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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.
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
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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.
- 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.
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- "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)|
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- Carver, R. P. (1992). Reading rate: Theory, research and practical implications. Journal of Reading, 36, 84-95.
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- Harris and Sipay (1990) How to Increase Reading Ability. Longman
- FTC Report (1998)  
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- 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.