I am a pretty slow reader. But what determines the speed at which I read?
Science Daily posted this article in 2007 in which they discuss the different factors that affect reading speed. I’ll do a quick breakdown for you.
With this, you recognise words by decoding them letter by letter. In other words, it’s the combination of letters that allow you to recognise it.
2) Holistic Word Recognition
With this, you recognise words by their shape. Basically, your mind will already start recognising the word “and” just by the flat and then up shape it has. (I’m guessing that most people will then confirm their suspicion, unconsciously, by turning to phonics.)
3) Whole Language
This one lets you know the meaning of a word by the sentence’s context. As far as I understand, this means that you can guess a word in a sentence by relying on the rest of the words in it. I’m thinking it works much the same way as figuring out the meaning of a word you don’t know. The rest of the sentence (as well as the bigger context) gives you a hint at what word/meaning it is. (You’d probably go back to a lower order method to confirm again.)
These three factors affect how fast you read. Interestingly enough, they work separate from each other. Each makes contributions to the overall speed on its own.
With the little that I know of speed-reading, I would guess that the higher up the order you go, the faster you read. With speed reading, you often skip words because you already know what they are (i.e. “and”, “then”, etc.). It works basically the same as Whole Language. Also, when you recognise a word by its shape, you have no need to read it. You know what it is and move on.
You lose speed when you read every word, but unless you have a very good database of words in your head so that you can recognise words without error, you’ll probably make some mistakes if you read at a complete Whole Language level (which is probably not entirely possible).