How to Break Poor Reading Habits

How to Break Poor Reading Habits

Improved reading speed almost always results from getting rid of poor reading habits. Most of the strategies we learned as a child are not suited to the world of adult reading. To become well-adjusted readers, we need to reflect on the skills we bring into reading, acknowledge what we might be doing wrong and employ effective strategies to better our success as a reader.

The first step you need to take is making reading a part of your day-to-day routine. Good reading habits won't exist if reading is not a normal daily activity to begin with. Establishing discipline paves the way for more efficient ways of reading.

Most adult readers read only at the rate of speech production – about 350 words per minute or less. This speed can be doubled by eliminating the 3 most common habits that slow down reading: too much eye fixation, vocalization and regression. Don't worry, these big words are not intended to put you off. This chapter is dedicated to explaining each of these 3 habits and providing tips on how to overcome them.


Vocalization, also known as silent speech, is the process of sounding out words in your head as you read. The reason this is not helpful is that you can understand a word faster than you can say it. If you say the words while you read, either in your mouth, throat or in your head, you can only read as fast as you can talk.

When you vocalize, your comprehension is affected. This is because while you're trying to comprehend what you're reading, you are also focused in pronouncing the words. The goal is to vocalize as little as possible. Overcoming this habit alone can increase your speed considerably.

Vocalization also interferes with your skill in using context clues to comprehend the reading material. Speed readers who can read an entire sentence in a glance or two are quick to find context clues resulting in faster comprehension. On the other hand, readers who vocalize tend to read word by word, which in turn limits their ability to comprehend through context clues.

To break this habit, you need to turn off the sound in your head. The key is to disengage your lips, your ears and your throat when you read and only employ your eyes and your mind. You have to make a conscious effort to silence your inner voice. You also need to practice reading ideas not individual words.


Fixation is the phase where your eyes settle on an image and transmit that image to your brain. With each fixation, your eyes "fix" on a word or group of words after another. Eye fixations are pauses. Imagine how much it will slow you down if you fixate on every word when reading a lengthy book. It's tedious! Moreover, excess eye fixations tend to allow the mind to wander which affects comprehension. This habit is likely to compel you to reread passages already read.

To achieve fewer fixations, widening your vision span will be useful. This way, you can process more words in a glance. This also improves your comprehension because phrases convey more meaning than individual words. Taking in whole groups of words at each fixation is the foundation of all reading techniques.

Another way to reduce fixations is expanding your vocabulary. Notice that when you read a topic you are familiar with, your read faster with fewer eye fixations. The larger your vocabulary is, the more words you recognize when you read and the lesser you need to pause. It also decreases the likelihood of getting stuck in an unfamiliar word.


Regression occurs when the eyes skip back to passages you've already read. Not only is this time consuming but it also disrupts the flow of reading. Being compelled to reread is usually a result of poor comprehension and lack of focus.

Make it a habit to reread only to clarify something or to correct a first impression. This requires improving your concentration and breaking the first 2 habits. If you feel compelled to regress, resist the urge by forcing yourself to forge ahead in your reading.