How I Learned to Be a Fast Reader

How I Learned to Be a Fast Reader | Millennials with Meaning
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I’ve always been a reader.

I’ve always been a fast reader, too…in some areas.

Fiction was always my thing. I could plow through a novel in a few hours, soaking up every page because I was captivated by the story.

But reading for school? That was a whole different ballgame. Textbooks bored me to death. Biographies made me want to scream. Even the “classic” novels we had to read in school that were technically fiction were difficult for me to get through. They were so boooooring.

All through elementary school, high school, and college, I dragged through any book I was assigned to read. I’d read the same page over and over, struggling to absorb what I had just looked at five seconds ago, much less retain it. I couldn’t figure out how I could be such a good reader but still have such a hard time with the books I didn’t want to read.

Tip #1: Pick out books you’re interested in.

As an adult, something shifted. I took a risk and bought a book that was nonfiction yet was still intriguing to me. The title? The Firstborn Advantage. I was in need of a self-esteem boost, the title spoke to me, and I figured I could at least give it a try. It’d probably end up in the garbage, but I decided to start reading and see how it went.

I loved it. That book told me everything I wanted and needed to hear as a firstborn and left me feeling so good about who God made me to be, as well as so educated about how to best function as a firstborn.

I couldn’t believe how much I loved a nonfiction book! This was a first for me…ever. At 23, people had tried to get me to read all kinds of nonfiction books in many different categories over the years, but I had never liked a single one. This one I loved.

Tip #2: Practice.

I began to branch out more. I bought books on communication, relationships, personality, prayer, and speed-reading people. I found I liked almost all of them. When a book was about a topic that actually interested me, I miraculously found it easy to read and surprisingly worth my time.

I started grad school and I worried I’d fall back into the same old rut of laboring through textbooks I didn’t want to read. To my delight, that actually didn’t happen! Many of my assigned books turned out to be bestselling business books that contained at least some information I found interesting or helpful.

Tip #3: Highlight.

I made it through the few books that didn’t resonate with me by utilizing another key strategy: highlighting.

I’ve always hated marking up my books. I like keeping them in pristine condition so you can’t even tell they’ve been read. It irritates me like nothing else when people borrow my books and return them with coffee stains, wrinkled pages, and beat-up spines. Therefore, it was painful for me to take a highlighter to those beautiful pages, but I knew I needed to try it and see if it helped me.

It worked! Although I didn’t expect it to, highlighting really helped me stay focused on each page. When something important or interesting stuck out to me, I highlighted it. When I read something I wanted to remember or put into practice, I highlighted it. Soon each book was finished, and I’d actually made it through without wanting to tear it to shreds in frustration. I was actually retaining information! As a bonus, I could easily go back and reread the important parts at a later date, because I just needed to look for my highlights.

I wouldn’t have believed any of this was possible if it hadn’t been my own journey. I didn’t think all of these tactics would work, but they totally did. I went from hating nonfiction to speed-reading my way through it and actually enjoying it.

To review, here are my three best tips for becoming a faster reader:

  1. Start with books that actually interest you. Don’t go straight to the Encyclopedia Brittanica. If you like sports, buy a book about sports. If you like home décor, pick up something by Joanna Gaines. If you like happily-ever-afters, chick lit will be right up your alley. Pick out a book that you actually want to read – not that you have to. Keep reading books like this, and with practice, you’ll learn to read much more quickly.
  2. Practice. I already said this one, but I’m going to repeat it. Practice is the number one thing that will improve your reading speed. Just like with swimming or running or typing, the more you do it, the faster you’ll get.
  3. Highlight. When you spot a good quote, highlight it. When you think something is one of the author’s key points, highlight it. Anytime you come across a phrase you want to remember (or something worthy of being shared on social media), highlight it. I use regular highlighters on physical books, and I use the highlighting feature on the Kindle app for e-books. I almost prefer going digital at this point, because I have my Goodreads account connected to my Amazon account, and I can easily pull up all my highlights through Goodreads down the road, rather than having to find the physical book and page through it until I find the quote I’m looking for. Technology can be so amazing!

If you feel like you’re a slow reader, don’t give up. This skill can be learned! I know so many people who started out as slow readers and eventually improved their speed with time and practice. You will, too!

Best of luck, and happy reading! If you have any good book recs in any category, drop ‘em in the comments!

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