The Art of Reading Faster

Reading is a favorite pursuit of many but it can be daunting when faced with lengthier novels and assigned academic reading. How is it possible that some people are able to read this kind of material faster than others? Is there truly an art to speed reading? This article will explore techniques that instruct readers on how they can perfect this sought after skill. Let us begin on a journey that will help you to become a great speed reader.
One article entitled “How to Learn Speed Reading” that can be found by visiting http://www.wikihow.com/Learn-Speed-Reading gives a step by step guide to increasing your productivity while reading. The first step proposed is to stop visualizing the spoken word and focus on blocks of text. The second step is to hold the book or screen at a distance as you read to absorb more text at once. Once you have mastered these steps, progress by hiding words you’ve already read so you won’t be tempted to re-read them to understand the context better.
A key part of an efficient reading experience is to read without distractions in a space that is quiet and well lit. Posture is essential as reading while in bed can make you more tired. Additionally, you should try to read at a time when you’re most awake and focused. Concentrate on the most crucial aspects of the text first and ask yourself insightful questions about what you’re reading to stop yourself from daydreaming or becoming distracted by your thoughts.
Even when practicing these techniques, you should try to understand the different types of reading and practice good reading techniques such as carefully reading instead of skimming to understand more difficult parts of the book you’re reading. When you’re practicing these steps, try reading an easy and light book first so you won’t have to think so deeply about the material. You should time your reading speed by perhaps setting a timer and seeing how much reading you can do in a set amount of time. When you encounter a text such as a magazine or newspaper, look at the section headings and headlines to see what you want to read and what you already understand.
Another article written by the Student Counseling Service at the University of Chicago that can be found at http://counseling.uchicago.edu/page/speed-reading-method presents some techniques that have already been mentioned but also suggests using a pen to guide your eyes as you read. You can begin reading at your normal pace and mark where you left off before re-reading the same passage for a minute at a faster speed than before. It has you reiterate this step by reading three times faster than your slowest speed and then asking yourself how much you remember from the passage. The counseling service recommended practicing this process for 10 minutes a day for two weeks to become more comfortable with the art of speed reading, increase your reading speed, and improve your understanding of the text.
A speed reading expert, Dr. Richard L. Feldman, from Columbia University wrote a 10-step article entitled “Speed Reading: 10 Tips to Improve Reading Speed and Reading Comprehension” found on http://www.learningtechniques.com/speedreadingtips.html. His ten steps are as follows:
1. Read earlier in the day when you are most awake and can maintain focus on important material.
2. Organize your reading materials by their degree of importance and then read the material in the order of importance. This will help improve your reading speed.
3. Skim for main ideas in nonfiction books by scanning the table of contents and beginnings and ends of each paragraph. Understanding the book’s structure will help you to know which parts to skim and which parts require more careful reading.
4. Turn headings and subheadings into questions to ponder and then examine the text to find the answers to these questions.
5. Use a bookstand and have your book angled at 45 degrees to avoid straining your eyes.
6. Write short notes after reading letters and then refer to these notes when you’re ready to reply to the sender.
7. Avoid highlighting key portions of the text as this will not improve comprehension of the book.
8. Preview the text before beginning reading.
9. Adjust your reading speed to the type of reading material and purpose for reading.
10. Enroll in a speed reading class taught by an expert on the subject.
Glendale Community College wrote a five method primer on self-pacing while speed-reading. Their primer is on its website at http://english.glendale.cc.ca.us/methods.html. The five methods are named “The Hand”; “The Card”; “The Sweep”; “The Hop”; and “The Zig-Zag.”
“The Hand” is a method that has the reader place their right hand on the page and move it straight down the page so you move your eyes down as you read. Do this at a slow and even pace.
“The Card” technique has you use a card or a folded piece of paper above the line you are trying to read and draw it down the page slowly and evenly and try to read the passage before covering up the words. Slide the card down faster than you can go.
“The Sweep” has you use your hand to draw your eyes across the page. Cup your right hand and keep your fingers together. Using a light and smooth motion, sweep fingers from left to right underlining the line with the tip of your finger. Use your whole arm to move and balance on your arm.
“The Hop” has you lift your fingers and make two bounces on each line. Each time you bounce, you hopefully will read sets of three or four words. This makes it easier for you to keep a steady pace as you read.
“The Zig-Zag” has you take your hand and cut diagonally across the page for three lines and then back to the text. Scan the entire page and pick out the main ideas.
According to a 2012 Forbes article that published the results of a speed-reading test sponsored by Staples as part of an e-book promotion, the typical speeds at which we read and understand at different points in our educational development are as follows:
• Third grade students—150 words per minute
• Eighth grade students—250 words per minute
• Average college student—450 words per minute
• Average “high-level” executive—575 words per minute
• Average college professor—675 words per minute
• Speed readers—1,500 words per minute
