Bad Reading Habits and How to Break Them   back

The University of Alabama
Center for Academic Success
124 Osband
348-5175

To really get rid of a bad habit, you should replace it with a good one. You have to want to get rid of the bad habits, and you must practice and work at it in order to change. The following are some of the bad habits which tend to cause people to read slowly. Ask yourself whether you are guilty of any of the following:

A.  Moving your lips when you read
Moving your lips slows you to a fast talking rate, about 150 words per minute. Put your fingers on your lips to stop the motion.

B.  Vocalizing
Vocalizing means that you are pronouncing words in the voice box of the throat without making sounds. This also slows your reading rate to that of speaking. To check, rest your fingertips lightly against the vocal cord area of your throat. If you feel a vibration, or if you find that your tongue is moving, you are vocalizing.

C.  Reading everything at the same speed
When reading, set your rate according to your purpose for reading and the difficulty level of the material. Practice adjusting your rate to suit your material. The more difficult the material, the slower the rate.

D.  Regressing out of habit
Regressing means rereading a word, phrase, or sentence out of habit and not because of need. Sometimes, it is necessary to reread something, especially in a difficult passage. But habitual, unnecessary regressing really slows you down. Use a card or paper to cover the text after you read it to prevent regressing.

E.  Reading one word at a time
Do you think one word at a time, or in phrases? Slow readers tend to see only one word at a time. Good readers will see several words at a time and their eyes will stop only three or four times as they move across a page. Reading in idea-phrases speeds your reading and improves your understanding of what you have read. Mark the phrases in the sentences of a passage, then practice seeing more than one word at a time.

The best way to read faster is to practice reading just a little faster than is comfortable. Changing reading habits is not easy, after all you have been reading that way for many years. It takes several weeks of conscious effort in order to change bad reading habits. For more information on increasing reading speed, contact the Center for Academic Success.