Ask anyone who grew up in the late 90s or early 00s and they can instantly tell you what Hogwarts house they’d be in. They’re not entirely sure, but they have a fair idea of what their version of Amortensia would smell like. They know exactly what form a Boggart would take in front of them.
As you may have guessed, and guessed correctly, I am a Harry Potter fan. I mean, I’ve certainly never said it here before. I class myself as a Pure Blood; I’ve seen all the films multiple times, I’ve read the books until the covers were frayed, and I’ve even given my opinion on the films on my Snapchat account.
With the influence of social media, and trying to keep my online life updated, technology started eating into my reading time. Books that once took a few hours to read were now stretched out to weeks, even months. Time to take some action.
Trained speed readers can comfortably hit up to 1,500 words per minute, or WPM. Current World Speed Reading champ Anne Jones, who lives in Northumberland, can clock up 4,700 WPM with a 69% accuracy. The overall world speed reading record sits at a staggering 25,000 WPM. This was set by Howard Berg in 1990 and still sits firmly in the Guinness Book of Records. In a big ocean, 558 seemed a tiny drop.
Remember the speed reading test I’d taken? At my speed of 588 WPM, I could complete Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in two hours and 11 minutes. The average reader will take about six and a half hours to finish the book if they keep to a constant speed of 250 WPM. Challenge accepted. But there was a catch.
I’ve read it before. On a family holiday to Wexford in the south east of Ireland, I bought a copy of The Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets. In my excitement, I finished both within the three day holiday – and left them in a drawer in my room. I was devastated. Thrown into the depths of mourning, I didn’t read them again.
When I asked my fellow book bloggers if they thought I could not only finish it in two hours, but also take in the story, they weren’t sure. Most of them completely disagreed. “I don’t speed read often, mainly because I wouldn’t think about doing it,” says Madelyne Barate of Madelyne’s Diary. “I may skim something if I have an idea what it’s about or I’m looking for something particular.”
Sharon Leavy from Behind Green Eyes, is naturally a fast reader, and admits she doesn’t do it intentionally. “I don’t see any benefit in speed reading unless you’re reading for some other reason than enjoyment,” she says.
Even in her day job as a teacher, The Book Disciple’s Samantha Carpenter says she finds timed reading useless. “While some people can read quite quickly and understand and take in the material, others can’t. The speed at which one reads doesn’t indicate anything other than the speed at which their brain decodes information.”
Basically, if a book is read at speed, you don’t take in as much of the story as at your natural pace. Not at all shocking, but definitely not inspiring.
First thing to do, read the actual book. I set my phone on airplane mode, but popped on a timer for two hours and 11 minutes. Completely cut off from the outside world, I travelled back to the first time we meet the trio. It was a fairly long period of time, and I was bound to get through the whole story before the bell sounded, right? Not quite.
In that time frame, I didn’t finish the book, though I was close. Even with absolutely no distractions I could only finish 170 of the 223 pages, to the second Quidditch match, between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Naturally, Gryffindor won.
So, how much actually sunk in? To full test how much I knew, I took a Mastermind-style quiz, focused on the section of the book I’d read. No mercy spared by my examiner.
Quietly confident, I picked up some facts I thought necessary – I was fairly sure who the first and last new students to be sorted were, I knew for a fact what town in Surrey the Dursleys live in, and I would have happily put my entire life’s savings on what kind of owl Hedwig was.
How did I perform? Not quite as well as you would expect given the circumstances. Check out the video below to see how I did, and why not test yourself.