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A kid who just started to read puts a lot of effort in processing sentences. These efforts will decrease as he/she gets older and, at some point (around 12, 15?), will read as fast as an adult.

Is there an age when reading speed becomes stable enough to be considered as adult speed?

My guess is that it should depend on each individual (particular pleasure/difficulty to read, variable exposition to written material), but there should be an average measure. I searched the web for some references without success - maybe this question was answered long before the digital era.

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The problem is that there is a wide range of reading abilities among adults. A recent newspaper article summarized research findings that one third of German adults read like ten year olds. So who do you want to compare children with? Adults in general? Then, obviously, ten year olds read as good as some adults. The best adults? Then, again obviously, many children will never in their lives reach this level of ability. –  what Dec 13 '13 at 15:14
    
True. I'am more interested in central tendencies. The one that is useful to depart the best readers from normal readers. –  Macduff Dec 13 '13 at 16:28
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

vand den Bos et al (2002)

van den Bos et al (2002) summarises research over various ages. They reported:

The reading task was to read in 1 min, as fast and accurately as possible, the unique and unrepeated words of a stan- dardized word-reading test. Results indicate that word-reading speed and naming speeds of colors and pictures continue to increase into mature adulthood.

Figure 1 (shown below) indicates that reading speed got quicker over time.

reading speed by age

They conclude with :

This is interpreted as supporting the the- ory that describes reading recognition development as a domain-specific learning process with reciprocally facilitating links to alphanumeric symbol-naming speed development.

References

  • van den Bos, K. P., Zijlstra, B. J., & lutje Spelberg, H. C. (2002). Life-span data on continuous-naming speeds of numbers, letters, colors, and pictured objects, and word-reading speed. Scientific Studies of Reading, 6(1), 25-49.
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So somewhere just after 16, as the (12-16) difference is slightly bigger than the (16-46) difference on letters. Funny that this maturation moment, when one reads as an adult, had not been investigated more systematically. Thanks Jeromy - the picture/word contrast is very interesting too. –  Macduff Dec 14 '13 at 16:46
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