Musing Mondays - All about skimming

Today's Musing Monday hosted by Rebecca of Just One More Page poses the question:

When reading do you read every word? Do you ever skip chapters or skim over parts? (question curtesy of Wendy)

Interesting question and coincidentally I was just reading about this very subject in H.T.R.A.B. Sorry to use initials, but from now on I will be calling this the book that must not be named because I'm annoyed with getting the same computerized comment every time I mention the name. Hint, it is the water closet read listed in my sidebar.

I read an interesting tidbit that talked about how young or untrained readers have a habit of fixating on words in a line, in essence only taking in one, two or three words at a time. This causes the reader to have to go back and reread sentences already read at least once every three lines. A skilled reader takes in blocks at a time. According to the book: "The mind, that astounding instrument, can grasp a sentence or even a paragraph at a 'glance'-if only the eyes will provide it with the information it needs..." Once a reader learns not to fixate, then one can read as fast as your mind will let you, not as slow as your eyes make you. (pg 40).

What is the difference between skimming and speed reading? According to the dictionary skimming means "to read, study, consider, treat, etc., in a superficial or cursory manner."

Speed reading by definition is "reading faster than normal using acquired techniques of skimming and controlled eye movements."

I'm a speed reader. I learned to read in the first grade and once I discovered reading, whole new doors opened up and I couldn't get enough. I have found as I have gotten older and depending on what I'm reading, that I need to slow down. I do have the tendency to skim, especially when the book is too descriptive (tom clancy for example). I have the tendency to skim when I get tired. Then I find myself doing exactly what the author said in How To Read: fixating on words, reading choppily and finding myself going back, because I missed something.

If I read each individual word to myself, then by the time I have gotten to the end of the sentence, I've forgotten the first part. Try it. It's interesting because when I started taking my Art History course, I sat down and started reading the chapter. Because there was so much information in the chapter, I wanted to really study it and took it slowly and found myself not comprehending anything. So I starting speed reading, I was able to comprehend the information that my brain absorbed. I had to do the same thing with Shakespeare because reading it slowly made my brain hurt - literally. Once I started speed reading through it, I got the gist of what he was trying to say and was able to understand it better.

I don't think I've ever skipped a chapter in a fiction book. I may read a non fiction book piece meal and read only chapters that interest me, but never fiction.

What type of reader are you?


  1. That's interesting that you say you can't comprehend a sentence if you take it too slowly. I think I'm the same way although I always thought it's because I have a short attention span :)

  2. Good information

    I posted my musings today, after reading yours I think I'll read mine and see if I am "fixating". I know I do at times. But I know I also read in "chunks" as you suggested. I can sit down and read a 5 or 6 hundred page book in an evening--and understand what I've read. So I thought I was reading every word--but maybe I'm skimming? I'm now confused! "Skimming" to me is scanning a page to pick out key words that will lead you to certain information that you are looking for. What is the term for reading in chunks?

  3. Wow, that is all really interesting. I am not sure what happens when I read something slowly, I have never tried it before, but it would make a good experiment.

  4. I am a very fast reader and have not found that I need to slow down yet!

  5. Really interesting. I definitely am not and have never been a word-by-word reader. I've always taken in the text in bigger chunks. And I've always scored high on reading comprehension tests and I read for living -- so the habit hasn't hurt me.

    As for skipping. Yes, I have skipped entire sections in some types of non-fiction and in collections of essays and poems.

    The book that should not be named sounds like it has some good information, but I'll let you convey to me!

  6. I don't least not in fiction. But come to think of it, I may in non-fiction sometimes. Sometimes a book is written in such a way that it is possible without negatively effecting the book...

  7. What an interesting article! I'm a bit of a speed reader myself.

  8. Interesting reading/brain info! I feel quite privileged to be able to read sometimes considering half the world are illiterate (made up stat but close I would assume).
    I envy your ability to speed read. I read quite slow.

  9. I'm with you - I take in blocks of text at a time. I always have and I was surprised when I grew up and realized I was a speed reader.


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