Average Reading Speed

By Age and Grade Level

Why should we be concerned about how to improve our average reading speed? The fact is, reading faster makes learning much easier. Reading speed impacts our ability to comprehend text.

Table of Contents

Average Reading Speed Overview

Reading too slowly impairs our comprehension as it is hard to hold a complete thought in place. When you read slowly, the action of reading is inefficient and makes it difficult to focus on and attend to what you read.

Reading too quickly and speed reading can lead to poor comprehension as supporting details are often lost. This makes me think of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This chair is too big, this one is too small, ah, this one is just right. 

When your average reading speed is just right, you read fluently with comprehension.

So, the question remains, should we improve our reading speed? The first answer is, yes. If you are a student and not reading at the average rate for your grade level, you should work on improving your reading rate. That will actually be the sweet spot, or as Goldilocks said, “This one is just right.”

At-Home and Online Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

Average Reading Speed by Age and Grade Level

The chart below includes the average reading fluency rates by grade level and age.

Grade Level and AgeWords-Per-Minute
1st Grade (Spring)
6-7 years old
53 – 111 wpm
2nd Grade (Spring)
7-8 years old
89 – 149 wpm
3rd Grade (Spring)
8-9 years old
107 – 162 wpm
4th Grade (Spring)
9-10 years old 
123 – 180 wpm
5h Grade (Spring)
10-11 years old
139 – 194 wpm
6th-8th Grade (Spring)
11, 12, 13, 14 years old
150 – 204 wpm
Highschool
14, 15, 16, 17, 18 years old
200 – 300 wpm
College
18-23 years old
300 – 350 wpm
Adults 220 – 350 wpm
Hasbrouck, J. & Tindal, G. (2017) – Brysbaert, M. (2019)

In order to improve reading speed, there are specific skills that need to be nurtured. Any student, no matter what their age can learn to read faster.

How fast do you and your kids read? Take the reading speed test.


Pages Per Hour Average Reading Speed (College Students)

Based on research from Rosalind Streichler, Ph.D., Center for Teaching Development, University of California, San Diego; Karron G. Lewis, Ph.D., Associate Director, Center for Teaching Effectiveness. Division of Instructional Innovation and Assessment, The University of Texas at Austin; and research conducted at Cambridge University in England; we can assume that the average college student can read 250 words per minute and that the average textbook has approximately 800 words per page. Therefore, it would take 3.2 minutes to read one page, 32 minutes to read 10 pages, and a little over an hour to read 20 pages. 


Adult Average Reading Speed

It has been thought that the average adult reads at a rate of 300 words per minute. However, Marc Brysbaert from Ghent University in Belgium analyzed 190 studies on reading rate. He found that the average adult reading rate has been overestimated.

Silent reading adults average 238 words per minute and adults that read aloud average 183 words per minute.

With more and more new research on neuroplasticity, we know that even adult’s brains can change their brain structure, make new neuropathways and improve their learning skills. This is done most effectively through consistent practice in short intervals over days. It might be hard to teach an old dog a new trick, but it is possible to improve your average reading speed, even as an adult.

Reading Fluency Training

Reading Program


How do you improve your average reading speed (without sacrificing comprehension)?

The most effective way to improve your average reading speed is to do reading fluency training. Fluency training speeds up your ability to both decode and retrieve information from memory, RAN (Rapid Automatized Naming). 

A second piece of improving fluency is to strengthen your eye movements (eye training). In order to read with skill, your eyes need to move smoothly across the page from left to right (visual tracking).

So, we should look for a moment at research on eye movements. 

Rayner, in 1997, summarized 25 years of research on eye movements. Reading obviously involves eye movements, which are called saccades, This is when the eyes are moving rapidly. The rapid eye movements and tracking are separated by fixations when the eyes are relatively still. Saccade movements typically travel about 6 to 9 letter spaces. They are not impacted by the size of print. The complete perceptual span is larger, extending to 14 or 15 letter spaces to the right and 3 to 4 spaces to the left. It is the saccade movement to the left combined with the perceptual span length that assures that every letter of every word enters the visual field.

brain based learning

Understanding this visual span perception span combination leads us to realize that efficient readers do this easily. About 10-15% of the time, readers also shift back (known as regression) to look back at the material that has already been read. And as the text becomes more difficult, saccade length tends to decrease and regression frequency increases.

If you skip words, repeat words, or have trouble sounding out words, this throws fluency and meaning of the selection off. However, these skills can improve with fluency training.

