the span of human eyesight to read words in batches. Readers focus their eyesight on one central word, and then use their peripheral vision to see adjacent words. By relying on our peripherals, it’s believed that we can read about five words at once.

4. Rapid serial visual representation (RSVP) is a more recent technique where an electronic reading system displays words one at a time. You can choose the speed at which the words show up on the screen.

. . . .

In the comprehensive book Psychology of Reading, Keith Rayner dismisses speed reading techniques. He explains that we’re constrained by the anatomy of our eyes and the ability of our brains to process information. While some techniques aim to eliminate the process of sounding words in our head to save time (otherwise known as subvocalization), Rayner states that our memory and comprehension levels decrease dramatically.

. . . .

Paper Books

According to research, paper books have certain advantages over other formats. For one, readers have a better sense of progression when they can physically flip through pages. This progression also contributes to greater memory retention. Also, paper books act as effective sleeping aids, since they don’t emit the blue light that electronic devices do.

The other advantage to traditional books is a more personal preference. Some people like the feeling of paper. The pulpy smell, the weighty feeling, and the ability to flip through the pages enhance the reading experience. The drawback behind paper books, though, is that they’re often heavier and more inconvenient to carry around than other types of reading formats.

E-Readers

The greatest advantage e-books offer is convenience. Whether you carry one book or a hundred makes no difference in weight. This is useful for traveling, especially if you want more reading options. E-books also provide a sense familiarity, as we become accustomed to electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets.

The big issue around e-readers, however, is the blue light effect. In one study, researchers found that people who read light emitting e-readers took longer to fall asleep than those who read paper books. Readers who used devices such as tablets, laptops, smartphones, and backlit readers reduced their levels of melatonin, a hormone that increases in the evenings and induces sleepiness. As a result, they experienced low-quality sleep and were tired the next morning.

The good news is that e-ink readers, such as the Kindle, are an exception. These devices emit light towards the screen to cast a glow, rather than directly shining a light towards the reader’s eyes. The resulting effect is similar to a lamp shining onto a paper book.

Audiobooks

There is some skepticism behind audio, as some people feel that it doesn’t provide the same level of immersion as reading. A study notes that you can absorb information almost as well through audio as reading (whether they’re fully equal is another topic of debate). In some cases, the narrator’s tone can even help listeners to better understand the meaning behind texts.

The issue with audio, though, is that humans are prone to multi-tasking. If you’re typing up an email or cooking a meal while listening to the narrator, the message can become lost. Personally, I like using audiobooks when I’m less likely to be distracted, such as when waiting around or going for a walk.

Lately, speeding through audiobooks has become popular. Some people zip through a book at 2x, or sometimes even 3x the regular speed. While they claim that no information is lost, should we be approaching material this way?

. . . .

Although people are increasingly reading in short spurts, the benefits from “deep reading” are lost in the process. Reading in long periods helps the reader to enter a state similar to a hypnotic trance, in which the experience is most enjoyable.

Interestingly, the reading rate actually slows down. In this state, the reader quickly decodes words while keeping a gradual pace, heightening the understanding and relationship between author and reader.

Link to the rest at Medium

Books in General

12 Comments to “How to Read the Right Way: a Complete Guide”

  1. “Reading is dead.”

    Only to those that don’t like reading in the first place.

    And while some can speed-read without missing anything, many of us will find things we missed when we read it again later.

    “According to research, paper books have certain advantages over other formats.”

    According to [badly done and then cherry-picked to death] research …

    “The big issue around e-readers, however, is the blue light effect.”

    Which for the few with that problem is being addresses. And the ‘blue light/sleep’ problem is the same if the lamp you’re reading your paper book has a strong blue output.

    “Although people are increasingly reading in short spurts, the benefits from “deep reading” are lost in the process. Reading in long periods helps the reader to enter a state similar to a hypnotic trance, in which the experience is most enjoyable.”

    Yea, that being one with the story – interruptions mess with that …

    “Interestingly, the reading rate actually slows down. In this state, the reader quickly decodes words while keeping a gradual pace, heightening the understanding and relationship between author and reader.”

