Why Do I Read So Slow?

Published: 7 October 2023
Written by Penny Somerset

Why does it seem like I read slower than others? You're certainly not the only one. Speaking from a place of familiarity, I can say that many factors contribute to our reading speed - things like often backtracking through text or grappling with unfamiliar vocabulary.

This article aims to tackle these obstacles head on and provide practical tools for boosting your reading pace. So let's flip this narrative and say goodbye to slow reading!

A young woman reading outside

Table of Contents

• Potential Reasons for Slow Reading
• Strategies to Improve Reading Speed
• Conclusion

Frequently Asked Questions
• What is the average reading speed for an average person?
• Why do I find myself reading slowly?
• Could it be possible that native speakers read at a faster pace than me?
• How can I stop struggling and start reading at a faster pace?
• Are there people who naturally read fast without struggles?
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Key Takeaways

  • Many things can make us read slower. This includes not knowing some words, being bored, getting distracted, or feeling scared of big books.

  • Poorly written materials and lack of brain exercise also contribute to slow reading speed.

  • Expanding your vocabulary helps improve reading speed.

  • Minimizing distractions like noise and notifications can help you focus better on reading.

  • Choosing well - written books that interest you will encourage faster reading.

  • Daily mental exercises also boost cognitive skills which in turn promotes fast and efficient reading.

Potential Reasons for Slow Reading

Several factors can contribute to slow reading. Lack of vocabulary often slows down the process as you constantly need to look up words. Distractions easily divert your focus, making it hard for you to concentrate on your reading material.

Reading poorly written content can also drag out the time because it's harder to follow and understand. Boredom is another common factor; if a book fails to engage your interest, your mind starts wandering, slowing down the pace at which you read.

Being intimidated by complex books or subjects might prevent you from maintaining a steady speed too. Some people read slowly due to job-related pressures that don't allow them much time for leisurely reading, resulting in rusty skills over time.

Additionally, lack of regular mental exercise could lead us not using our brains optimally while consuming written information, leading us towards being slower readers.

The authors should focus on increasing their insight on these issues and figure out what's causing their slow reading specifically- every person has different reasons behind their struggles with speed

Lack of vocabulary

Having a limited vocabulary often slows down reading speeds significantly. Words unfamiliar to the reader require extra time to understand, disrupting the smooth flow of reading. This becomes particularly evident among college students and professionals venturing into new subject areas where specialized terminology is frequently used.

Little exposure to books during childhood or issues with speech and hearing can also contribute to vocabulary deficiencies affecting reading pace in both adults and children alike.

Similarly, poor comprehension due to struggles with decoding text, or attempting texts that are too complex for one's current language skills can cause slower reading rates. It's important to note that one's ability to comprehend what they read is directly tied with their vocabulary knowledge - the larger your vocabulary, the better you tend to understand written content.


Distractions play a significant role in why I read so slow. It's like trying to focus on a movie with someone constantly tapping my shoulder. My surroundings have plenty of distractions - from the smartphone buzzing with notifications, to people chatting nearby or the TV blaring in the next room.

These unavoidable interruptions can drastically decrease my reading speed and hamper comprehension.

Believe it or not, social media sites and apps are among other distractions that affect my reading pace. The constant checking of updates, scrolling through feeds, chatting - all these contribute towards a slower reading rate.

That's an annoying distraction especially when I'm invested in exploring new worlds through books or trying to increase comprehension for work documents! Striving to reduce these distractions can lead me towards becoming a faster reader.

Poorly written material

Material of poor quality can significantly slow down your reading speed. Often, these materials contain complex sentences and numerous unfamiliar words. This forces you to re-read words or whole sections repeatedly, reducing your overall reading rate.

So, it's not always about blaming yourself as a slow reader; sometimes the fault lies in the poorly written material itself. Picking well-written books can ultimately help increase reading comprehension and elevate your enjoyment in reading!


Engaging with a dull or uninteresting text can make reading a daunting task. Boredom reduces your comprehension and slows down your reading speed substantially. This might occur if you're stuck with a poorly written book or are in an environment full of distractions.

Chronic boredom is also considered as one of the symptoms endured by people dealing with ADHD, depression, and other cognitive disorders which may heavily impact their reading rate.

Also, the perception of time tends to dwindle when you're bored making it feel like it takes forever to get through just a few pages!

Mind wandering

As an avid reader, I've often noticed my mind wandering while going through the pages of a book. This slow information flow can transform the reading experience into something akin to daydreaming, leading to longer fixation on text and making me a slower reader overall.

Mind wandering also reduces comprehension levels as my focus shifts away from what I'm reading. The severity fluctuates depending on the difficulty of the material; tougher texts tend to spur more frequent mental drifts.

