Speed Reading

I came across this link by accident, and I hope it’s not the best link out there for speed reading, but it made me remember speed reading so it served a purpose, I guess.

Anyway, I had forgotten about speed reading. One summer while I was in college, waiting the several weeks at the beginning of summer for summer school to begin (I was  rather late bloomer study-wise) and decided to learn speed reading. I don’t remember the title of the book I used, except that it was very large format (at least letter-paper sized) and had all of the exercise texts included. I got the book from the library, and as I remember I had it for 3–weeks. A trip to Amazon.com isn’t prompting anything.

I sat in the basement of the tiny house I rented and learned to speed read. I was really amazed to find it actually worked – I had seen the ads on TV in the 70’s and instinctively thought it was a scam, which was what got me to try it in the first place. But if you practice, and learn the techniques (it’s really pretty simple) it actually does work.

So I’m reading everything really fast now, right? Flipping through magazines and catching every concept, reading novels in less than an hour, etc… Not exactly.

While it does work, it doesn’t work for everything for two reasons: First, it removes the voice in your heard. Most of us were taught to read out loud first, and then to read silently. The problem is that even when we’re reading silently, we’re still reading out loud in our heads. That’s what builds in the slowness of reading, and the barrier to learn to break in speed reading. But it’s also what makes you feel like you’re “in” a novel. I found that without that voice, I might as well be reading a prospectus – there was no presence, no sense of being immersed. Yep, I did get the story in a detached and clinical way, but it was just no fun.

Second, it really depends on good writing to obtain the highest speeds. At the really high speeds, you’re really reading (skimming, actually) the first and last sentence of each paragraph. In normal, high-quality writing this works ok, but for a lot of things (like most email) it just doesn’t work.

Where speed reading really sings is in most business reading, where things are a little dry and you’re really trying to get a few highlights anyway. Or in some cases, things like history. I find that I miss the voice in my head, and it just seems like work without it.

Here are a few more links, that should be more useful:

Suggestions for Improving Reading Speed

Speed reading self pacing methods

Proof that Free is a powerful marketing term

Some brief suggestions for increasing speed

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