“The upside-down Maximilian*). … Maximilian, Mrs. Nickus and … a flying flowerpot. It was a day … like any other. … Maximilian was … in a hurry … not in a hurry … to get home after school. As always, he went … with his friends Boris, E… sina and Gerald … to play soccer in the park. … As always, he accompanied …”
“Did you forget your glasses today?” the teacher interrupted Jakob a little impatiently, who kept getting lost in the text while reading out the beginning of this story. Jacob blushed and stared into the book.
” As always, Boris accompanied him home. Boris lived …”
After Jakob had finished reading the first paragraph of the story in a low voice and more badly than well, the teacher, shaking his head, called up his bench neighbor Maria, who continued to read fluently in the text.
Apart from the fact that most people have difficulty reading aloud, many also have difficulty reading silently. This is all the more unfortunate because reading plays a major role in learning at school, at work, and in general in everyday life. In our culture, reading is one of the most important foundations of learning and is therefore referred to as a “cultural technique” along with writing and arithmetic.
For some people, little has changed after learning to read for the first time in elementary school. It is true that they now read faster than before, but if you watch adults reading, you realize how much they struggle to do so. On average, inexperienced adult readers manage 90 to 160 words per minute, while a proficient one manages 500 or more. As a result, many wish they could read faster so they could get through more text in less time.
If you watch inexperienced readers closely while they are reading, you will notice that many of them move their lips – this is called silent talking, which they usually got into the habit of when they were learning to read and have not been able to get rid of. As you all know from your own experience, reading out loud is detrimental to reading speed, as the eye and brain work much faster than our speech tools. It is true that reading speed always depends on whether a text is easy or difficult, but with many texts the thinking apparatus, i.e. the brain of inexperienced readers, is only insufficiently utilized, because the “replenishment” works too slowly and there is a risk of boredom and lack of concentration.
Slow reading with or without speaking along comes mainly from the fact that some, like Jacob, read word by word and their eyes only jump in very small leaps from word to word – or in the case of long and difficult words, even from syllable to syllable. Skilled readers, on the other hand, jump their eyes over whole groups of words, so that they “stop” their eyes on a line of a book only three times, or even only twice.
Try watching someone read by placing a mirror on the table so you can see their eyes closely. Or have someone watch you read yourself. Only during the brief moments when the eyes stop on the line is reading properly, and during the darting movement of the eyes, what is read is transported on to the brain.
To combat these slowing reading habits, which have become ingrained through long practice, a few very simple exercises can help, which you can of course try out right away with the right reading material:
To practice bouncing your eyes and achieve a wider range of vision, draw vertical lines on a book page with a pencil and ruler. Then, while reading, consciously try to jump from line to line with your eye, forcing your eyes to read a line in three or two jumps rather than word by word. You will notice that after a few pages, when you get used to the lines, you will be able to do this better and better.
Another “reading mistake” with eye movement is jumping backward in the line to something that has already been read once. Jumping back is, of course, particularly time-consuming, because the eyes first have to search again for the connecting point at which the text continues, and then, like Jacob, have to read some words again. This “jumping around” with the eyes is often a sign of lack of attention and also slows down the reading speed. This can be avoided by covering the text of the line just read with a piece of paper.
All exercise programs for improving reading speed start with the eye movements, because by practicing as described here, you can increase your reading speed in a short time. This not only increases the amount of reading material, so that you don’t have to sit over your books for so long, but also improves your ability to concentrate, because our brain doesn’t get bored so quickly anymore …