When you’re starting out on a speed reading program, you might encounter several different terms, including reading rate (or “speed”), fluent reading, and reading with comprehension. A successful speed reading system will teach you how the ability to read fluently and with good comprehension will contribute to a faster reading speed, but make sure that you’re not focused only on a words-per-minute rate. In fact, you shouldn’t focus on any one of these three components of reading at the expense of the others: they all should work together.
Reading speed is self-explanatory, at least if you’re looking at it strictly in terms of how many words you’re able to take in at a fairly constant rate. Comprehension is also easily understood; if you don’t comprehend the text you’re reading, it won’t matter how quickly you read through it. The third term, fluent reading, means the ability to read at a steady pace, without stumbling over words and phrases, and with good comprehension of the text. Obviously, this “steady pace” might be fairly slow. Your goal in speed reading practice is to increase your ability to read fluently and by that increased ability, improve your reading speed as well.
One key factor in fluid reading is “chunking” – that is, grouping words together in logical and grammatical ways, and processing the text in these groups, rather than one word at a time. Part of being able to do this is mental, and part is physical. You’ll need to train your eyes to take in more than one word at a time; you can do this by exercises that gradually widen your visual field. You’ll also need to be able to mentally skip over unimportant words like the and and. Finally, you’ll need to have a very good vocabulary, so that you don’t have to stop and look up words, or misinterpret the meaning of one of these grammatical groupings.
It’s this last point that’s often the most difficult for people to remember. However, vocabulary improvement is an important part of reading improvement, and we strongly encourage you to incorporate vocabulary building into your daily study routine. The more words you know, the better your fluency will be in the English language, and you’ll find yourself reading faster and with better comprehension.
Resource: M. R. Kuhn and S. A Stahl. Fluency: A review of developmental and remedial practices. “Theoretical models and processes of reading” (2004). International Reading Association.