    Unlike the speed readers, some of us are there to enjoy the story – not get just enough of it to pass a test (which is why schools thought speed reading worked/was a good thing.)

    MYMV and you read what you like at your own pace on the format you prefer.

  2. It seems to me that there’s no “right” way to read. One manner of reading may be superior to others, but only in relation to one’s purposes, available circumstances of time & place, personal preferences, and physical or mental limitations.

    What we have now is just a more varied set of tools. I am confident that each of us uses different tools than others for the same purpose, and use the same tool for varied purposes.

    • Agreed. There are far too many generalisations and inclusive statements in the excerpt from the OP, starting with the obviously false first sentence. Maybe the whole article is more nuanced but I’ve used up today’s quota of free reads on Medium so I didn’t bother checking.

    • I have always read in exactly the right way – the way that I read.

  3. “Reading is dead.”
    ————–
    Perhaps this is a good article, but it starts with such a stupid first sentence that I saw no reason to continue.

  4. If reading is so dead I wouldn’t have sold so many books yesterday.

  5. My reading technique is to read a line at a time. An old-fashioned pocket paperback is just about the right size for me: after well over a half century of practice, I can take in an entire line at a time without having to look at individual letters or words. Unless someone throws in an interesting word or phase, I chunk along a line at a time. An important reason I like ebooks is that I can adjust type size and column width for line-at-a-time reading. I’ll bet I’m not special in that. If you have a column width that is just right, you probably read the same way I do, perhaps without realizing it. Not exactly the “vision span” reading method in the OP.

    Also, I think the blue light theory is a bit twisted up. Way back in the 1980s, the human factors types were saying that blue light was straining. It’s not hard to adjust screen colors to reduce the amount of blue light hitting your eyes. I’ve been doing it for years, and I’ve noticed that I have fewer problems with eyestrain than most of 997 (9a-9p 7 days a week) screen compadres. PG’s choice of colors for the TPV site is very good for reducing blue light. That’s one of the reasons I was attracted to TPV a few years ago.

    • “It’s not hard to adjust screen colors to reduce the amount of blue light hitting your eyes. I’ve been doing it for years, and I’ve noticed that I have fewer problems with eyestrain than most of 997 (9a-9p 7 days a week) screen compadres”

      Yep. When I’m not in photo editing or design mode, I use a monitor display profile that lowers the color temp (in Kelvin) to around 4000K. Nice and warm and comfy.

      “PG’s choice of colors for the TPV site is very good for reducing blue light. That’s one of the reasons I was attracted to TPV a few years ago.”

      Me too. As soon as I saw that light brown parchment look, I was hooked.
      NOTE TO PG: PLEASE DO NOT CHANGE IT!

  6. Terrence OBrien

    Seems reading has been dead for a long, long time. We know because they have been telling us for a long, long time.

    • Reading died as soon as they invented that nasty demotic script and opened it up to people who were not priests of Thoth. Fortunately, nothing worth reading has been written since then. It’s a waste of papyrus, all of it.

  7. “Reading is dead.”

    Clickbait.

  8. there are multiple stages of reading speed where your speed jumps drastically while your retention and comprehension improve at the same time

    going from sounding out every word to reading the entire word is one

    going from reading out loud to reading silently is another

    there seems to be another level between 200 and 400wpm where a similar jump takes place, beyond that it seems to be practice and study.

    The speed reading classes I have taken were high in vocabulary training, and comprehension tests, with a bit of vision span and meta guiding.

    just like you got much faster when you went from reading a letter at a time to reading a word at a time, you get faster when you go from reading a word at a time to reading a phrase at a time, and the meta guiding (along with material printed in columns about 5 words across) was good practice/training to get you into the mode of reading multple words at a time.

    In the face of a group of people who are able to read really fast (and remember what they read, without photographic memories) I really don’t understand the hostility that comes out every time there is an article on speed reading published. Why are people so hostile to the idea that it’s possible to read faster?

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