Speed Reading FAQ

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Speed Reading FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

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Attention? Need for speed? Sound barrier?
Comprehension and speed? Reading from screens? Subvocalization?
Concentration? Reading poetry or the Bible? Tachistoscope?
Everybody at 1000 wpm? Reading and animated graphics? Time to speed read?
Hand scanning? Reducing fixation time? Visual Span?
Meaning of hieroglyphics? Regression? 25,000 wpm?
How to make them read?
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Speed Reading Answers (Part I)


Attention?   [ Top ]

If you consider attention as focusing both on perception and comprehension, attention provides the real key to speed reading. More and more experiments in neuropsychology and artificial intelligence are showing that thinking is built on perceptive foundations. Our senses do not mislead us as philosophers used to say, actually they shape our understanding. Training the visual system in conjunction with analysis, criticism and synthesis is the key to reading improvement.

Comprehension and Speed?   [ Top ]

How can comprehension increase with speed? It can, because of the characteristics of working memory. Who gets a better and deeper comprehension of music, the experienced conductor or the novice musician? The latter reads one note at a time, about 100 times slower. Consider also a chess master simultaneously playing against 30 opponents. As you will discover with FReader the same properties of memory apply to the well trained reader.

Concentration?   [ Top ]

Concentration is a very efficient way to improve reading. To be informed that a quiz will be performed after a reading test, like the one on this site, is often sufficient to improve speed by 20%, as well as enhancing comprehension. Thus speed and concentration go together. Think about what happens when you are skiing, jogging, bike riding or driving a car: concentration automatically increases with speed as perception and anticipation improve. Thus when you read concentrate, analyze, criticize and keep on the pace!

Everybody at 1000 wpm?   [ Top ]

Among the readers learning to speed read about 20% will never overtake the sound barrier of 400 wpm. They need to sound each word with their inner voice during the reading process. This is not the same phenomenon as subvocalization that limits speed to 250 wpm. However 400 wpm is an appropriate speed for pleasant reading and near top comprehension. Many good readers, not trained to speed reading, but reading abundantly several books a week, are reading at around 350 wpm.

Hand Scanning?   [ Top ]

Finger pointing or hand scanning is a simple way to focus attention, to augment pacing and to limit regressions. This works well with speeds up to 300 wpm. At higher speeds jerky movements distract and the hand hides part of the material thus limiting visual span. If you want to hand scan, we advise scanning down a margin with a pencil without hiding the page. Hand or finger scanning should never have the purpose of achieving a regular eye movement. In any case during finger scanning the eyes will focus on the finger! One fact is unquestionable: the technique does not suit reading from a computer screen.

Meaning of the Hieroglyphics in the Margins?   [ Top ]

As they have been arranged here, they have lost their original meanings. We have used them because they illustrate an interesting phenomenon: reading is an automatic unavoidable process starting as soon as you see familiar characters. Now let's think like an ancient Egyptian. He reads these graphics not as mere graphics but as text. More seriously these hieroglyphics clearly demonstrate a speed reading mechanism. With this writing system the character 'water' can either represent the sound corresponding to 'water' or the idea of water. In this latter case the Egyptian reader had a direct visual access to meaning without the time consuming need to build the sound with his inner voice, just like the good reader today seeing the word 'water'.

How to Make them Read?   [ Top ]

Five years old kids know the answer: read to them! Reading to a child enlarges his vocabulary, makes him deal with more complex sentences than those used in spoken language and develops a privileged relationship with both books and the reader. Reading to children teaches them to read. In his book 'Reads Like a Novel' Daniel Pennac with a stirring plea, advises teachers to read aloud to teenagers to make them love books. Finally, teaching speed reading techniques in schools, to students around the age of 10, would have a highly beneficial influence on reading habits.


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Last modified Dec.2012