• World speed reading champion—4,700 words per minute
• Average adult—300 words per minute
The article’s author then put these rates into context by applying them to typical reading materials of very successful businesspeople. For newspapers and blogs, at the average adult speed of 300 WPM you would spend 33 minutes a day on that part of your reading routine.
For magazines with an average length between 60 and 150 pages, you would spend 75 minutes reading one magazine and successful individuals normally read about five magazines per day. For them, the reading time over a course of a month would be 50 minutes a day. For books with an estimated word count of 100,000 words and the goal to read one book a month, that comes to 11 minutes a day at the average adult reading speed.
Factoring all of this in, you could easily spend at least two hours a day reading at the rate of 300 WPM. For more of the author’s insights on this topic, visit http://www.forbes.com/sites/brettnelson/2012/06/04/do-you-read-fast-enough-to-be-successful/ .
The Staples speed-reading test can be found on http://www.staples.com/sbd/cre/marketing/technology-research-centers/ereaders/speed-reader/.
One reader of this article gave her tips for speed-reading which included reading in phrases rather than word by word and learning to skim the article for its core concepts. The layout of the article would also impact how fast you are able to read it.
Another insightful commenter mentioned that absorbing more useful content could be obtained by listening to the news as you drive to become well-informed and able to reference important stories. You could also listen to audiobooks at the maximum volume to cram more content into a busy week.
One reader mentioned that there should be some scholarly analysis into how reading speed correlates with typing rates as many individuals spend a good part of their day typing. She compared the speed of listening to a book on tape versus reading it in print and then compared this to how fast that text could then be transcribed by writing or typing. She found that reading and typing at the same time averaged out at between three and four times faster than the typical speaking rate of a book-on-tape reader.
An interesting article that criticized the outlandish claims of some speed reading instructors and courses was published on the website of the Skeptic’s Dictionary at http://skepdic.com/speedreading.html. One of these speed reading instructors, Howard Berg, author of Speed Reading the Easy Way, claims that he is able to read 25,000 words per minute which is about 80-90 pages a minute. A professor at UC Berkeley, Anne Cunningham, examined test results that measured eye movements while reading that determined that the maximum amount of words a person can read accurately is about 300 per minute. People who claim to read 10,000 words per minute are really just skimming the material.
The author of the article believed that a better way to increase reading speed would be to enroll in a community college course that would improve study skills, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. It would certainly cost less than a speed reading course such as the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course.
The Evelyn Wood speed reading course is a very well-known program with techniques that have been practiced by US presidents including John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter. John F. Kennedy had Evelyn Wood instructors teach top-level staff members how to increase their reading speed as did Richard Nixon. Jimmy Carter took the course and was able to reach a 1,200 word per minute reading rate with a high comprehension rate. The techniques of the Wood program which was acquired by Encyclopaedia Britannica were explored in a comprehensive book entitled “Remember Everything You Read: The Evelyn Wood 7 Day Speed Reading and Learning Program.”
One technique mentioned was the visual-vertical approach which involves eliminating vocalization of words and replacing it with a visual perception of the material that entails sweeping the eyes vertically down the page. The book stated that the full emotional impact and intellectual understanding of most passages in books is enhanced with the visual-vertical approach to reading.
Another technique is the multiple reading process or layering technique which involves seeing and accepting words and phrases out of their expected order. The layering technique is a five-step process which includes:
1. Overview
a. Quickly skimming the book to determine its organization, structure, and tone
b. See what the cover and jacket state about the contents and author
c. Examine the preface and introduction if there is one
d. Flip through the pages at about one second per page
2. Preview
a. Read at about four seconds per page to draft an outline of the details of the book.
b. Divide the chapter you are reading into sections if it is a nonfiction text. If the work is fictitious, you can preview the book by identifying main characters, setting, time period, and general direction of the plot.
c. Look for key facts and concepts paying close attention to the introduction, summaries, and questions posed by the author.
3. Read
a. Preview the first subsection in a nonfiction book and read that section at your fastest comfortable reading speed and make notations to pinpoint important or difficult material to study later on. This will help you to remain actively engaged with the book.
4. Postview
a. Review the entire reading assignment and think about the relationship of each part of the book to the whole.
5. Review
a. Regularly try to remember what you’ve read and see how it relates to other course materials
It is evident now that there are a variety of techniques for reading faster and with practice perhaps you could also become a great speed reader. Try to remember though that speed reading shouldn’t replace savoring the experience of a good book. The various ways to speed read could certainly apply however to lengthy assigned readings for academic courses. Hopefully this article has allowed you to understand the methods of speed reading and helped you to determine whether speed reading is a skill that you wish to perfect.

