Challenges for the adult reader

For more than 25 years I have worked with the adult reader. I teach employees with very different job descriptions and educational backgrounds in efficient information management. I teach them how to find the essential information in the texts and data they receive on a daily basis without having to spend an unnecessary amount of time on the task.

It places some demands to your reading capabilities to be part of modern society. We are constantly bombarded with text and data we need to consider: Facebook posts and tweets need to be viewed; work-mail needs to be read and answered and reports and heavy textbooks needs to be studied and summarised.

With the digital revolution, there is no limit to the informational pollution going on. Just think of all the cc-mails we receive and often are completely irrelevant to us. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could quickly identify what is important to us or not? Then we could reserve the time for the parts of the text or the information that requires a more thorough read through.

That requires training. A lot of training. Training of both your skimming abilities and by reading lots and lots of texts, combined with a renewed focus on fixation and increasing your eye span. All with the purpose of making you feel more comfortable about increasing your reading speed.

But does it work?

I had a lot of scepticism towards the concept myself at first. How could reading faster be better than reading slowly? What if I missed something? I considered that sloppy reading.

It’s scepticism I’ve met and still meet often. The assumption that thorough reading and reading slowly is one and the same is nestled in the hearts and minds of many adult readers. If you can’t remember everything you’ve just read, then you haven’t read it properly. But it’s a very small group of people who are able to remember in detail what they’ve just read. If we expect that we can do that, then we’ll encounter a problem in relation to the amount of material we meet in our daily lives in the modern digital society.

For some, it may sound like a banality. But my experience is that many adult readers refrain from getting prior knowledge before reading, and start from the beginning and read everything page by page – thus drowning in the reading material.

I also encounter many who, after years in a job, have to retrain themselves. These are people that haven’t been studying for years. They are unaccustomed to academical reading and now find they are expected to educate themselves about new fields of knowledge. To them, the idea that it sometimes pays off to start with chapter five of a book before chapter one is completely new. Maybe there’s something written on a later page that provides you with a more thorough understanding of the rest of the material. Maybe the subject index holds information that can intrigue you, or prompts to look up words that seem foreign or strange to you.

We need to exploit our subconsciousness

It’s a good idea to learn how to combine words and sounds when learning how to read. But if we need to read faster because we need to be able to do more then we need to tune out the sounds and surrender ourselves more to a more visual style of reading. At the same time we need to trust our subconsciousness more – as it is working alongside you when you are reading, and constantly helps with our understanding of what it is we are reading.