General Tips for Reading

with the

Proportional Reading Program


Which Device to Use

You can read your text books on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, or you can read on a Mac computer (laptop or desktop). So, you can use an iOS device or a Mac computer. You can also use a PC.

Course Textbook Available Online or Offline: Best Choice

Your textbook can be read on the Internet with 3G or 4G connection, or it can be read with WiFi, or it can be read offline as an HTML document read with your browser or Dropbox. This means you can use your iPad or iPhone, or iPod Touch, or your laptop to do your reading with earphones, wherever you are, even in the middle of a crowded room, car, bus, train or gym, online or offline.

Reading Short and Long Articles with Voice (VoiceOver or VO)

Short news articles and popular magazine articles usually have very short paragraphs that are not longer than one or two sentences. These articles read very well with VoiceOver, once the garbage on the page is removed, and the type is made as large as possible, and you are reading on your iPhone, iPad, iPad Touch, or iPad Mini in horizontal mode. Use Reader or Pocket do clean up almost any article, and read it in larger font.

Unfortunately, serious writing on the Internet and almost all textbook chapters have long paragraphs with numerous sentences. These paragraphs do not read well as paginated, using VoiceOver or any other  Voice program. Very frequently you will only see the first part of a paragraph on the screen as the whole paragraph is read out loud. This is very disquieting. This problem is especially common on iOS devices with their smaller screens.

There is a easy solution. Any serious article, textbook chapter or e-book can be easily reformatted and repaginated so that there is a blank line between sentences and all paragraphs are indented at their beginning. This, and a few other similar changes, make reading any long or serious article with VoiceOver a joy to do. All text will be seen as it is read. This approach also makes manual progression a sentence at a time feasible, with automatic pausing after each sentence, and optional repeat.

Manual progression by sentence through a long paragraph also keeps one from falling asleep and missing text. The program will automatically stop as soon as you drift off, and stay stopped until you wake up and manually signal to continue. With VoiceOver and manual progression through paragraphs, you can easily read up to 500 words per minute, and above.

The best way to read any serious amount of text is as an HTML document read offline with your browser or in Dropbox. This way you can read your document wherever you are, even if you do not have WiFi or an Internet connection. Book chapters and long articles on the Internet should be downloaded, reformatted, and saved into separate HTML files and then read anywhere, offline, with your browser or Dropbox.

Looking Up Words and Taking Notes

This is often best done with a second iOS device. For example read on your iPad and look up words and definitions on your iPhone. This way you do not have to turn VO off and then back on. Furthermore, there is no automatically going back to the beginning of the article, which always happens whenever you turn VO on when using a Mac.


Each device must be initially set up so you can use voice. There is a different set up for iOS devices from that used on the Mac computers. We provide a different set of set up directions for iOS devices, and for Mac computers, and for the PC.

Use Earphones

Earphones will enable you to read in crowded rooms or train, without bothering others. Earphones will also keep the noise from others from distracting you. Thirdly, earphones greatly increases the reading experience in the center of the head, and in so doing, greatly increases focus and concentration, even in quiet environments.

Use a Keyboard

It is much faster to read using a keyboard and pressing the right arrow to advance, rather than using your fingers on the screen or a mouse. Furthermore, it is much easier to maintain concentration using keystrokes to advance the text, rather than your fingers or a mouse on the screen. You can use either a regular keyboard or a Bluetooth keyboard.

Quick Navigation

You also want to have “Quick Nav” for VO turned on, on either your iOS device or Mac computer. This lets you control VO with just the arrow keys (much faster and easier). To set this on or off, press the left and right arrow simultaneously with VO on. This setting stays the way you set it, even if VO goes off. Doing this means you only have to press the right arrow to move forward a paragraph, instead of pressing ControlOption-Right Arrow.

Turning Key Repeat Off

Accidentally holding down the forward arrow key, or the page down, or page up key, for too long can be very frustrating as you read with VoiceOver, since you quickly go beyond where you want to be. This problem is easy to solve by just going to Apple Preferences on your Mac desktop or laptop, select keyboard and the keyboard tab, and then turn “key repeat” to off (by moving the slider all the way to the left). You can always turn key repeat back on if you want.

