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Can People Really
Learn to 'Speed Read'?

Original Article

Posted By: StormCnter, 12/2/2019 9:02:46 AM

There never seems to be enough time to read these days. With so many books and articles — especially all those shared on social media (maybe even this one) — the ability to read faster could be a life-changer. Which is why so many classes, books and apps claim they can get you to read faster — much faster. The problem is that true speed reading — a boost in reading speed by at least three times without any loss in comprehension — isn't supported by the science. "Speed reading is not actually possible," said Elizabeth Schotter, a cognitive scientist at the University of South Florida.


But Evelyn Wood's acolytes made a lot of money saying otherwise.

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Reply 1 - Posted by: Rather Read 12/2/2019 9:09:14 AM (No. 250688)
I'm not sure what I do is speed reading, but I can read very, very fast. I've always been able to, but I can't explain how I do it.
9 people like this.

Reply 2 - Posted by: MMC 12/2/2019 9:18:44 AM (No. 250697)
Reading is a skill! I devour novels in great rapidity.. text books not so much.. Reading for pleasure bs reading for content. There are ways to speed up reading- as in contextual clues.. people that create mental pictures along with reading find greater joy in reading. As in life, if you think you can you can- if you think you can’t you can’t ..
4 people like this.

Reply 3 - Posted by: TruthFetish 12/2/2019 9:26:29 AM (No. 250706)
It only takes me half a second to speed through a New York Times article to devour any truth that may be lurking in it.
19 people like this.

Reply 4 - Posted by: bpl40 12/2/2019 9:39:25 AM (No. 250722)
Comprehension is the key. It drops disproportionately as speed is pushed beyond a certain limit. Took a week long program under Corporate training years ago. Never risked using it for business reading.
6 people like this.

Reply 5 - Posted by: DVC 12/2/2019 9:55:12 AM (No. 250735)
I can read about 300-400 wpm with full comprehension, and can (what I call) 'scan' much faster, but at the cost of missing fine details and losing the enjoyment of reading well crafted prose. With good writing, speed reading is a travesty, IMO, kinda like using fine food for a hot dog eating contest.
10 people like this.

Reply 6 - Posted by: bad-hair 12/2/2019 10:04:38 AM (No. 250747)
Took the Evelyn Wood thing in high school (free) as part of a student group for one of my teacher's post grad degree. Only ever used it maybe 20% of the time. Reading for technical reasons the fine details are important. Reading for pleasure, if I was in a hurry I'd be someplace else.
6 people like this.

Reply 7 - Posted by: DynomiteThings 12/2/2019 10:10:53 AM (No. 250758)
Reading is my favorite past time and I've never thought to "speed read" as I truly enjoy the journey of reading a good book. Heck, sometimes I'll slow down my pace because I don't want the book to end! I often highlight and read just one sentence over and over again because I found it so beautifully written. Interesting article nonetheless.
13 people like this.

Reply 8 - Posted by: Lawsy0 12/2/2019 10:41:41 AM (No. 250781)
When I first entered the banking business in 1968, the first class I took was Evelyn Wood's speed reading class. I enjoyed it AND my reading speed and my comprehension improved. I don't really care if it ''works'' because it worked for me.
4 people like this.

Reply 9 - Posted by: Terry_tr6 12/2/2019 10:53:21 AM (No. 250790)
We were taught speed reading in 7th or 8th grade. some people really increased their speed and testing showed we still had very good comprehension. I was one of the ones who took to it. I suspect the increase in speed closely paralleled IQ scores from observing the reading speed of other students.....
6 people like this.

Reply 10 - Posted by: coldoc 12/2/2019 11:01:47 AM (No. 250800)
I dont know who's system it was, but it was a required freshman course in college. Believe me, we were tested on our comprehension for years.
3 people like this.

Reply 11 - Posted by: SabraJet 12/2/2019 11:17:11 AM (No. 250812)
No, at least I can't. I took a speed reading course years ago and although I still remember the main plot of the book, the beauty off the writing was lost on me. It was Steinbeck's The Pearl. Years later I reread it slowly and saw what I had missed. A work of fiction is more then a plot. And books that require facts to be learned would be a problem.
3 people like this.

Reply 12 - Posted by: PChristopher 12/2/2019 11:19:03 AM (No. 250818)
You can read pretty quickly once you look at words as symbols with distinct meanings rather that can be quickly grasped rather than sounding out each word in your head, which is just painful. Watching someone move their lips while they read is painful, too, like chewing with their mouth open.
1 person likes this.

Reply 13 - Posted by: BarryNo 12/2/2019 11:26:05 AM (No. 250823)
I'm a natural speed reader. However, I have gotten faster, as I increased my vocabulary.. At speed, a printed word assumes a shape - 'face recognition' as it were as you proceed through the page. Each recognition also immediately causes you to anticipate other word groups. The whole thing ends up creating - not a picture but a sort of... tapestry or scroll that flows from one idea to the next. A lot of people never interest themselves enough in the written word to access this talent. You cannot 'Learn' what you do not practice.
3 people like this.

