Become a Master Reader — in Just 15 Minutes A Day

About a year’s worth of reading, at 15 minutes a day

Want to read better?

Want to learn more vocab, read faster, and understand more?

You can dramatically improve your reading ability — and you don’t even need a tutor. You do need to take one simple step: Commit to reading 15 minutes a day.

I tried an experiment. I read a page of Roald Dahl’s Matilda slowly and carefully, about the pace that I think I would have read it back in third grade.

  • In one minute, I read 175 words.
  • In 15 minutes, I could read 2,625 words
  • In one week, 18,375 words
  • In one year, 955,500 words

So if I read slowly, for just 15 minutes a day, in a year I could read about 956,000 words. With just three extra weeks, I’d be up to one million words.

How many books is 956,000 words? I have some rough word counts below (from here, here, and here), rounded to the nearest thousand.

Books for Younger Readers

  • Bridge to Terabithia: 33,000 words
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: 36,000 words
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: 31,000 words
  • The Giver: 44,000 words

Reading 15 minutes a day for a year, a child could read about 27 children’s books. 27 books! In the amount of time a day it would take to watch a few youtube videos.

Books for Older Readers

  • The Fault in Our Stars: 67,000 words
  • Song of Solomon: 92,000 words
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: 100,000 words
  • Gone with the Wind: 418,000 words
  • The Lord of the Rings: 455,000 words

Reading just fifteen minutes a day for a year, an older kid could read about 14 typical young adult novels. She could read almost ten longer and more advanced novels, like Song of Solomon and To Kill a Mockingbird. She could even read Gone with the Wind in less than six months, leaving time to wrap up The Lord of the Rings by Thanksgiving.

Classics

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: 110,000 words
  • Pride and Prejudice: 121,000 words
  • Great Expectations: 183,000 words
  • Moby Dick: 206,000 words
  • The Brothers Karamazov: 364,000 words

How about that! These five classics total 984,000 words. Someone could cover them all in a little over year — reading just 15 minutes a day.

Now of course it’s not so simple as opening a book and scanning the pages for 15 minutes. You need to look up unfamiliar words. Idioms may require extra thought or explanation. And some days you just have more mental energy than others. But people who take the simple step of reading fifteen minutes a day will dramatically increase their reading ability.

For students, there are important implications for test prep. When I help kids with the SAT, I see a very clear difference between students who read regularly and students who don’t read. On the reading section, occasional readers usually get stuck in the mid-600’s.

  • They know far fewer vocabulary words.
  • They have a harder time decoding the meanings of unfamiliar words.
  • They even have a harder time with the writing section.

By contrast, regular readers can do all of these tasks better. In addition to starting at a higher level, they benefit much more from test practice. Regular reading is one reason why some sophomores have scored 2400, or close to it, on the SAT.

And there are important implications for college as well. Imagine a student who enters college having read 15 minutes a day starting in first grade. That’s 956,000 words a year for 12 years — almost 11.5 million words.

Will students who have read 11.5 million words understand their textbooks better? Will they write better essays? Will they find more creative solutions to intellectual problems? Yes, yes, and yes. Nowadays a college education can cost over $200,000. Regular readers will get the best return on that investment.

So make the commitment — 15 minutes of reading a day. It will be the easiest work you ever do to boost your brain power.

Download my free ebook: Twelve Ways to Improve Your Reading. Learn more vocabulary words. Comprehend difficult passages. Retain more information. Learn the habits of readers in the top 1%.