Fluency Training Improves RAN (Rapid Automatized Naming).

  • A recent study (Wolff, 2014) showed that such training was widely beneficial for reading achievement.
  • To help with reading fluency and visual tracking skills, you should have shapes, letters, numbers and/or symbols listed from left to right. Then, have your students read the objects aloud to improve their rapid naming skills.
  • Rapid Naming Drills
  • Reading Fluency Drill
  • Reading Program
At-Home and Online Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

Speed Reading Debunked

Speed reading per se, the thought of reading at speeds of above 1000 words per minute—much higher than the 200-400 words per minute achieved by the average college-level reader sounds like it would be amazing. The problem though is that it is completely false.

Look back at the example of the visual span. All of the text that is outside of that tiny visual field area is blurry. So the idea promoted by speed reading that we can use our peripheral vision to grasp whole sentences in one go is just…biologically impossible.

Additionally, a study conducted by scientists from the University of California, MIT, and Washington University found that there is a trade-off between speed and accuracy. “Increasing the speed with which you encounter words, therefore, has consequences for how well you understand and remember the text.”

Top Ways to Improve Your Average Reading Speed WPM

So, when we talk about improving reading speed, we are NOT talking about speed reading! We are talking about improving your reading speed and accuracy along with comprehension to a physically sound rate for your age or grade level. 

  • Find your baseline or how many words per minute you currently read accurately. Take the free reading speed test to find out.
  • Train your eyes with phonetic reading drills (just takes 5 to 6 minutes a day 3 to 5 times a week). 
  • Following the practice, read a short selection to continue the progress made with the reading drill and have an opportunity for comprehension practice.
  • Set goals and monitor progress.
  • Set a goal for 10, 15, 20, or even 25 more words per minute to pass the specific practice drill. It should take 3 – 4 days to pass your goal, otherwise, you have not set the goal high enough. If it takes longer, then you’ve set the goal too high.
  • Model reading fluency 
    • Read to your child so they hear the rhythm of a story, book, or selection. 
    • Take turns reading with your child, every other paragraph or page. 
  •  Choral read
    • Choral reading is where you read aloud at the same time as another reader.
    • Choral read with your child with both specific reading drills and stories.
    • Choral read selections, rhymes, or poems.

Next Steps

At-Home Online Reading Program

This year, your kids can improve their reading speed, comprehension, spelling, and more in our at-home and online summer reading program. This program is research-based and is results-driven. The program takes 45-60 minutes a day and is 4 days a week with an optional Friday.

Learn More about the Reading Program

At-Home and Online Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

Reading Speed Test

We have put together leveled reading passages that you can use to time yourself or your child. The free reading speed test will help you understand how your student’s reading speed and accuracy, reading fluency, compares to other students in their grade level.

Go to the Reading Speed Test

Reading Fluency Training

Download the first drill of our custom-designed reading fluency training. The first sets of words have extra space between the letters, highlighting or emphasizing the letter or letter combination being studied. In our program, the drills are organized according to phonic rules and letter combinations that are used in reading. Each drill builds upon prior drills, providing continual review and mastery of all concepts.

› Download the Free Reading Drill

Reading Fluency Training

Download Free Reading Drill

Research Supports Reading Fluency

Students who read slowly typically have difficulty sounding out words, focusing, and attending to reading content. As a result, both their comprehension and writing skills are impacted.

Multiple studies by Palmer, Bashir, and Hook found a strong positive correlation between reading fluency, reading comprehension, and writing skills.

If a reader does not recognize words quickly enough, the meaning will be lost.

Reid Lyon, Ph.D., stated in 1997, “While the ability to read words accurately is a necessary skill in learning to read, the speed at which this is done becomes a critical factor in ensuring that children understand what they read. As one child recently remarked, ‘If you don’t ride a bike fast enough, you fall off.’ Likewise, if the reader does not recognize words quickly enough, the meaning will be lost… If the reading of the words on the page is slow and labored, the reader simply cannot remember what he or she has read, much less relate the ideas they have read about to their own background knowledge.”

A 2017 study by Taylor, Davis, and Rastle showed that learning to read by sounding out words (phonics) has a dramatic impact on both the accuracy of reading aloud and on comprehension. Researchers tested whether learning to read by sounding out words is more effective than focusing on whole-word meanings. Their results suggest that early literacy should focus on phonics (letters-to-sounds) rather than on teaching sight-word strategies (whole language approach).

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