How fast do you read?

Have you ever wondered how fast you read?

I love to read. I devour everything. Books, comics, magazines, articles on the internet, blogs, you name it. I read so much it often keeps me from my other passion, writing. (Hey, they say in order to be a great writer you have to read, so there.)

Still, I sometimes kick myself for not learning how to speed read.

I know I will never get through all the books and comic books in my home library. There are just way too many of them. But hey, I have read all of the spines and backs of the books lining the shelves on my wall. And I can pull out any one of those books at any time and read it, which is a very cool thing to be able to do.

And with comic books, at least I can look at the pictures!

I recently came across an online reading test from Staples’ Ereader Research Center. The test consists of a short one-page passage to read and three questions to answer afterwards that will measure your level of comprehension for what you just read. Based on how fast you read the passage and the results of your answers, the test lets you know how your level of reading compares to others.

In my case, I recorded 303 words read per minute, which is just three words better than the average adult’s 300 wpm but 21 percent faster than the national average. I got all three comprehension questions correct.

Based on my results, I could read:

  • War and Peace in 32 hours and 18 minutes
  • The Lord of the Rings in 26 hours and 19 minutes
  • The Bible in 42 hours and 47 minutes.

I suppose that’s possible if you sat glued to the book for that long a time period, but I think my eyes would turn to mush long before then.

According to the results, 11th grade students read 350 words per minute, while college students read 450 words per minute. College professors hit a higher plateau at 675 words per minute, with high-scoring college students reading 800 words per minute. Speed readers clock in at 1,500 words per minute.

The world record: 4,700 words per minute.

OK, so based on all of that, I’m not so sure that reading three words more per minute over the national average is a noteworthy feat. I’m pretty sure I can probably read faster, but when I take tests I naturally tend to slow down. And I did get the answers to all three questions right. Shouldn’t that count for bonus points?

Of course, it shouldn’t matter how fast or how slow you read.

Reading is an entirely personal experience, and each experience should be different. Are you reading strictly to enjoy a story? Or are you reading to learn something?

If it’s the former, you may be deliberately reading at a leisurely pace. You may want to savor the story, the characters, their interactions, the emotions being evoked, and so on. You want to let yourself go and get caught up in the world of the story. In some cases, you may want to read slow deliberately, so that you can pick up on all the clues the author has planted in a mystery novel. Or, you may be racing through each page in a fast-paced thriller, eager to find out what happens next.

With an informational piece, such as a magazine article, a biography or other nonfiction text, you may only want to skim over the information. If you’re taking a test for a grade, you’re probably reading much more intently and slower than you would be if you just want to get the gist of the article. In fact, in many nonfiction articles you may only read the headline and the first few paragraphs before you move on to something else.

I’d love to be able to get through all the books in my library, but I know that will never happen. So, I’m content to read at my own pace.

What’s the hurry, really?

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