“Kids, as young as 3 years old, sent for reading classes”. “Ministry of Education (MOE) announces plans to roll out extensive reading and writing related lessons in Kindergartens island-wide”. Whether you like it or not, your child’s literacy of top priority.

Over the many years of conducting the I Am Gifted! school holiday programmes, we have witness an interesting trend between two groups of students – students who love reading and of course, those we just simply dread it!



Students who tend to enjoy reading usually find it to be easy for them to read fluently and most genuinely find reading to be fun and exciting. On the other hand, the students who dread reading usually read slow and find it to be a huge hassle. They get bored easily and often finding themselves in situations where they are forced to read (whether in school or at home), causing them to hate reading even more.

While cultivating a love for learning and reading is a whole new topic on its own, we have come to realize that some students find it a dread to read mainly due to certain bad habits that they have picked up over time, greatly slowing their reading speed and making it seem like there is a never ending list of materials to read.



Here are 5 Bad Habits of Slow Readers (and Tips on How to overcome them).


Before continuing any further, you will want to re-read the paragraphs above. Only this time, be consciously aware of what is happening to your eyes, your lips and what is going on inside your mind. Now, let’s dive in and take a look if you are guilty of any of the slow reading habits listed below:


1: Lip Reading



As you read, do you notice your lips move?

You probably picked this up from primary school or reading classes when you’re first started learning to read by reading aloud in class. Lip reading slows down your speed as your lips need time to catch up and mouth the information that you are reading. In other words, your reading speed is limited by how fast your lips can move!


Tips to overcome:

To overcome this bad habit is to be super aware and conscious about not moving your lips. Do not mouth the words that you are reading and instead, shift the focus from your lips to your eyes. Challenge your eyes to go faster in the process of reading and you will find yourself reading at a speed way faster than your lips could ever move.



2: Reading Word for Word



Are you reading one word at a time?

Some readers read out loud but others are equally as guilty when they read word for word in their heads. If you are reading one at a time, your maximum reading would probably only be around 120 words per minute. Many people tend to believe this is the correct of reading and many of us do have to slow down a little to digest certain information but that is not the case (or at least not all the time).


Tips to overcome:

To overcome this bad habit, you first need to understand that your eyes and mind can pick up word in chunks. An average person’s eye can capture an average of 3-6 words at a glance, and with some training, most students can pick up 6-8 words at a glance in our programmes. Understand that it perfectly alright to read groups of words at a one time, focusing only on the keywords and key information.



3: Sub-vocalisation



As you are reading, was there a voice in your head?

Some people do not move their lips as they read, instead, they have a voice inside their head reading out the words to them. This almost just as bad as your speed is limited to how fast that voice in your head can talk. This voice, usually is that of our own, is common habit ingrained in many of us since our younger days.


Tips to overcome:

While it may seem to be impossible to completely remove that inner voice, there are several strategies you can use to overcome that voice or at least its limitations. The first method is simply to embrace and perfect it. You can begin to practice sub-vocalizing only the keywords and not every single word. Another common method taught at many reading classes and school holiday camps is by blasting loud and fast pace music to drown out the voice. This is exceptionally useful when done at the initial stage to compete with the voice as it acts as a distraction to the brain from the voice.



4: Regression



Do you find yourself having to skip back and re-read the same words?

Regression, or back-skipping, is the worst bad habit of them all. Often caused by apprehension, fear of missing out or lack of confidence in reading, regression is a habit that wastes a lot of time and normally causes readers to read at less than 100 words per minute.  Another reason could be due to poor vocabulary or poor command of the language – an issue that must be addressed separately.


Tips to overcome:

To overcome this bad habit, you have start cultivate new habits of reading fast and trusting your own ability. An increase the reader’s confidence in reading often is key to preventing regression.



5: Mind Wandering



Are still following the topic? Or did you find your mind wandering elsewhere?

Often a result from reading too slowly, mind wandering, this can also happen when a reader is bored and unable to focus in reading. For example, when reading about the story of Colonel Harland David Sandera and how he started KFC, the mind might wander off to “Oh KFC, it’s been some time since I had the fried chicken, that the crispy fried chicken skin………the Original fried chicken 12 herbs and spices…….”


Tips to overcome:

Believe it or not, the way to overcome this bad habit is to stay focus and read faster. Imagine yourself are driving a car. If you driving at a speed of 20km per hour on a super straight road, chances are, you will become bored and start to lose focus and get distracted easily. Now, imagine yourself driving at 200km per hour on that same road. With that crazy speed, you will force yourself to stay focus, and with your adrenaline pumping, you know you cannot afford to lose focus or get distracted.



Whether you are a student or a professional working adult, chances are, you are required to do some form of reading every day. We have encountered countless number of students who struggle with reading their school materials and suffer from what we call a ‘no-life’ syndrome before attending our I Am Gifted! school holiday programme. These students spend way too much time sinking in the sea of endless reading materials when in actual fact; it is their own bad habits that are stopping them from achieving a higher and faster reading speed.



Article by:

Tan Chuan Lay, Trainer (I Am Gifted!TM Programmes)