How to Read Smoothly and Quickly, Part 2: Widening Focus

How have your practice sessions been going? You might find that moving your eyes quickly back and forth seems to cause strain, or at least feels very awkward. Like any other muscles in your body, the muscles of the eyes need to be exercised. You can use the software games and exercises in the 7 Speed Reading program to strengthen and train your eye muscles, or just practice the reading flow exercise described in the last post, moving slowly at first and then more quickly, without necessarily practicing the reading comprehension aspect of the exercise each time.

You’ve been using your pen or pencil to help track the lines of the text you’re reading from beginning to end. Now start to practice widening your visual focus and strengthening your peripheral vision by bringing your pen or pencil closer to the middle with each line. That is, start the movement of the pen/pencil a little bit in from the edge of the text, and end it a little bit before the edge of the text. Keep your eyes on the text where the pen is, and don’t strain to see the text at the left or right edge. By relaxing the focus of your eyes a little bit, you’ll widen your visual field and your eyes will see the words in your peripheral vision and unconsciously process them, so you won’t miss anything in the meaning of the text.

Part of learning to use your peripheral vision effectively is learning to have confidence that your visual cortex is absorbing and processing the information that you’re not looking directly at. If you have doubts about your brain’s ability to pick up all of the details, think about looking at anything – the top of your desk at work or home is probably a good example, if it’s anything like our desk. You can look at the top of the desk covered with papers, pens, books, ticket stubs, etc. and even if you only look at it briefly, your eyes have taken in every detail and transmitted those details to your brain. The trick is learning how to let your brain handle that information without your thoughts (negative or positive) getting in the way.

Keep practicing this reading technique, and you’ll find that your ability to read text will become much easier and faster over time.