Whistling Past the Graveyard

Susan Crandall’s Whistling Past the Graveyard was a book I wanted to read just from looking at an online description of the book. It features a unique protagonist, a 10 year old girl named Starla Jane Claudelle, who was born to two teenage parents. All she wants is to see her family back together again since her mother left her and her dad when she was only three years old to try to become a famous country singer in Nashville.

In the beginning of the novel, Starla is 9 ½ years old and lives in Cayuga Springs, Alabama, with her maternal grandmother. Her father works out on the Gulf on the oil tankers. She doesn’t have the chance to see him too often. She feels that her grandmother hates her because of the way she is treated by her and how she keeps trying to change Starla into someone she doesn’t want to be. Starla is very much a tomboy and loves hanging out in her fort and spending time with her best friend, Patti Lynn.

She decided to run away on July 4 after she was grounded by her grandmother, Mamie, because she broke the nose of a boy who was picking on a five year old girl. She had then pushed the boy’s mother to the ground. On her way walking out of town, she was offered water by a black woman, Eula, who had a white baby boy in the backseat of her car. At first she refused but was so thirsty by then that she couldn’t say no.

Eula offered to take her to Nashville to find her mother. Along the way she found out more about Eula and how she ended up with the baby. They stopped at the home that Eula shared with her boyfriend, Wallace. He was an alcoholic who was very ill-tempered and yelled at her for bringing home the baby and Starla.

Starla learned that Eula was abused by Wallace and that Eula’s life had been a difficult one.  Eula, the baby, and Starla were finally able to escape from Wallace and continue on their journey to Nashville. Along the way they met a woman who was able to provide them with the bus tickets that they would need to get to Nashville.

It was only when they arrived in Nashville did Starla learn the truth about her family and on the way home with her father told him everything that had happened during her time away from home. She had truly grown as a person and learned just how pervasive segregation was in the South during the early 1960s. At times she was even ashamed to be white.

This novel truly opened my eyes to the racial inequalities that existed in the South during this period of time and in some ways continue still today. Starla is a memorable young girl who you feel you can relate to. Although some parts of the novel seemed implausible and at times the book was slow I still relished every moment spent reading this book.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher. It will be published on July 1, 2013.

“Z”: An Extraordinary Woman’s Story

Z by Theresa Ann Fowler is the story of a woman who was quite remarkable for her time and whose marriage to one of the most famous writers in the literary canon has fascinated many over the years. Z is the story of Zelda Sayre’s life from her years growing up in Montgomery to the fateful meeting with a boy with “Irish Sea eyes” that changed the course of her life forever. Zelda was the daughter of an Alabama judge and had a great passion for dance. On the night of her last performance with her dance school she had her first glimpse of the man who would take her on a journey into a world she had never experienced before.

This man was Scott Fitzgerald, a lieutenant with the US Marine Corps, who was briefly stationed in Montgomery before heading off to France to fight in World War I. Zelda and Scott spent a few weeks together before he had to leave for France. Fortunately he never had to face battle and came back to Montgomery again to see her. He told her that he was a writer who had sent his novel to Scribner’s, a publishing house in New York, that was then one of the most prestigious publishing houses in America. Her father thought that he should enter into a profession that would provide him with a more stable livelihood than writing.

Scott proposed to her two years after they met in 1918 and in 1920 Zelda became known as Zelda Fitzgerald once they married in New York at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Scott was now a newly famous writer who had finally had his first novel, This Side of Paradise, published by Scribner’s. He introduced her to some of his former classmates from Princeton and admirers of his work. She was so proud of his great accomplishment and enjoyed the parties and gatherings they went to together.

Things changed though when she became pregnant with her only child, a girl, who was named Frances Scott Fitzgerald and was nicknamed “Scottie” by Scott. At the time of Scottie’s birth, they were living in Paris and met other artists and writers. Zelda began dancing again and started to dabble in writing. Any story of hers that was published though had Scott’s name before hers because of his popularity as a writer.

This was to become one of the many issues that affected their relationship. Scott was very controlling and wanted her to focus more on managing the household. He drank heavily which dramatically affected their marriage.

Z was a book that took me into the life of a woman I had known little about before reading the book. Fowler’s Zelda was a woman who was very active and wanted to establish a name for herself. In a period of history when women were still very much subordinate to men, she tried to prove that she was as capable as her husband at achieving great things. This is a book I would highly recommend to anyone who loves reading about extraordinary women.

