Speed Read

In July, 2015, a lady called Anne Jones sat down to read Harper Lee’s much anticipated second book ‘Go Set a Watchman’. Just 25 minutes and 31 seconds later, she had finished the book. In order to complete this task, she read 3700 words a minute. Anne Jones is a six times world speed reading champion.

When I was in my GCSE year at school, we were taught how to speed read. All I recollect is that it was a very dull course. At the time, I didn’t really get it. Fast forward to the 21st century, to the hot seat of Headship, and being able to digest and retain a vast amount of information at speed is something that is essential.

The average fluent reader absorbs text at a rate of 200-400 words per minute. Experts in the field of speed reading believe that it should be possible for most people to read at between two and four times that speed. At this time of year, I have about 100 hours worth of end of year reports to read within a three week period on top of a very busy schedule. How to achieve this and continue to do my job effectively?

Here’s some tips:

  • Push yourself and go faster than you think is possible when you read
  • Don’t ‘sub-vocalise’ the words, i.e.: mouth them as you read, as this will slow you down
  • Your eyes will naturally jump back to previous words when you read. Use a finger, or a pen, to force your eyes to travel across a page more quickly
  • Wherever possible, read phrases as one unit, rather than as separate words
  • Listening to music, particularly classical, can help

I personally find that I have to get myself into a ‘zone’, which years of practice and self-discipline has enabled me to achieve, even with the constant interruptions that accompany an open door policy.

And, equally importantly, all of us need to remember that reading is potentially a source of enormous pleasure and downtime. Reading is my last act of the day and something that provides a moment of sanity. In this moment, my thought processes slow, with top gear shifting to first gear.

There is always a selection of reading material on my bedside table, to allow for the right fit. This currently includes:

Light(ish) reads: Chris Bonnington’s ‘Ascent’; The History magazine, J. D. Salinger’s  ‘The Catcher in the Rye’

Less light reads Sir Anthony Seldon’s ‘The Fourth Education Revolution’

A lovely way to zone out and be transported to the land of Nod!