When pupils read texts (fiction or non-fiction) there are a range of strategies they are taught in school to make sense of the text and find information.
Skimming is a technique we all use to get the main ideas of a text quickly – this is the “gist” of the information.
Here we will look for the titles, headings and illustrations of interest. For example, in the Clean the Clun newsletter below we can identify that there is information about the Pant Marsh development and a map of the catchment quickly.
By contrast, scanning is when we read text to locate specific information – particularly when we know the key words we are looking for. See how quickly you can find the Natural Resources Wales phone number in the text above?
Both these techniques are something it is easy to practice at home. When you get leaflets for days out, ask your child to give a quick general summary, then get them to find specific information for you.
According to the adult literacy website InformED, average readers read approximately 200 words per minute. As children get more confident at reading their speed will naturally increase and the number of books they read a month will also increase. Here are some ideas to help increase reading speed.
Don’t Read Out Loud (Even In Your Head)
When we read out loud we have to read every word clearly. Some children find that when they start reading in their head, they are still reading every word to themselves, or even muttering them under their breath. This slows down reading speeds so try humming for a while to prevent this happening until the habit is broken.
Read Clusters of Words
Experienced readers don’t read words singly but in clusters of 3 or 4. Avoid focusing on words such as a, an, the etc. which don’t give any information.
Use a finger under the words being read to keep the eye moving forward. Backtracking to re-read words takes time and doesn’t always aid understanding.
These techniques come naturally to some people but others will benefit from practice.
Software for Speed Reading Practice
Try these software tools and apps to improve reading speed.
- Pocket – this useful app will convert a website content to a minimalist option, removing distracting ads and side bars. For example see below (click to view larger images).
The BBC Skillswise website for adult learners contains some useful information as well as a short video with various people explaining how they use skimming and scanning techniques in work.