Age is one of the most important factors that impact reading speed.
We analyzed the current literature regarding reading speed and broke it down into the following 30+ statistics on the average reading speed by age and grade level.
Average silent reading speed (1st through 12th grade)
Reading rate progress with each grade. The progress is fast through age 7-12, then slows down during teenage years (13 to 19).
The data is visually presented in the chart below:
As mentioned, progress in reading speed is fast until the age of 13, when it settles at around 5% during the teenage years:
|Grade||Age||Average reading speed (wpm)||Yearly progress (wpm)||Yearly progress (%)|
Some studies discovered differences in reading rates between boys and girls. In general, girls read at a faster speed compared to boys:
- Female students (9 years old) read at a 2.3% higher rate than male 9-year-olds.
- 13-year old females have a 3.9% higher reading rate than males.
- 17-year old female students read at a 5% higher rate than male students.
Average oral reading speed (1st to 8th grade)
The oral reading rate is lower than silent reading, but it follows the same pattern of progress. It’s expressed as the number of correctly read words per minute (wcpm):
Here is a visual breakdown of the data presented above:
After a 68% increase in reading rate between 1st and 2nd grade, oral reading speed progress settles down and finally plateaus after age 13:
|Grade||Oral reading speed (wcpm)||Yearly progress (wcpm)||Yearly progress (%)|
Average reading speed in college
Reading speed plateaus during teenage and college years, reaching ~250 wpm. Depending on the skill level (remedial to above-average), here are average reading rates for college students:
Average college student reads:
- 250 words per minute of non-technical material.
- This equates to reading 19 pages per hour*.
- 140 wpm of scientific material, or 11 pages per hour.
Remedial student reading speed is:
- 150 wpm of non-technical material, or 11 pages per hour
- 100 wpm of scientific material, or 8 pages per hour.
For above-average college students, the average reading speed is:
- 500 wpm of non-technical material.
- This equates to reading 38 pages per hour.
- 170 wpm for scientific material, or 13 pages per hour.
*average textbook page = 800 words
Average reading speed for adults and older adults
After a progressive increase in reading speed during pre-teenage years, the reading rate stabilizes at ~250 wpm rate during teenage years and college. Some studies suggest that reading speed increases during college years up to 300-350 words per minute.
As people get older, reading speed starts to decrease. Studies that compared reading rates of different generations established this progression line:
- Reading speed significantly increased from children to teenagers
- It stabilized from teenagers to young adults
- Reading rate was significantly reduced from young adults to adults
Another study points out changes in reading speed for different age categories:
- The increase from 8 to 16 years (140–200 words per minute)
- Stabilization in the range of 16 to 40 years (200 ± 25 wpm)
- Decrease to 175 words per minute by 81 years of age.
Liu (2017) compared the average and maximum reading speed of young adults (age 18-31, mean age 22.6) with older adults (50-73 years old, mean age 58.2), and established that:
- Older adults showed a 30% decrease in reading speed compared to young adults.