Are you familiar with the sport of curling? It’s an old Scottish sport, played on ice. One player slides a heavy weight called a “stone” towards a target, while a fellow team member uses a broom to brush the surface of the ice just ahead of the moving stone, to make the path smoother so that the stone will travel farther. You can do the same thing to increase the flow and speed of your reading.
Practice by using a pen or pencil to trace underneath the lines of text in a book you’re currently reading. First, get your hand used to the motion by sweeping it back and forth down each of the lines in turn. Let your eyes follow the motion, but don’t worry if you’re not focusing on the words at the same time. Once your hand is comfortable with the motion, so that you don’t have to use your mind to concentrate on doing it, move the concentration of your mind into your eyes, and track the motion of the pen/pencil with your eyes, letting your eyes take in the words that the pen/pencil is moving under. Don’t worry if you don’t focus on all of the words.
Now do the same exercise again using the same text, but this time work on relaxing your eyes. When you do, you’ll notice that you can visually absorb more than one word at a time. The goal is to take in groups of words, not single words. Because it takes time for your eyes to focus on a piece of text, process it via the visual cortex, and move to the next piece of text, if you’re doing this process word by word it will be slow and jumpy. If you’re taking in groups of words it will be faster and smoother.
Make sure that your eyes are what’s moving, not your head. If you’re moving your head back and forth, you’ll put strain on your neck muscles, and that will take your focus away from your reading and also cause pain and fatigue, which will make it even harder to read easily.
Practice this exercise several more times, using different types of text. Work on increasing your speed and pushing yourself just a little faster each time. In the next post, we’ll talk more about using this sweeping technique, and how you can use it to increase the number of words in each group.