Reading technique

April 18, 2007

I am curious about the way others read. Tonight I was spending time with a couple of new friends, Bouvard and Pecuchet. I had set aside The Curtain one evening and got immersed into Flaubert’s masterpiece. Meanwhile I have been slogging through The Tale of Genji which is going to take a couple of months at my current rate of speed. I consider myself a slow reader. This is not necessarily a bad thing- I think it was Francine Prose’s latest that suggested slowing down and working harder at reading. Unfortunately, it sometimes feels like it takes me too long to get through a book.

Back to my question- as I was reading tonight, I noticed that I am actually kind of “pronouncing” each word in my head as I read. I am not moving my lips, but I can “hear” each word mentally as I read it. Do you do that? I seem to remember years ago that from a speed reading perspective, that is not a good thing. I don’t think I would enjoy speed reading, and I don’t think I can change the way I read at this point in my life. I guess I just wonder if I am doing it wrong.


12 Responses to “Reading technique”

  1. lovelyloey Says:

    Because English is more a phonetic langaguage than logogrpahic (think Chinese and Egyptian hieroglyphics), we tend to recognize words by the way they sound more than the way they look.
    And I don’t really buy the speed reading by bypassing that “voice in the head” theory; I just can’t understand what’s being written if I read that way.

  2. imani Says:

    I’ve heard that speed reading tip too and was somewhat horrified at the thought of reading without hearing the words in my head! I do it as well an am sticking to it.

  3. sulz Says:

    i do pronounce the words in my head when i read, and only some on the pages when i skim, which i consider speed reading. sometimes if you’re reading a book too slow, it could be due to the fact you aren’t enjoying as much as you should. think how quick you read your favourite book and compare that to your speed now.

  4. Stefanie Says:

    I consider myself a slow reader too. I pronounce every word in my head and feel like I’m missing something if I don’t. Even when I skim I pronounce the words, sort of slurring them together. When I was in 7th grade I got stuck in an 8th grade English class. Every Friday we’d go to the “reading lab” and one of the stations was speed reading. Every week the teacher would up the speed of the projector to the point where you could only read one or two words per line that flashed up on the screen. I could do it but I hated it. It caused me so much stress I’d start shaking from concentrating so hard. Much better to read slowly, savoring all the words.

  5. Ted Says:

    I certainly fall more onto the speed-reading/skimming side of the fence. I don’t practice speed reading, and I try not to skim, but I do allow the words to mix together in my mind, instead of focusing on each on individually.

    I think this may have something to do with the way I was taught to read. From what my mother tells me, I was taught according to the whole language method, rather than the traditional phonics. Apparently it was all the rage in the mid-eighties.

  6. Dorothy W. Says:

    I’m a slow, slow, slow reader, and I have the voice in my head pronouncing the words too. I know the feeling of being stuck in a book too long, but I don’t want to push myself to read faster because then it feels like work.

  7. Robin Says:

    I read both ways! When I’m caught up in a fast-moving plot, I find myself flying through each page, definitely NOT reading every word. But when I’m reading for the pure pleasure of the language, I hear every word inside my head. Most of the time nowadays, I prefer to “slow down and read every word,” as Francine Prose suggests.

  8. Richard Arthur Says:

    I have always been under the impression, perhaps mistakenly so, that WITHOUT sub-vocalisation, there is nothing fixed in the memory. Using a pen or something to pace yourself with might increase your speed a bit but if you wish to enjoy the language of a book you have to pronounce every syllable in your head.


  9. RhiGirl Says:

    My silent reading voice pronunciates so much better than the actual one – which is why I still have a hard time reading aloud for any reason. Weird thing is, I also read fast, even if I’m reading for pleasure.

  10. Brad Says:

    I feel much better now about my method of reading. It is also interesting to know that the activity of reading has been studied so thoroughly. I like the concept of “savoring every word.”

  11. Matt Says:

    Many people pronounce each word in their head while reading because we learned to read by reading out loud in school. At least that is what I’ve heard. Sounds likely enough, we get used to pronouncing every word out loud while learning so we continue to do that in our heads.

    I tend to read books fairly quickly, not speed reading by any means, but I think I should try spreading a book out over a longer period of time. I might enjoy it more that way.

  12. Janice Says:

    Hi 🙂

    I never hear anything I do see pictures in my head though. They range from vague to very clear for example sometimes people and places look real say like a movie other times they are shadows and more sensed than anything.

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