Faster isn’t Always Better

Recently, there has been a wave of new apps out there promising to make you a faster reader. One such app, Spritz, makes the promise that it can not only help you read faster, but it will have you reading 300 page novels in about 90 minutes.

Imagine how much faster we could all get our homework done.

I would read this much in a weekend.
I would read this much in a weekend.

Now, I am a reading tutor and an advocate of increasing reading speed, but I know that there is one aspect of reading that trumps speed—and that is comprehension. Spritz makes the promise that, with increased speed, comprehension will increase as well. This is true, to a point.

The brain can comprehend what we read much faster than we realize, so many times, while we read slowly, we lose interest, get bored with the text, lose focus, and end up not comprehending what we’ve read. Increasing speed can help a lot with keeping the mind engaged and focused on the reading, but there’s still more factors than speed that contribute to compression of reading materials which makes Spritz’s claim of increased comprehension questionable.

Comprehension of reading materials also relies greatly on the reader’s lexicon (or known vocabulary) as well as their critical thinking skills in processing what is going on throughout the text. Spritz, while it does force the eye to move faster to read the words being shown, does not help with these other two areas that contribute to the understanding of the novel being read. Reading a thousand words a minute, recognizing them as words, but not understanding their meaning does not help one actually read a novel.

Of course, if ones goal is just to increase reading speed, Spritz is great. But if your goal is overall comprehension of what you are reading and you aren’t a strong reader already, taking your time with a text and working on expanding your lexicon and carefully reflecting on the text to make critical connections is the better route to go.

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