One of my students asked me, ” How fast can human beings read?” I did not know the answer to the question, but it interested me.

I told him I needed to check on that, so I did.

NaBloWriMo and Reading

What I found is interesting, inspiring, and astonishing. Since today is Day One of NaBloWriMo 2013 (National Blog Writing Month), I am launching out with this subject.

World Record Reading Speeds

The world record holder for speed reading (with comprehension, of course) is a gentleman named Howard Berg, who, with an impressive IQ of 182, clocked his reading at 25,000 words per minute! And no, folks, that is not a typo!

The average American adult reads between 250-300 words per minute. Hmm. Quite a gap there, don’t you think?

President John F. Kennedy loved to read, and as all Presidents do, he needed to read a lot of material every day. He took a speed reading course and trained himself to read at 1,200 words per minute. Hey, I’d be happy with that myself!

Yale professor Harold Bloom reads at 1,000 words per minute.

There are others with phenomenal speeds. Interested in finding out more? Read the article on, which lists the top ten speed readers we know about. Check it out at this link:

How Fast Do You Read?

If you want to discover your own current reading speed, head to this site sponsored by Staples:

Ok,  now, you wonder if I took the reading test? I did. I clocked at 501 words per minute with 70% comprehension. That pleased me, as I know that had I slowed down a bit, the comprehension factor would have risen. So I’ll work on reading more and then take the test again. What fun!

What Motivates Me to Care About This

I read a great deal. I started reading when I was about 4. My daughter asked me to teach her to read when she was three and a half. I did. She was reading Dr. Seuss books by the time she was four years old and three months.

Now, I teach English, train teachers and parents to teach English using classical methods, and am confident in my professional life.


I am also a person who cannot imagine a world without reading. As much as I enjoy having my Kindle, I also cannot imagine a world without actual books, either. You know, the touchy-feely kind made from bound paper. There is a tactile and motor component inherent in reading actual printed books that you cannot duplicate with an eReader, even though the latter still allows left-to-right orientation for reading in English, or other left-to-right languages. This is a good phenomenon that will help children increase their reading skills.

21st Century Reasons to Read

The more you read, the better a reader you become.

The more you read, the faster a reader you become.

The more you read, the more you learn about the world around you.

So unplug yourself from your electronic toys and self-soothers, and grab a book. Or, if you must, at least an eReader under good lighting. Lose yourself in a good story, or in an area of nonfiction in which you are interested.

Challenge yourself. Learn. Grow. Discover. Enjoy.


4 responses to “How Fast Do You Read?”

  1. Sylvia says:

    Fascinating! Now I want to learn how fast I read. I know it will be slow, since I’m VERY easily distracted by noise or someone walking into the room, or a comment. SIGH Gonna give it a test, though. Thanks.

  2. Sarah Moser says:


    Glad you stopped by! Reading speed isn’t so much about whether you need total silence to concentrate as it is on the mechanics of how your eyes move across the page. Try the test without distractions and you’ll see what I mean.

    And no matter what your score, it’s just a “snapshot” of where you are right now. We can all improve!

    Have fun with it.

    Sarah Gunning Moser

  3. Vanessa says:

    I took the test a few times and averaged about 350 words per minute. I know I can read much faster than that if I’m engrossed in a story, and MUCH slower if I’m not interested.
    I do tend to power through novels quickly and have been known to finish one in a single night. I figure, the faster I read, the more books I get to enjoy, though at the end of a really good book, I often wish I had read a little slower so it wouldn’t end so quickly.

  4. Reading rates definitely vary depending on a number of factors: interest level, how much else is on your mind, and the type of material you’re reading. Most of us slow down a lot when reading technical material and speed up with a good, fast-paced novel.

    And you’re right, the more you read, the faster you get!

    Sarah Moser

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