This continues the Apologetics Toolkit series on: Tips for Lifelong Learning. The goal here is to provide a sort of “apologetics toolkit” — habits, tips, and tools the Christian apologist can use to continue to grow, learn, and develop.
Tool #04: Increase Your Reading Speed
The Problems: You love to read. And you have a stack of books you would love to read. New books come out. You buy them. You add them to the stack. Meanwhile, you crawl at a snail’s pace through your current book. The problem is both a slow pace in reading and a backlog of books. This tool for increasing reading speed will help deal with both problems.
The Tools: First, let’s look at reading speed. Don’t think primarily in terms of “speed reading,” although one can benefit from some speed reading programs. Think in terms of grasping the content. The content of some books is just not easy to grasp. At other times, there are only certain sections of books that are a challenge. The key is this: vary your reading pace. Never read slower than the content requires — and don’t read so fast that you can’t internalize the content. Vary your speed as appropriate to your content. Some books can be read at a faster rate than others simply because there is less thinking and processing involved. Similarly, there are particular sections in some books that you don’t need to focus so much energy on. Knowing what you are trying to get from a book will determine the energy and time you spend as you read.
Here are three tips to increase your pace of reading immediately:
- Trace with your finger. This keeps you from losing your place and keeps your eyes moving along the page at a steady rate. Continue to increase your speed as long as you are properly processing the content.
- Don’t internally verbalize words. When you “say” the words in your head, it slows you down. Instead, see the words, phrases, and sentences and let them form the ideas in your mind without internal verbalization.
- Don’t read every single word. Your mind can process content without looking at and thinking about every single word.
Now for the second problem: getting through lots of books. Obviously, the more time you have to read, the more progress you will make. However, most people don’t have hours to spend reading on a daily basis. That is… at least not all at once. That’s where the second tool comes in: read multiple times a day, in short blocks. The key here is that consistent, diligent investment in short blocks of reading time adds up. Consider this idea:
- Morning: 15 minute block.
- Middle of the day: 30 minute block.
- Evening: 15 minute block.
- Weekend: 30 minutes or an hour.
If you dedicate shorter periods of time to reading like this, it accumulates into at least 6 hours of reading a week. For many, time frames like breakfast, lunch breaks, afternoon tea, before bed, and Sunday afternoons provide great opportunities to enjoy some excellent reading time.
The Benefits: By increasing your rate of speed, your mind is more attentive to your reading. You save time and don’t backtrack as you read. With a highlighter in hand and being intentional in what you want to learn from your book, you are sure to capture the most important elements for later review. By reading multiple times throughout the day you log a lot of reading time in a week. This allows you to read an hour a day without having to carve out an entire 60-minute block from your day. The added benefit of short reading blocks is that you don’t get bored with your reading or bite off more than you can process.
What reading tips do you recommend? What helps you stay focused and retain the content? How do you get through your stack of books?