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Speed reading is any of several techniques used to improve one's ability to read quickly. Speed reading methods include chunking and eliminating subvocalization. The many available speed reading training programs include books, videos, software, and seminars.
Psychologists and educational specialists working on visual acuity used a tachistoscope to conclude that, with training, an average person could identify minute images flashed on the screen for only one five-hundredth of a second (2 ms). Though the images used were of airplanes, the results had implications for reading.
It was not until the late 1950s that a portable, reliable and convenient device would be developed as a tool for increasing reading speed. The researcher was a schoolteacher named Evelyn Wood. She was committed to understanding why some people were naturally faster at reading than others and was trying to force herself to read very quickly. In 1958, while brushing off the pages of a book she had thrown down in despair, she discovered that the sweeping motion of her hand across the page caught the attention of her eyes, and helped them move more smoothly across the page. She then used the hand as a pacer. Wood first taught the method at the University of Utah, before launching it to the public as Evelyn Wood's Reading Dynamics in Washington, D.C. in 1959.
Skimming is a process of speed reading that involves visually searching the sentences of a page for clues to meaning. For some people, this comes naturally, but is usually acquired by practice. Skimming is usually seen more in adults than in children. It is conducted at a higher rate (700 words per minute and above) than normal reading for comprehension (around 200-230 wpm), and results in lower comprehension rates, especially with information-rich reading material.
Meta guiding is the visual guiding of the eye using a finger or pointer, such as a pen, in order for the eye to move faster along the length of a passage of text. It involves drawing invisible shapes on a page of text in order to broaden the visual span for speed reading. For example, an audience of customers at a speed reading seminar will be instructed to use a finger or pen to make these shapes on a page and told that this will speed up their visual cortex, increase their visual span to take in the whole line, and even imprint the information into their subconscious for later retrieval. It has also been claimed to reduce subvocalization, thereby speeding up reading. Because this encourages the eye to skim over the text, it can reduce comprehension and memory, and lead to missing important details of the text. An emphasis on viewing each word, albeit briefly, is required for this method to be effective.
Commercial speed reading programs
Speed reading programs are available through courses, both in person or software based, and manuals. While the average adult reading rate is 250 words per minute with 70% comprehension, speed reading programs typically claim that improvements to 500 words per minute or more while maintaining or improving comprehension are possible.
One point of difference between the various speed reading courses is the assertions concerning subvocalization. Some courses claim that the main obstacle to speed reading is any form of subvocalization. Although absence of subvocalization might not improve reading speed, its presence might obstruct high speed. These statements are equally valid, since there is no evidence that less subvocalization can improve reading or even can willingly be changed at all. Other courses claim that subvocalization can be used on keywords in order to speed up learning and reading.
Speed reading courses and books take a variety of approaches to the concept of reading comprehension. Some courses and books claim that good comprehension is essential to speed reading, and that comprehension will improve with speed reading. Special non-standardized reading comprehension questionnaires are provided in order to convince the reader of the effects of the program. Some courses advise that while comprehension is important, it should not be measured or promoted. Speed reading courses variously claim that not all information in text needs to be covered while speed reading. Some claim that speed reading involves skipping text (exactly as has been measured during studies on skimming), whereas other speed reading promoters[who?] claim that all of the text is processed, but with some or most becoming subconsciously processed. Similarly, some courses claim that text should be serially processed whereas others say that information should be processed in a more haphazard or ad hoc fashion.
Speed reading programs and Standardized Tests
Speed reading can be effective in terms of time management on high-stakes test taking (SAT, GMAT, LSAT, GRE, SSAT etc.) whereby some companies such as Test Prep New York integrate it into their test preparation curriculum, and claim their students increase their speed up to 400% speed improvement and have average of 13% score improvement on the Verbal section.
Legentas is an online training course that promises to teach how to read 2x faster without losing comprehension. By increasing a vision span and smoothing fixations it claims to increase reading speed to 500 words per minute. It is based on interactive exercises rather than video lectures or text advice and instructions. Legentas is available in English, German, Russian, Indonesian, Portuguese, Czech and Slovak. It has been used by 11,000+ students. It is a winner of Vodafone Idea of the year 2012 competition.
Reading Dynamics is the speed reading system taught by Evelyn Wood. It was endorsed by President John F. Kennedyand other famous figures[who?] as a means of remembering the information from thousands of words read per minute.