I've also come across strategies that aim at improving focus and goal-setting which helped in actively engaging with the content, reducing instances of mind drifting significantly during reading sessions, ultimately boosting my reading speed and comprehension.


Diving into a thick novel or a complex scientific paper instills intimidation in many readers. This sense of fear can significantly reduce my reading speed. For instance, technical jargon, unfamiliar terms, and convoluted sentences all contribute to this feeling of being overwhelmed.

It's like stepping into a new world where everything is foreign.

In similar scenarios such as college students cracking open their first medical textbook or employees just starting out in a new field, the intimidation factor amplifies. The idea of having to sift through dense information puts pressure on these individuals which may lead them to read slow or even avoid reading altogether.

However, I've learned that tackling fear heads-on by building language skills gradually increases comprehension and eventually diminishes the intimidation effect over time, making me not just a faster reader but also an efficient one.

Job-related factors

Certain jobs demand a high level of reading and comprehension skills. If you're in a field where technical terms are frequently used, it's common to read slower than the average speed.

For example, if you've recently started working as a lawyer or medical professional, the jargon-filled documents can make reading more challenging. Similarly, college students undertaking new disciplines often encounter this slowdown due to unfamiliar words and concepts.

Don't be disheartened; your pace will pick up as your familiarity with sector-specific language improves over time.

Lack of mental exercise

Your brain needs workouts just like your body does. A lack of mental exercise can cause slow reading because your brain isn't used to processing information quickly and efficiently.

This is similar to the struggle you might experience when trying to run a marathon without any prior training.

Just as physical exercise strengthens muscles, mental activities enhance cognitive skills including speed reading. Simple tasks such as playing strategy games, solving puzzles or even learning a new language can help stimulate your mind.

Conversely, consistent passivity dulls intellectual sharpness over time, possibly contributing to slower reading speeds for many people.

Strategies to Improve Reading Speed

To read faster, it is essential to expand your vocabulary. Reducing background distractions can also enhance your reading speed. Carefully select well-written materials that hold your interest and engage you more into reading.

Consistent practice on focus and concentration can rapidly improve your reading pace. Building confidence in one's abilities can boost the courage to read at a higher speed without fear of misunderstanding or missing out on points.

In certain cases where no improvement seems possible, seeking professional help may be necessary. Lastly, brain exercises such as puzzles and games could also assist in enhancing one's overall reading speed.

Expand vocabulary

I've hit upon a useful strategy to improve my reading speed - expanding vocabulary. The more words I recognize, the faster I can breeze through paragraphs. I don't need to stop mid-sentence and pull up an online dictionary for every other word. Here's how I work on enhancing my vocabulary:

  1. Daily journaling: Using new words in writing cements them in my mind.

  2. Reading diverse material: It exposes me to different styles of writing and novel words.

  3. Using flashcards: This is a tried-and-true method for language learners - why not use it for boosting vocabulary!

  4. Trying crossword puzzles and word games: They are fun ways to learn new words and their meanings.

  5. Employing a good old physical dictionary: Yes, they are still very much relevant!

  6. Subscribing to 'word of the day' services: A single new word each day adds up in no time.

Minimize distractions

Proactively minimizing distractions becomes an essential step when you aim to improve your reading speed. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Create a quiet and comfortable reading environment.

  2. Turn off all electronic devices or put them on silent mode to avoid unnecessary interruptions.

  3. Choose a well - lit area that is conducive for reading.

  4. Make sure the temperature in the room is comfortable - not too hot nor too cold.

  5. Use bookmarks or finger pointers to keep track of where you are, preventing you from re - reading words or lines.

  6. Reserve specific times for reading when there are fewer distractions around, like early morning or late at night.

  7. Clear your mind before starting to read, reducing the wandering thoughts that could slow down your pace.

Choose well-written material

Selecting well-written material significantly accelerates reading speed. Poorly composed text forces you to stumble, backtrack and decipher meaning - all contributing to slower reading.

Seek out high-quality books and articles known for their clear, straightforward language and structure. Skimming through the content beforehand helps determine its quality - look out for a logical flow of ideas, precise vocabulary usage, and coherent sentence structure.

Don't shy away from challenging texts but ensure that they're not overcomplicated with uncommon words or complex sentences as these can bog down your reading pace.

