I’ve always wondered about the statistics of fast and slow readers and what defines each as such. I consider myself somewhere in between: I place higher on the reading scale than most, but I also like to absorb the material, stopping to check words in the dictionary or jot down notes. Studies have shown that speed readers retain less information than those who take their time, so is it better to be a fast reader or a slow one—and what do those labels boil down to?
According to an article published by Slate, college-level readers read—not skim—at 300 wpm on average, and few people (if any) read faster than 400. The average person reads non-technical material at 200-250 wpm.
If you love to read, you love to read. But are you a slow reader if you take weeks to complete a book? Many would impulsively answer “yes,” but what if that person only read a day or two a week for a small amount of time (say a half-hour or an hour)? Would that person still be classified as a slow reader? Do busy schedules or tiredness (from work or school, for example) change how we evaluate someone’s reading speed? A weary reader might read at a crawl and even repeat passages for comprehension, and apparently 79% of Americans prefer to read in bed—inducing sleepiness, no doubt.
Yes, some people can consume books at a rapid clip, but are they cramming reading into every free second of the day or are they just obscenely good? I knew a girl in high school who scoffed at someone (a not so bright cheerleader, but still) who admitted to taking longer than a week to read a book—but the girl who was criticizing her could be spotted cracking a book in between classes, at lunch, and probably every other spare moment of the day. Some read on the job, when workflow is at a standstill. And it’s worth asking whether these people are willing to sacrifice understanding and speed for status. It’s easy to be impressed with readers who down books like water. I’m not one of those people. I can’t go through books like wildfire. Sometimes I wish I could, but then I wonder—is it worth it?
What do you think? In all frankness, would you call yourself a fast or slow reader, and does that affect how many books you read in a year? Does reading speed even matter outside of the classroom?