Reply 14 - Posted by: earlybird 12/2/2019 11:28:12 AM (No. 250826)
Like #1, I read very fast. Always have. And like #1, I cannot explain how I do it.
2 people like this.

Reply 15 - Posted by: earlybird 12/2/2019 11:30:45 AM (No. 250829)
(hit submit too soon) I also see the mental pictures that another poster remarked about. I remember seeing “Gone With the Wind” after I’d read the book (in 3 days) at age 14. The casting for the movie was perfect, in my opinion. The actors cast were exactly as I had pictured the book’s characters as I read.
2 people like this.

Reply 16 - Posted by: davew 12/2/2019 11:46:02 AM (No. 250843)
It depends on the amount of "information" in the material being read. For most technical papers or scientific literature I need to read very slowly and go back and forth to fully understand the concepts and any equations or mathmatics involved. On the other hand, I can speed read most fiction books or other entertainment reading because they follow fixed conventions and are highly redundant in their information. I think I read "The Divinci Codes" in about 2 hours years ago. I generally don't like reading fiction because it doesn't provide useful information and is mostly about memories and feelings. I can't even listen to fiction audiobooks because they are like really detailed radio programs that take way to long to make a point.
1 person likes this.

Reply 17 - Posted by: Sandpiper 12/2/2019 11:46:16 AM (No. 250844)
My late husband was a self-taught speed reader and he would fit into # 9’s observation about IQ. I can’t ask him now about his comprehension but all the time I knew him he just devoured novels and read more technical papers than anyone else I knew.
1 person likes this.

Reply 18 - Posted by: CharlyG 12/2/2019 11:59:37 AM (No. 250858)
I took a speed reading course back in the day. I forget my exact speed, but the final was "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest". I read it in 45 minutes and got 85% on the comprehension test. Having not read the book before, and having read it that fast, there is no way I would have answered the symbolism questions if I did not retain what I had just read. It is empirical data that is true.
1 person likes this.

Reply 19 - Posted by: JimBob 12/2/2019 2:06:55 PM (No. 250951)
My experience has elements mentioned in several earlier replies. I took a couple of 'Speed Reading' classes in high school (Herndon, VA, 1974) where the technique they taught was to not move one's eyes back and forth, but to look at the center of a line of text, absorb the complete line all at once, then go to the next line. I could 'parrot back' the information I read pretty well (and so got a good 'comprehension' grade)..... but that information would fade away, and a couple of hours later it would be pretty much gone. I can read pretty fast when I need to, but the 'amount of information per sentence' is critical. Most novels and fiction I can skim quickly -if I want to- but then what's the point, as DVC (#5) said- like wasting 'fine dining' food in a hot-dog eating contest. With certain types of 'business' writing, there is often a bunch of boilerplate to skim through, then I slow down as needed to gather the information that is scattered here and there throughout the text. With technical papers or articles, I need to read slowly and carefully if I want to really -and accurately- absorb the information. How fast can you play- or understand- your 'inner voice'? How fast can you really learn the information? For me, my 'inner voice' can go pretty fast. On the other hand, seeing someone who actually moves their lips as they mumble the words they are reading.... it IS painful to watch them crawling along so slowly. It seems to me that each person is an individual, each of us is different, each of us reads -and comprehends- at different speeds, and each of us reads at different speeds depending on what we are reading and the style in which it is written.
2 people like this.

Reply 20 - Posted by: Hermit_Crab 12/2/2019 2:43:06 PM (No. 250972)
My parents had me go through a speed reading course when I was about 16... (They thought it would get my grades up). It wasn't Evelyn Wood... I think it was called "Readwell".... anyway, I was already an above average reader 300WPM+ with good comprehension. At the end of the course, I was reading a thousand words a minute, with 90% comprehension / retention. I actually didn't like the change; Because I enjoyed the act of reading... I spent most of my pocket money on paperback novels in those days... Louis L'Amour Westerns, Sword & Sorcery Fantasy, Arthur C. Clarke type Sci-fi, Detective novels, etc. Read two or three a week, prior to the course. After the course I'd finish one in an hour or two . It got real expensive, and I still managed to go through about half the books in the school library over the next couple of years, whether I had much interest in the topic or not.. After those couple of years, it started to wear off, and five years later I was pretty much back to my original speed, It was a good thing, because my paperback novels were going up in price faster than my pocket money increased.
1 person likes this.

Reply 21 - Posted by: steph_gray 12/2/2019 6:25:20 PM (No. 251084)
I also taught myself to speed-read in college when assignments often included multiple books per week. One professor prevented a course on science fiction from becoming a"gut" by assigning a long paper and several books a week. I therefore stayed up to read the entire Foundation Trilogy in a single night. Necessity is the mother of invention... Since then fiction has always been the fastest read; I go through it like a knife through butter. But I also re-read books I like many times, purely for the pleasure of it. This is how I came to read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (which I also finished in a weekend the first time) over 30 times. These days speed-reading is essential for long comments sections here and at the conservative treehouse. It helps to read everything said beforehand, so as not to repeat the same thoughts endlessly. And so many of the commenters are well worth reading!
0 people like this.

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