Increase engagement and interest

One effective way to improve your reading speed is through increasing engagement and interest. Reading shouldn't be viewed as a chore. It's an opportunity for adventure, discovery, and learning. Here are some strategies you can apply:

  1. Choose books that align with your interests.

  2. Try various genres to discover what you love.

  3. Join a book club or reading group for camaraderie and shared enthusiasm.

  4. Use visualization techniques while reading to enhance comprehension.

  5. Ask thought - provoking questions as you get into the depth of the plot.

  6. Dedicate specific, uninterrupted time for your reading routine.

Practice focus and concentration

Cultivating focus and concentration can be a game-changer for slow readers. Here's how you can enhance these skills:

  1. Set a specific reading goal: Before diving into a book, decide how many pages or chapters you'll cover. This sets an expectation and helps maintain focus.

  2. Use timers: Time your reading sessions and try to read a little more in each timed session. This gently pushes your brain to concentrate better and read faster.

  3. Avoid multi-tasking while reading: Trying to do multiple things at once can slow down your reading speed significantly.

  4. Train your peripheral vision: According to studies, training peripheral vision increases reading speed greatly, as it allows the eyes to capture more words at a glance.

  5. Practice mindful reading: Fully immerse yourself in the text, taking note of each sentence and its meaning. This not only improves comprehension but also aids concentration.

  6. Eliminate distractions: Turn off the TV, put away your phone, find a quiet place - do whatever it takes to keep distractions at bay when you're reading.

  7. Take regular breaks: Short breaks during long reading sessions can actually help increase focus and prevent fatigue.

  8. Use tools and apps available online: Numerous websites offer exercises that can improve your ability to focus while reading.

Build confidence

Gaining faith in yourself plays a significant role in improving your reading pace. It's no secret that self-assurance can help you conquer challenges and fears. The more confidence you foster, the easier it becomes to tackle those tough words or dense paragraphs that used to make you stumble.

Believe that you are capable of becoming a faster reader, instilling this mindset makes all the difference. Not only does this mental shift increase your reading speed, but it helps diminish any negative impacts slow reading may have had on your progress so far.

Embrace positivity and let confidence guide your path towards becoming a proficient reader!

Seek professional help if necessary

Stepping forward to consult a reading specialist can make all the difference for those who continue to struggle with slow reading speed. Certain individuals may be dealing with a learning disability or an undiagnosed condition like dyslexia, which significantly impacts their ability to read quickly.

A professional can conduct a comprehensive assessment of your reading skills and offer personalized strategies for improvement. They'll also provide you with tools and exercises designed to enhance your comprehension while boosting your overall reading speed.

Don't shy away from this option; it's okay to ask for help when you need it!

Exercise the brain

Keeping the mind active is crucial for boosting reading speed. Here's how:

  1. Adopt a routine of regular brain exercises. These can include puzzles, games that require strategic thinking, memory like chess or sudoku.

  2. Take time daily for mental workouts just like physical ones; this could be set aside for focused reading or writing activities.

  3. Practice speed reading techniques such as chunking, minimizing subvocalization, and enhancing peripheral vision to train your brain to process information faster.

  4. Regular exercise also plays a part in improving brain functions, including memory and thinking skills which are vital for becoming a fast reader.

  5. Understand that slow processing speed may be due to slowed information transfer in the brain, but don't fret! Consistent practice can gradually increase your speed.

  6. Stay curious and keep learning because a flexible mind can adapt better and read more efficiently.

  7. Regularly expose yourself to new experiences, ideas, and perspectives; these open up pathways in your brain which aid in quicker comprehension of complex material.


Reframing our perspective on slow reading can open doors to appreciating its benefits like enhanced comprehension and information retention. However, for those feeling hindered, multiple strategies exist - expanding vocabulary, reducing distractions, focusing better and more.

No matter where you stand on the reading speed spectrum, remember it's your unique pace that matters most!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average reading speed for an average person?

The average reading speed of an average reader lies between 200 to 250 words per minute.

Why do I find myself reading slowly?

Several causes might lead you to read so slow, like learning disabilities, re-reading words or it just being a bit harder if English is not your first language.

Could it be possible that native speakers read at a faster pace than me?

Yes, many times native speakers of any language tend to read at a faster rate because they are more familiar with the language structure and vocabulary.

How can I stop struggling and start reading at a faster pace?

Overcoming learned helplessness could be key; this involves practicing effective strategies such as minimizing distractions allowing you to focus on your content better hence improving your speed over time.

Are there people who naturally read fast without struggles?

Yes! There are individuals known as a 'speed reader' who possess the ability to grasp content quickly by identifying keywords and main ideas in text rather than focusing on each word individually.

Portrait of the article author, Penny Somerset
Penny Somerset

I'm an avid reader and bibliophile. With an unquenchable thirst for stories, I love nothing more than burying my nose in a good book - whether it's curled up on the sofa or out in nature. My deep curiosity and appreciation of diverse writing means that there's no one genre that I prefer, but I'm especially keen on books full of adventure and vivid imagination.
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