Watch a group of young children who are just beginning to read and you’ll notice one thing about almost all of them.
Even if they have been instructed to silently read, most of the children will be mouthing the words they are reading. Their lips will move to pronounce the words, even though they are not speaking them aloud. The reason they do this is because as children begin to learn to read, they vocalize the sounds of the individual letters and then later on, the sounds of the words.
Although this process is helpful to the children as they are introduced to the concept of reading, it’s also significantly reducing the speed at which they read.
If you’ve ever watched a television show that featured speed readers or if you’ve ever known someone who could speed read, you might have noticed that their lips don’t move. That’s not coincidence, it’s actually very significant.
When a person reads out loud or they mouth the words as they read, it takes them longer to read than someone who simply looks at the word and absorbs it. This is one of the important steps in speed reading – learning to not vocalize the words either out loud or silently.
It’s difficult though for a person who has always read in this manner to change. Even if they understand that the benefit of not reading aloud is that they will dramatically change their reading speed. It’s a habit and it’s one that becomes natural over time. It can be changed though.
One thing that a person can do to change this habit and to begin on the road to speed reading is to learn not to move their mouths as they read. If you are a parent with a youngster just learning to read and you hear them reading out loud, you might suggest that they try and read to themselves. If they do and you see their lips silently moving to the words, encourage them to try and refrain from that. You can do that by giving them something to chew on, perhaps a stick of gum or a chewy candy. This will preoccupy their mouth enough that eventually the inclination to silently say the words will disappear.
Although adults are more conscious of this behavior, many still do it. They can try those same techniques, the chewing gum or a candy idea. Another idea that works well for adult is if they are alone, they can place their hand over their mouth while they read. This stops the behavior automatically. The benefit of this method is that the person becomes fully aware of when their mouth is moving along with the written words. They can stop it as it is happening. This will ultimately result in them stopping the practice.
With a little work the desire to mouth words as you read them can be stopped. When it is stopped, the rate at which you read will already be climbing. Speed reading is a skill that virtually everyone can learn; it’s just a matter of dropping old behaviors, such as silently mouthing words, and instead adapting new behaviors.