The other day Elaine at Random Jottings wrote about the mixed blessing and curse that reading incredibly quickly can be. I’ve known Elaine online for nearly five years now, and have always been rather jealous of her amazing reading rate – I believe, including lighter, quick reads, Elaine has read 250 books this year. Compare that to my 130… yes, that’s an awful lot (possibly more than I’ve read any other year) but that is testament to all the time I had this year for reading, rather than my speed. I’m not slow, but I’m not very fast. Well, I’ll qualify that statement a little later.
Elaine writes on her blog, and has mentioned to me before, that when she reads she ‘sees’ the words, whereas most readers ‘hear’ them – and that the ‘seeing’ is slightly quicker on each sentence, which builds up to a lot quicker over all. If you’re thinking the idea is nonsense, watch out for it next time you’re reading a novel – I bet you’ll be hearing the words faintly while you read. It becomes more obvious when you hit a word you don’t know how to pronounce, or used to mispronounce… Now, I’ve discovered that I can actually choose how I read – my default is to ‘hear’ the word, but if I want to read something quickly, I can switch to ‘see’ing it. But, for me, this deadens the words – I get the meaning without any emotional connection. Very odd. Probably not remotely scientific, but… (Oo, actually, see this study which I just found, about emotional impact and speed of reading…)
Before speaking to Elaine, I always considered fast reading an unadulterated blessing – but she recounts mistrustful teachers and other occasions on which it’s been more of a curse. What about you? Do you read fast or slowly? Can you see fast reading as a curse, or would you long for it? Do you take your time over some books, and race through others? Or have you never really given a second thought to the speed of your reading? Perhaps someone with a scientific turn of mind could explain some or all of this to us… how innate is the speed of reading, and can we change it?