The system centers on moving one's hand across the page in order to maintain eye focus on the words. Like most speed reading systems, it also suggests trying to suppress the instinct of subvocalisation or "thinking aloud", instead focusing on the meaning of the words without being limited by the time it would take to mentally pronounce the syllables.
PhotoReading is a commercial product promoted by Learning Strategies Corporation with the phrase PhotoRead at 25,000 words a minute. Doubts have been raised about the ability of the brain to take in such a quantity of data at once. The human vision span is somewhat limited for this purpose if peripheral vision is not used.
The PhotoReading system was said to be developed by Paul Scheele, co-founder of Learning Strategies. A company called Subliminal Dynamics claimed that Scheele took a related seminar on subliminal processing with them, which Scheele referenced on page 4 of the first chapter in the first edition of his book. According to Scheele, PhotoReading differs from their system in at least three ways (quoted here verbatim):
- "The key is not subliminal perception. The key is the brain's capacity for preconscious processing. I've spent my years developing a protocol to capture this capacity and put it reliably in the hands of our clients. (Reference the work of N.F. Dixon from England, and P. Lewicki at Tulsa University, Oklahoma)."
- "Neuro-Linguistic Programming is the basis for our techniques of putting folks in contact with the resources of the non-conscious data storage systems of the brain for activation and recall."
- "Accelerative, brain-based teaching and learning are essential in the design and delivery of our programs, including the design of the book."
- These results clearly indicate that there is no benefit to using the PhotoReading technique. The extremely rapid reading rates claimed by PhotoReaders were not observed; indeed the reading rates were generally comparable to those for normal reading. Moreover, the PhotoReading expert showed an increase in reading time with the PhotoReading technique in comparison to normal reading. This increase in reading time was accompanied by a decrease in text comprehension. These results were found for two standardized tests of text comprehension and for three matched sets of expository texts.
Computer programs are available to help instruct speed reading students. Some programs present the data as a serial stream, since the brain handles text more efficiently by breaking it into such a stream before parsing and interpreting it. The 2000 National Reading Panel (NRP) report (p. 3-1) seems to support such a mechanism.
To increase speed, some older programs required readers to view the center of the screen while the lines of text around it grew longer. They also presented several objects (instead of text) moving line by line or bouncing around the screen; users had to follow the object(s) with only their eyes. A number of researchers criticize using objects instead of words as an effective training method, claiming that the only way to read faster is to read actual text. Many of the newer speed reading programs use built-in text, and they primarily guide users through the lines of an on-screen book at defined speeds. Often the text is highlighted to indicate where users should focus their eyes; they are not expected to read by pronouncing the words, but instead to read by viewing the words as complete images. The exercises are also intended to train readers to eliminate subvocalization, though it has not been proven that this will increase reading speed.
Effect on comprehension
Skimming alone should not be used when complete comprehension of the text is the objective. Skimming is mainly used when researching and getting an overall idea of the text. Nonetheless, when time is limited, skimming or skipping over text can aid comprehension. Duggan & Payne (2009) compared skimming with reading normally, given only enough time to read normally through half of a text. They found that the main points of the full text were better understood after skimming (which could view the full text) than after normal reading (which only read half the text). There was no difference between the groups in their understanding of less important information from the text.
In contrast, other findings suggest that speed reading courses which teach techniques that largely constitute skimming of written text result in a lower comprehension rate (below 50% comprehension on standardized comprehension tests) (Carver 1992).
Claims of speed readers
||This article may contain excessive, poor, or irrelevant examples. (December 2007)|
The World Championship Speed Reading Competition stresses reading comprehension as critical. The top contestants typically read around 1,000 to 2,000 words per minute with approximately 50% comprehension or above. The world champion is Anne Jones with 4,700 words per minute with 67% comprehension. The 10,000 word/min claimants have yet to reach this level.
Much controversy is raised over this point. This is mainly because a reading comprehension level of 50% is deemed unusable by some educationalists (Carver 1992). Speed reading advocates claim that it is a great success and even state that it is a demonstration of good comprehension for many purposes (Buzan 2000). The trade-off between "speed" and comprehension must be analyzed with respect to the type of reading that is being done, the risks associated with mis-understanding due to low comprehension, and the benefits associated with getting through the material quickly and gaining information at the actual rate it is obtained.
