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Improve Reading with This Simple Tool


Updated June 26, 2014

Girl reading a book
Isabel Pavia/Moment Open/Getty Images
In some cases, reading fluency problems are affected by difficulty with visual tracking. As we read, our eyes scan across the page from left to right. At the end of each line, our eyes glance back to the left to begin the next line. Poor tracking slows reading and affects fluency, which affects understanding of the material. A quick and easy way to improve tracking and increase reading speed is to make a simple visual guide. Students with and without learning disabilities will benefit from this handy, easy to make tool in regular or special education classrooms.
Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Improve Reading Speed and Fluency - About 5 Minutes

Here's How:

  1. Choose an index card that is equal to or slightly larger than the column of text on a page of the book you are reading.

  2. Place the card on a sheet of newspaper.

  3. Place the ruler parallel to a long edge of the card, approximately 1/8" from the edge.

  4. Hold the ruler firmly in place, and color the thin, 1/8" edge with the marker. Be careful to color it evenly, leaving no white showing through.

  5. Carefully lift the ruler from the card, and set it aside. Be sure not to smudge the ink, because smudges will distract your gaze and slow your reading speed. If you accidentally smudge the card, flip it over, and try again on the back side.

  6. Make several sizes of guides to use with various textbooks. Keep a guide of the appropriate size in all of your textbooks.

  7. To use the guide, simply place it beneath the first line of your text, using the black line to underline the words. As you read, move the card down the page, one line at a time. Your eyes will be guided by the black line and will lose less time tracking.


  1. As you use the guide, it will become easier.
  2. As always, whether you are using this adaptation for yourself or for students, adapt it to suit your needs. If students have a preference for another color of card, please feel free to use that. The important thing is to use a contrasting color of line on the border of the card. Choose cards that are flat in tone and not glossy.
  3. Some students are sensitive to glare of light on paper and are sensitive to certain contrasting colors. In such cases, have the students choose colors that work for them without causing eye strain or optical illusions.
  4. Pair the Reading Guide with other research-based strategies from your Learning Disabilities Guide to improve your academic success.

What You Need

  • White Index Cards (unlined, various sizes)
  • Black Marker
  • Ruler

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