Overcoming the Myths about "Bad Reading Habits"
In the speed-reading industry, there is a lot of blame-the-victim attitude when it comes to practices that are at odds with faster reading. People, particularly those promoting speed-reading, tend to be blind to the benefits of any practice that might slow the process down. When in a hurry, it is easy to forget that reading is about learning and intelligence gathering more so than about performance. There are circumstances in which, "bad habits" are actually good practice. Let's consider the two most obvious issues:
Skip-back and Vocabulary
You are happily reading your way through a book when, BAM! You find yourself rereading the same sentence, phrase, or paragraph over and over again. Why is it so? Is it because you have a "bad habit"? At FieldCraft, we think not! Unless you have obsessive-compulsive disorder, Skip-back is triggered when you become aware of the fact that you are making no sense of the offending text. Sometimes it is because the text is poorly written, sometimes your "Basic Information Processing" unit (the number of words you can take in at a glance) is too short for the turn of phrase in use, sometimes key words in the text are not known to you, and sometimes you are distracted by emotional or physical factors. It may not be so bad. Sometimes you might just reread once if the turn of phrase is unfamiliar or you are seeking to define an unknown word by context. Whatever the reason, you are generally not the problem.
Skip-back is caused by conflicts between the perceptual interpretation of the text and the local and global context that you perceptually assign to the text. If you don't skip-back when you feel compelled, it is highly likely that you will leave a blank in your comprehension. The first thing you should do when you catch yourself skipping back is to reach for the dictionary. There is a very good chance that either a word you do not know is being used or that a word you do know is being used in a way that you are not familiar with. By taking the dictionary break, you make yourself more familiar with the dialect in use and will ultimately reduce the incidence of skip-back in future reading.
If you find no unfamiliar word or word usage on a skip-back, it is highly likely that a phrase, clause, sentence, or paragraph was excessively long relative to your "Basic Information processing" unit. By using Stretch to expand the number of words you can take in at a glance (your "Basic Information Processing" unit), you will be less likely to be distracted by long, unfamiliar, or poor expression/grammar.
Skip-back is useful. Skip-back tells you that you need to re-evaluate your understanding of language, it tells you when you don't understand a key word and so misunderstand the text, and it tells you when your "Basic Information Processing" unit is too short for the text you are reading.
Sub-vocalisation and Concentration
You are happily reading away when you start reading aloud, or you start reading at speaking speed in your mind so that your mind's ear can hear the words at a naturally spoken pace. This slows down reading dramatically - so dramatically that sub-vocalisation, far from being a "bad habit" is a vital tool for those who write auditory programmes, speeches, etc. It allows the reader to determine a reasonable pace for the material, and to verify that the material will not run over time.
When the environment in which you are reading becomes a distraction, sub-vocalisation allows you to fill the gaps in your reading comprehension by doubling the number of processes dedicated to acquiring the written material. If distractions are reducing your comprehension to 50%, sub-vocalisation will bring this back up to 75% by filling half of the gaps.
Once again, the problem is not you. The problem is the distraction. It could be as innocent as machine noise for some people, or as overwhelming as incessant chatter for others. Reduce the degree of distraction, and you will reduce the likelihood of sub-vocalisation.
There are two approaches to reducing the amount of distraction affecting your reading. The first, but not always most practical method, is to take your reading away from the source of the distraction. You will be amazed at the difference a little peace and quiet will do for your reading abilities. The other solution, one that is eminently more practical, is to make yourself less prone to distraction. Practice reading in less reader friendly environments can help fine tune your ability to focus.
When Stretch was designed, we set up a feedback sound standard to tell you audibly when certain events had taken place. However, we also added random sounds which being rare, are a deviation from the standard, and so distract the reader by confusing the issue. If sub-vocalisation is a problem for you, the occasional random sound throws off your concentration enough to miss entire word groups. However, as you use the system, you learn to filter out the noise, and the audible surprises. Being able to do this with Stretch makes it easier for you to filter out the sort of day to day noise that would normally distract you from your reading enough to make it necessary for you to sub-vocalise.