A critical discussion about speed reading stories appeared in Slate. Among others, the article raises doubts about the origin of John F. Kennedy's allegedly amazing reading speed. Ronald Carver, a professor of education research and psychology, claims that the fastest college graduate readers can only read about 600 words per minute, at most twice as fast as their slowest counterparts. Other critics have suggested that speed reading is actually skimming, not reading.
|Wikibooks has more on the topic of: Speed reading|
- Fixation (visual)
- Rapid Serial Visual Presentation
- Slow reading
- Vision span
- Words per minute
- Edward C. Godnig, O.D. (2003). "The Tachistoscope Its History & Uses" (PDF). Journal of Behavioral Optometry 14 (2): 40. Retrieved April 13, 2012.
- Frank, Stanley D (1994). The Evelyn Wood Seven-Day Speed Reading and Learning Program. Cambridge University Press. p. 40. ISBN 9781566194020.
- Smith, Brenda D. "Breaking Through: College Reading" 7th Ed. Longman, 2004
- Carver, R.P-Prof (1990) Reading Rate: A Comprehensive Review of Research and Theory.
- Abela (2004) Black Art of Speed Reading lecture notes
- "Legentas.com". Retrieved 10 April 2014.
- "Nápadem roku 2012 je Rozečti.se". Ekonom. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
- Scheele, Paul R. "The PhotoReading Whole Mind System" Wayzata, Minnesota: Learning Strategies Corporation. 1993.
- Scheele, Paul (2000). "Thread - Official Statement About Scheele". Learning Strategies Corporation]. Retrieved 27 October 2006.
- Dr Danielle S. McNamara (January 2000). "Preliminary Analysis of Photoreading". Retrieved October 2012.
- Duggan, GB.; Payne, SJ. (Sep 2009). "Text skimming: the process and effectiveness of foraging through text under time pressure.". J Exp Psychol Appl 15 (3): 228–42. doi:10.1037/a0016995. PMID 19751073.
- Carver, R.P. "Reading rate: Theory, research and practical implications.". Journal of Reading 36: 84–95.
- "John F. Kennedy on Leadership".
- "American Experience".
- "The 1,000-Word Dash". Slate. Feb 18, 2000.
- "The Skeptic's Dictionary".
||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (October 2012)|
- Allyn & Bacon, (1987) The Psychology of Reading and Language Comprehension. Boston
- Buzan (2000) The Speed Reading Book. BBC Ltd
- Carver, R.P-Prof (1990) Reading Rate: A Comprehensive Review of Research and Theory.
- Carver, R. P. (1992). Reading rate: Theory, research and practical implications. Journal of Reading, 36, 84-95.
- Cunningham, A. E., Stanovich, K. E., & Wilson, M. R. (1990). Cognitive variation in adult college students differing in reading ability. In T. H. Carr & B. A. Levy (Eds.), Reading and its development: Component skills approaches (pp. 129–159). New York: Academic Press.
- Educational Research Institute of America (2006). A Review of the Research on the Instructional Effectivenessof AceReader. Report No. 258.
- Harris and Sipay (1990) How to Increase Reading Ability. Longman
- FTC Report (1998)  
- Homa, D (1983) An assessment of two “extraordinary” speed-readers. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 21(2), 123-126.
- McBride, Vearl G. (1973). Damn the School System—Full Speed Ahead!
- National Reading Panel (2000). p. 3-1.
- Nell, V. (1988). The psychology of reading for pleasure. Needs and gratifications. Reading Research Quarterly, 23(1), 6-50
- Perfetti (1995) Reading Ability New York:Oxford University Press
- Schmitz, Wolfgang (2013) Schneller lesen - besser verstehen [Reading faster - understanding better, German], Rowohlt, 8th edition
- Scheele, Paul R (1996) The Photoreading Whole Mind System
- Stancliffe, George D (2003) Speed Reading 4 Kids
- Whitaker (2005) Speed Reading Wikibooks
- Abela (2004) Black Art of Speed Reading
- Zach Davis (2009) PoweReading. Informationswelle nutzen, Zeit sparen, Effektivität steigern (German). Peoplebuilding Verlag.
- "BBC-Improve your skim reading technique". bbc.co.uk. BBC. Retrieved 24 October 2012.