Speed-Reading: My Journey Begins

In North American folklore, there lies many legends and tall tales. Bigfoot, the chupacabra, the yeti, speed reading, etc.

I’ve gotten a few books over the years on speed-reading in particular. Evelyn Wood popularized speed-reading by teaching JFK (as the legend goes). But is it real? Well if you search for it on the web, you will find there are plenty of questionable offers right along side penis-enlargement, and offers from the King of Nigeria. However, it remains appealing to me because “what if it is real?”. I mean, I don’t like reading – but I do read a lot, and the process is very inefficient and unpleasant. There must be a better way, right?

But wait, the “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is” alarm is going off in my head. If speed reading was real, why isn’t every student in every country pursuing this? This would be by-far, the best single investment in one’s life that could be made. I mean, this is life-changing, right? To increase your reading (and increase comprehension) several fold?? This affects everything from how much free time you’d have (by not reading), up to how much you accomplish in terms or higher education as well as professional development. Never mind the ramifications for reading for pleasure!! (which I’ve read about, but don’t understand – how can reading be enjoyable?).

Yet, I don’t know a single person who speed reads or when asked, knows anyone who can. So, what is the deal?

Well, earlier I ran across this 5-part teaser video of a guy presenting at Ohio State University: http://www.youtube.com/user/speedreadingclasses#p/u/18/RmQiOEC8UnM – they do ILT sessions, but no webcasts or DVD’s. So, what’s on YouTube isn’t complete. Great presentation though, and they bring up a lot of good points – like that we use our learning skills we learned in first grade, and don’t ever attempt to become more efficient with our reading!

The video is really just a teaser to go to their classroom sessions, but it still did cover the basics that we all read slow because:

  • Our eyes stop on every word, when we don’t need too.
  • We “sub-vocalize” (in our head) every word we read, which means we can never read faster than we talk. However, our brains are capable of far, far more.

A good demonstration of this is this little demo of the RSVP add-in for FireFox: http://www.youtube.com/user/speedreadingclasses#p/u/21/MuszcoVL3lA

I shouldn’t give away the ending, but you can actually “read” 400 words per minute, without any training and without too much difficulty. This tells me that this whole speed-reading thing is probably real. So, I intend to give this an “honest go” again, where I’m going to see if I can find software, training, etc that can help me do this. I didn’t find books very helpful (ironically) because they haven’t been specific enough to explain the actual techniques about finger placement on the page, how big the “chunks” should be where my eye fixates, etc. Without knowing someone who already knows this, trying to learn a concept from a book alone, I have found doesn’t work well for me.

I’m going to wander off on this little side-journey starting today. If I find anything useful (good or bad), I’ll post up here again. This seems like too important of an idea to leave unexplored…

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