Growing Bookworms – Does speed reading matter for kids

When I was ten years old, I was one of a handful of kids in my grade who were selected to attend a speed reading programme. We attended a separate class where we were given a machine with a screen that displayed a page of text. There was a solid covering which moved down the page, covering the text as it descended. I remember having to read quite quickly to finish reading a sentence before it disappeared. The speed with which the covering moved could be increased or decreased by twisting a knob on the side of the reading machine. This was under the control of the reading teacher.

Speed reading suited me and with practice I became a very quick reader. Some of the kids never took to the exercises and gave up quite quickly. I was keen to learn to read faster. Faster meant more books in a day or week. By the following year I was reading 14 children’s books a week and making two trips a week to the local library on my bicycle. I bribed my younger sister into giving me her three library cards. I had four of my own.

I am still a fast reader and can read an average book in a week. I only read for leisure for approximately one hour a day. I rarely read one book at a time and usually have at least two physical books on the go and one audio book. If I get a little tired of one book, I switch over to the other which makes it harder to measure the speed with which I read. Of course, the most important thing with reading is comprehension, there is no point in reading fast if you don’t comprehend the story.

I like to believe I do understand and remember everything I read (unless it is testing my oldest son on his chemistry – that is so deadly boring for me I never remember a single word afterwards). Has my ability to read quicker helped me in my working life. I think it has, I can read and summarise contracts and documents a lot faster than many other people.

This brings me to the benefits of teaching children to speed read.

The way I understand the learning to read process is that young children first learn to recognise and assign sounds to specific letters. Those letters become words that the young reader must decode in order to read. Practice enables the child to recognise words and their reading becomes more accurate and automatic. Once the brain no longer has to focus entirely on decoding words, it is able to focus on comprehension. This is why reading teachers concentrate on reading fluency which is a combination of rate, accuracy and expression. It is, therefore, obvious that rate is not the only factor, but it is important. The quicker a child develops reading fluency, the faster they will achieve good comprehension of the reading material.

Neither of my sons have had the opportunity to learn speed reading. I assume this is because this type of learner extension is no longer provided by schools. It could be because speed reading is not considered to be particularly necessary as one contributor out of three to effective reading. My oldest son reads very quickly and with excellent comprehension. He reads his complex school set works in a short period. His comprehension is good and he scores high marks on language comprehension tests. He would probably be a good candidate for speed reading as he would enjoy the challenge and not lose out on comprehension by reading faster.

Michael, on the other hand, is a slow reader, but he is now quite fluent and accurate. I always start Michael reading his school set works at the beginning of the holidays or school term so that he has lots of time to read the book at his own comfortable pace. I often buy him the audio book too, so that he can listen to the story again after he has read it. Michael also usually scores well on comprehension tests. Michael is motivated by interest and often finds his school set works boring. Trying to get him to read quicker would certainly backfire as he would have to sacrifice comprehension for speed. Slow and steady works well for him.

Possibly the answer is the same as always, you need to understand your child and appreciate their strengths and weaknesses when accessing the best approach for teaching them to read.

Have you done a speed reading programme? Did they offer this at your school or your children’s schools? Do you think it helps to practice reading faster? Let me know in the comments.

If your interested in teaching yourself to speed read, you can learn more about it by watching this YouTube video:

About Robbie Cheadle


Robbie Cheadle has published nine books for children and one poetry book. She has branched into writing for adults and young adults and, in order to clearly separate her children’s books from her adult books, is writing for older readers under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle.

Robbie Cheadle’s Sir Chocolate children’s picture books are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision. Her books for older children also incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Roberta Eaton Cheadle’s supernatural stories combine fabulous paranormal elements with fascinating historical facts.

Children’s picture books – available as a square book and an A5 book (co-authored with Michael Cheadle):
Sir Chocolate and the strawberry cream story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the baby cookie monster story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the sugar dough bees story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Condensed Milk River story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Sugar Crystal Caves story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Fondant Five story and cookbook
Sir Chocolate and the Ice Cream Rainbow Fairies story and cookbook

Middle school books:
Silly Willy Goes to Cape Town (includes five fun party cake ideas)
While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with Elsie Hancy Eaton)

Poetry book:
Open a new door (co-authored with Kim Blades)

Supernatural fantasy YA novel:
Through the Nethergate

Horror Anthologies (edited by Dan Alatorre):
Dark Visions

Paranormal Anthologies (edited by Kaye Lynne Booth):
Spirits of the West
Whispers of the Past

Murder mystery Anthology (edited by Stephen Bentley)
Death Among Us

Find Robbie Cheadle



Twitter: BakeandWrite

Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram

Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books

Want to be sure not to miss any of Robbie’s “Growing Bookworms” segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.