What if you could glance at a page of text and know everything it said just by running your eyes down the middle of the page? Recently, the attractions of speed reading have been revived and promoted mainly due to the fact that we are living in times of information overload and because we are constantly presented with more words than we can possibly cope with. New tactics using our current technology now assist us to handle all of the data we see. Invented by an American schoolteacher back in the 1950’s looking for a way to improve the lives of troubled teenagers, speed reading seems to be coming back into fashion.
It looks like Evelyn Wood and her husband, back in the 1950’s developed reading techniques (they classified as speed reading) to increase reading and comprehension rates dramatically. This was done by teaching people to stop saying or reading words out loud in our heads as we read across the printed page and she promoted a technique of running your finger down the middle of a page while using your peripheral vision. Their philosophy behind speed reading was that reading down the middle of a page technique removes the restrictiveness and rigidity of printed sentences. And so, I’ve been experimenting with many different apps for the past while that utilize this type of technique and it has provided some very unique results.The apps generally use a technology called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP), in which individual words, or blocks of two or three words, appear one after the other in the center of your screen. The rate at which they do so can be set to 300 or 500 or 1,000 words a minute, enabling you to feed in text and books to be “read” faster and faster. And so depending on how much time you put into practicing seems to be the trick for improving for me anyway.
There are two apps or really two platforms that stand out in particular if you are thinking about increasing your ‘words per minute’. The first one is called Spreeder and you can get the app, training, and additional information on their website at: https://spreeder.com. It has apps for your Apple devices, for mac and windows computers.
Spreeder allows you to choose the number of words you see at each moment, and to vary the rate at which these words come at you. I found that I could just about take in three-word chunks of Animal Farm for sense at 800wpm, but that in doing so I not only had a slight feeling of panic in trying to keep up, I lost any sense of the rhythm of language, and with it any of the tone of what was being said.
The other app and platform is called Spritz and you can find more information at their website at: http://spritzinc.com. It was developed by a company in Boston, is based on the idea that much of the time “wasted” in reading is spent in the fractions of seconds as the eye’s focus moves between words and across the page.
Spritz – which drives their main app called ReadMe! – and you can find more information at: http://www.readmei.com . This app offers successive individual words in which one letter, just before the midpoint of each word, is highlighted in red, keeping your focus on that precise point on the screen (the “Optimum Recognition Point”). ReadMe! Has apps for both Android and Apple devices.
After practicing with both types of speed reading apps I found I could just about read simple passages with good understanding at about 700wpm, which would put me above the average reader of 300 wpm – an ability I imagine would become more natural, if not necessarily more comfortable, the longer I practiced it. It has been argued that the subconscious mind can process 20,000,000 bits of information per second; but of those, the conscious mind holds on to only about 40 bits at any moment.
And so, I’m might be of the mindset that rather than trying to read everything you get faster, we might be better advised to read more selectively. As it turns out, studies have shown that a lot of the general information in our lives like email, texts, attachments, and the Internet can be quickly scanned, scrolled and skipped since reading for me still remains a more immersive kind of act, totally dependent on detail.
Interesting note before we finish: I recently read a statement by someone not too long ago that said they took an expensive course in speed reading just to prove that they could read the massive big complicated novel “War And Peace” in 20 minutes. Someone then asked what is was about to which their reply was simply “Its just about Russia”.
Leave a Reply