So a while ago I saw this intensely fun YouTube video on reading speed, and how to increase it. I have loved Ariel Bisset’s channel for years, and was delighted to read a post on the lovely Nut Free Nerd’s blog, who mentions the video and embarks upon finding her own reading speed.
(Maybe I should note that I initially drafted this post like two months ago, but haven’t posted it for numerous reasons. So if this post seems a bit out-of-the-blue, that’s why.)
I have known that I read slow for many years, since around elementary school, when I would excel at reading comprehension tests, but would strangely always struggle with reading at a normal speed. In fact, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t racing against the clock in school to get reading done; whether it be a simple instruction sheet in elementary school or the reading/English portion of a standardized test, or one of the novels that I read for English class in high school. In fact, when I took AP English classes, I had entire sections on the multiple choice portion that I didn’t even get to, because I ran out of time, and it reflected in my scores. (Luckily I did pass, thank God I made up for my struggles in the multiple choice department with my essays). I have no idea how tests work in other countries, or even if you have standardized tests where you live, but in the US, especially in the state where I live, we had various state-wide tests that would assess our reading comprehension. You’re given a chunk of text – maybe an article, maybe a short story or snippet from a book – and then asked multiple choice questions about the content. It’s supposed to be just about reading comprehension – but because these types of tests are timed, reading speed also comes into play, and that’s where I had difficulty. Especially in AP, which is a college (or university) level class that one takes in high school so that you can skip those classes in college. In the English ones, you’re given 4-5 passages, and 55 questions, and an hour to complete it. And that’s just the multiple choice section. There’s also an essay portion, where you have to write 3 essays on three different passages in a total of two hours. That’s three hours of sitting at a desk and trying to focus.
(But no pressure am I right? Gosh, I’m having flashbacks to the stress of my junior and senior years of high school…)
I did a few speed reading tests – 3 to be exact, to get a better pool. I got 193 wpm, 143 wpm, and 168 wpm. That averages to 168 wpm (words per minute). The average for an adult is about 250, and the average for a collage student is 300. I’m a college student you guys. And I read, according to one study, just under the speed level of an 8th grader.
Don’t misunderstand me; I made my peace with my below-average reading speed long ago, because what I lack in speed I make up for in comprehension. When I read a novel I’ve found I retain far more information and detail than many of my peers. I’m done with standardized tests and things, so speed reading isn’t really a priority anymore.
I don’t talk a lot about myself on this blog – well, I talk about my interests, the books and fandoms I love, and a bit about my writing life – but I don’t really disclose personal things. Heck, you guys don’t even know my eye color (it’s blue). But I really wanted to talk on the subject of reading speed, because I find it so fascinating, but I can’t very well talk about it without disclosing a bit about my brain.
So a bit of background. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was going into the 5th grade (around 10-11 years old). Over the years, I’ve been through plenty of ups and downs, trying to figure out my brain and finding ways to help me focus. But my whole life, I’ve been a reader. I honestly can’t remember a time when I did not love books, love everything about them from the feel of the pages to the stories within. And reading is something that often creates friction in an ADD child’s life; it affects the child’s ability to focus on comprehending what they are reading, and a few things may happen. The child might claim to dislike reading, or will appear to be reading but is actually just memorizing what other people vocally read on the page before them (which I did when I was little, according to my parents), and commonly they will have trouble with focusing in school with reading (among all the other stuff that they have to focus on while sitting at a desk). I truly believe that my unwavering love of reading stemmed from a continually positive atmosphere regarding books and reading in my home. My parents read to me before I was even old enough to comprehend what books were, and they always encouraged me to read to my heart’s content. Without this, there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t be a reader at all, or even grow to hate reading because it was difficult for me as a kid.
Remember when I said that I actually drafted this post a while ago? Well, what finally convinced me to post it was when I got a fidget cube. Fidgeting is common in people with ADD/ADHD, and I was so excited when I learned of this nifty little device. So far, I love it. It keeps me from biting my nails/tapping/doing that annoying little leg bounce. Or about a billion other things I subconsciously do to keep my brain stimulated. And I was suddenly confronted with the fact that now, everyone who sees me with it will know that I have ADD. Or well, more accurately, everyone will know that I’m different. I’ve never had that, never had such an obvious thing to link to what goes on up in my head. And now suddenly, I realize how uncomfortable I was with people knowing my mental differences. Hence, a reason why I didn’t post this until now. Having ADD affects the way I read, and thus that makes me different from many book bloggers out there. So yeah, that’s interesting and been on my mind a lot. I recently posted a picture on Instagram ft. my fidget cube, and realized that was like the first time I had unabashedly posted about something related to my ADD (outside of reblogging stuff on Tumblr).
So with that bit of context, of course it makes sense that I would have trouble with reading, despite having ample amount of experience with it. In order for my brain to comprehend what I’m reading, I have to read at a slower rate. I did a bit of research on ADD and how it affects reading in kids, and found that usually it affects reading comprehension, which I might have had trouble with when I was little, I don’t remember. But my theory is that to fix the problem of trying to comprehend the content of what I was reading, I subconsciously just read slower. Which answers the question of why when I was in third and fourth grade was I having so much difficulty with my speed reading scores, but yet I could pass un-timed reading tests with flying colors.
Oh, I could go on a whole other post about timed tests as a young ADD student. Such stress…but I’m not going to.
So I read below average. Am I going to try and increase my reading speed? I mean, I guess it would be useful…but if I’m honest, I just don’t think it’s necessary for me. I’m out of the timed standardized test portion of my schooling (for the most part), and I haven’t yet run into problems with it in college. Maybe one day, but for now I’m content with reading as I have. After all, most of my reading is for my own enjoyment, and I kind of like enjoying books at my own leisurely pace.
Oh! Something interesting I found on one of the tests I took – a list of books and how long it would take me to read them. I wrote down a few that I’ve already read (and supposedly could read in the span of one day. Who would’ve thunk it?):
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: 6 hrs, 39 mins
1984: 7 hrs, 41 mins (wait, what? It took me weeks to get through that book! maybe if I did literally nothing else…?)
Wuthering Heights: 9 hrs, 19 mins (okay, so I never finished this one, cause I hated it. But if only I’d known this! I might have finished it
instead of sparknoting it for school)
To Kill a Mockingbird: 8 hrs, 34 mins
So that’s all I got for you today. I hope you enjoyed me talking a bit about myself and my reading habits (and wee little child me who loved books).
As always, have a lovely day and I’ll see you again soon 🙂