Using “Reader” and Pocket

Many articles on the Internet can be reformatted instantly to enlarge font size and cut out all the junk advertisements. Do this whenever possible. Text cleaned up either way is much easier to read, or copy and paste for further pagination. “Reader” comes as part of iOS 5. “Pocket” is a free app you download.

Different Ways to Run Controls

There are two different ways to turn on VoiceOver and operate the other controls, depending on whether you are using an iOS devise or a Mac computer. We provide a set of directions for each choice.

Furthermore, when using an iOS devise, you can use the keys on a keyboard, or strokes on the screen, or both.

Adjusting Brightness and Contrast in Room and on Screen

1. Adjusting Room Darkness

The faster you read, the easier it is to fall asleep, if the lighting is too bright. As the night draws neigh, the room darkens and the iris opens up. This means that the screen will effectively brighten, because the iris will open up. Consequently, as the day darkens the screen  brightness needs to be reduced to prevent falling asleep from too much screen brightness, and there must be sufficient capacity in the darkness scale to do this.

Another way to say this is that when watching a computer screen, the iris sets to the brightest light in the peripheral vision. The central focus may be where the sharp focus is, but this focus does not set the iris opening. Your peripheral vision sets your iris opening.

During bright daylight hours, the screen will need to be brighter. The iris opening will close as it adjusts to the bright daylight around the outside of the computer screen. This is why the screen often needs to be a little brighter during the day. However, too much screen brightness and you will instantly fall asleep. For this reason, overall room brightness needs to be controlled.

2. Shades

The best way to quickly and cheaply control the light in a room is to read in a room without windows, or to use thick pull-shades on the windows, which can be quickly drawn down. Blinds should be down on windows during the bright daylight hours. Again, never read against the bright daylight, with or without sun, or you will quickly fall asleep.

3. Blank Wall or Foam Pad

Reading in front of a blank wall (with no windows) is ideal. Alternatively, looking at a  piece of white foam board is also far preferable to seeing all the details of window fenestration, with patches of brightness seeping through the shades here and there. Shading on the side windows should be combined with a removable, large pad, located just behind the iPad for blocking all light directly in front of the reader, if there are windows which your chair faces.

This lack of distracting detail is just as much to be appreciated as the absence of too much light, with it hourly change. This small board provides the same effect as facing a blank wall.

If you are outside on the beach, or in open daylight, use sunshades and a baseball hat and/or wear a sheet over your head and computer. Otherwise, the contrast between the computer screen and the sky will be too great (too much brightness in your field of vision) and you will quickly fall asleep as soon as you start to read fast.

4. Screen Brightness

Adjust the screen brightness as desired to prevent falling asleep from too much screen contrast. After the sun goes down and during the night when the lights are out, the computer screen will need to be darker. Otherwise, you will simply fall asleep.

On a modern Mac keyboard there are F keys for raising or lowering the brightness. If you are not using a Keyboard, and you are using an iOS device, press the home Key twice and move to the left of the options, and you will see the sliding scale for brightness, which you should adjust.

If you are using a desktop computer and an external monitor, you may have to control the brightness by controls on the screen.

To Start Reading Text

To start text reading in many articles, you will often have to click on the text with your mouse, or use the scroll bar, or move forward a screen at a time (by pressing option and down arrow, or by pressing the page down key). Then you will have to press control or the forward arrow as soon as you are done hearing the text you are looking at, or reading will continue from the last cursor point. Note: If you are in a menu, pressing right arrow moves along the menu.

Note: if no text is selected and your press the forward arrow, you will go back to the beginning of the article. So, when you get to where you want to be, be sure to click on some text, and then press control or right arrow.

Note: If you highlight a link with the mouse, hoping to have it read aloud, you will probably activate the link.

If you move to the next page with a page down command, you will have to activate where you want to start reading, or it will be at the last level. Then you will have to press forward arrow as soon as you are done, or reading will continue from last VO selection.

Read The Specific Tips For iOS Devices Or Tips For Mac Computers

These are separate chapters. They will show you how to start reading with VoiceOver on your particular machine. The techniques are slightly different for each machine.


Improving Comprehension and Speed

  1. 1.Take Our Free Reading Course on the Internet

This free course will help you do two things. First, it will help you overcome bad reading habits and double your speed at normal reading out loud speed, and do so with improved comprehension. Secondly, it will show you how to overcome subvocalization and start to read with an inner voice, asking questions, and turning descriptive text into pictures and movies, as you read with much higher speed and more improved comprehension. All the points below are discussed in our Free Reading Course.

2. Read Just Ahead of the Sound

Read just ahead of the sound, pausing briefly on the longer words and waiting at the punctuation marks for the sound to catch up. Note: Listening to each word as you look at it will only work at the slowest speeds. This is no way to learn how to read faster and with better comprehension.

3. Pause as Long as Necessary

The sound will automatically pause at the end of each sentence for as long as you want to think about what you have read. Advance when ready.

4. Repeat the  Text if Necessary

You can repeat the text as often as necessary.

5. Pause Long Sections

Use the pause control to pause long sentences in mid-stream, if necessary. Press this control again to continue. On a Mac or iOS device, pressing the Control Key toggles reading of the sentence on or off. On a PC you can often press Control and space bar to stop.

6. Look up Words

When the sentence ends, or by using the pause control, pause the text and look up the definitions of word you don’t know. Make a list of these words and definitions for later review. You do not need to type text to look up the words or copy and paste definitions onto a separate list.

7. Read Silently

Do not read out loud, whisper, move your lips, or subvocalize. Use your inner voice.

8. Re-Read Sections That Don’t Make Sense

If a section of text (punctuation interval) does not make sense, reread it. Use your inner voice to help do this. The fastest way to improve speed is to understand what you are reading.

9. Use Your Auditory Memory

Use your auditory memory to review what you have read and to make sure you have understood what you have read.

10. Use Your Visual Memory

If you are reading descriptive text, make picture of the text as you go along. Then connect these pictures into a movie.

11. Think About the Text as You Read

As you read each sentence, think about the questions and answers being presented as you move through the sentence. Also think about how each punctuation relates to the preceding  punctuation interval.

12. Appreciate the Music

There is a specific type of music to appreciate as one reads. This is the cadence and rhythm of the punctuation intervals during the sentence, separated by pauses. Paying attention to this will greatly improve comprehension, as you are thinking in therms of thought blocks and their relationship to one another.

13. Turn Reading Into a Video Game

Use the controls manually for physical control as you try to maximized your comprehension about each point. Be an active reader; think about what you are reading as you use the physical controls to aid comprehension and speed. Doing this will greatly increase your focus and concentration and the length of time you can study in one session.

14. Accelerated Comprehension by Pausing

Pausing is automatic and continuous after each sentence, until actively ended by interactively pressing the forward arrow key to continue. One can go just as fast with the forward arrow key as with automatic advance. But with the pause and forward arrow approach, one can also think as much as necessary on each sentence.

It turns out that you can actually accelerate your comprehension much more by pausing after a sentence is read fast, than by rushing through a paragraph non stop.

15. Automatic Pausing when Attention Drops

Secondly, the program will automatically stop as soon as the attention and focus of the reader wanders, including by falling asleep. The program will stay paused until the reader returns his or her focus and concentration and physical involvement, by pressing the forward arrow key.

16. Multitask at Punctuation Points

Try to pause on the punctuation points, seeing the end of one thought and the beginning of the next thought (punctuation interval). The first word in the new punctuation interval is often a direction word for how to continue, stating the relationship between thoughts. You should think about the relationship with the rest of the upcoming text, in addition to thinking about what was just read. This way you get twice as much done in the pause time between punctuation intervals, or between the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next sentence.

17. Use Peripheral Vision

Try to simultaneously see the first letter of each of a number of words, and continue forward until you get to the punctuation mark, where you see the old and new word. Then pause for the music, and to think about the relationship of old to new. Please note that your peripheral vision will allow you to understand most of most words if you just see the first letter or two of a word clearly. This is a second use of peripheral vision, in addition to helping you know words of one, two, three, or four letters without stopping on them.

18. Additional Techniques

Computer-Voice and Text assistance is meant to help you improve your basic reading speed first at reading out loud rate (150 words per minute), and then at up to 500 words per minute.

To go above 500 words per minute, up to about 1,000 words per minute, build on the techniques presented above by using the additional ideas in the Advanced Reading Issues and Solutions Section.

© Proportional Reading, 2013