The Condition

Jennifer Haigh’s The Condition is an enthralling glimpse into the life of a dysfunctional family. The McKotch family of Concord, Massachusetts had been a relatively happy upper middle class family until one summer trip to their home in Cape Cod changed their lives forever. Frank and Paulette McKotch had given birth to three children—two boys and a girl—and all were healthy, happy children until that summer.

That summer for the first time it became clear to Frank, a scientist who studied molecular developmental biology at MIT, that something was wrong with his then 12 year old daughter, Gwen. After seeing her with her cousin of the same age, Charlotte, he noticed major differences in how they were developing. Charlotte, the younger of the two, was at least a head taller than Gwen and was starting her pubertal development while Gwen still looked very much like a child. He mentioned his observations to Paulette but she denied anything was wrong. She claimed that she had been petite when she was younger as well. It was when she was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome, a chromosomal abnormality that affects 1 in 2000 females, that the two divorced. The divorce ended their summers at the Cape.

The novel truly begins twenty years after Gwen’s diagnosis in 1977and fast forwards to 1997. By that time the eldest son, Billy, was a cardiologist in New York; Gwen worked in the basement of the Stott Museum in Cambridge as a collections assistant; and Scott, the youngest, had just moved back to Massachusetts after getting married at a young age in California. He now worked as a soccer coach and English teacher at Ruxton, a private school. The only two siblings that had any kind of bond were Billy and Gwen who talked on the phone twice a week. Scott rarely contacted his siblings and his two children, Ian and Sabrina, had only first Paulette when they were respectively five and seven. Frank by this time was on the scientific advisory board of a pharmaceutical company and taught at the Grohl Institute at MIT. Paulette lived alone in Concord in the house the children had grown up in and Frank had left. Paulette continued to be in denial about Gwen’s condition and avoided discussing it with her family. Despite the fact that Gwen was the only one diagnosed with a condition, it seemed like each member of the family had conditions of their own.

Billy was hiding from his family the fact that he was gay and had a partner who was a scientist like Frank. Scott was addicted to smoking weed and had also been a drug user with his wife. Paulette hated the fact that she had lost her former beauty with age and Frank worried about the fact that he was not able to be as sexually active as he had once been. Gwen, despite the fact that she had Turner Syndrome, seemed to be the most well-adjusted of the family.

The family came together again towards the end of the novel when Gwen fell in love for the first time. Paulette who had always babied Gwen feared that she was being taken advantage of because of her condition while Billy and Frank thought there was nothing wrong with her new situation at all. In the end the family appeared to become more functional again bonding over this revelation.

The way the author wrote about the family made the characters seem more relatable to the reader. She clearly had done her research about Turner Syndrome and this novel serves as a great introduction to a condition that is common but uncommonly known. It proves that a condition does not have to limit what you are able to accomplish.

A Good Taste of What’s to Come: Buzz Books Spring/Summer 2013

Buzz Books 2013: Spring/Summer was a great taste of what to expect for the spring and summer season in books. Included were 28 excerpts from books in various genres and while some were books I can’t wait to read, others did not appeal to me as much. I felt it was a good mix of genres and could appeal to a diverse readership.

What was included within the book were excerpts from books by debut authors which provides readers of this book the opportunity to get a good feel for the writing style of the author. One favorite was Anton DiSclafani’s The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls which was about a 15 year old girl whose involvement in a family tragedy caused her to be sent in the late summer to the camp which will be released in June. This is a period novel so those who enjoy history may be interested in the book.

There were also some interesting nonfiction selections including Lily Koppel’s The Astronaut Wives Club which is already in film development about a group of wives of the first American astronauts beginning in 1961 with Mercury 7 to the Apollo mission of 1969. This provided a glimpse into their world which is filled with magazine covers, reporters converging on their front lawns, and visits to the developing Cape Canaveral. Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath helps readers with their decision-making processes.

This was the first sampler from a publisher that I have tried and I liked how it provided lengthy excerpts from the books so you could make an educated decision on whether you wanted to purchase the book when it was released. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to find out about noteworthy books before they are released. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, Publishers Lunch.

A Unique Perspective on Madness in “The Trajectory of Dreams”

Nicole Wolverton’s The Trajectory of Dreams illuminated psychosis to an extent that I had never experienced before in a novel. In the novel, Lela White is a sleep lab technician who observes the sleep practices of astronauts before they leave on missions into space. She believes that they are asleep when the shuttle takes off into space and that what she does is a necessary endeavor.

Lela had a difficult childhood with a mother who thought her to be weird because she observed her sleep patterns. Her mother also dealt with psychological issues. Her father doted on Lela and stood up for her when her mother ranted against her actions. Lela grew up reading books that were far more advanced than those of her peers and had difficulty relating to her classmates.

Her difficulties relating to others continued into her adulthood and she is closer to her cat, Nike, than anyone else in the world. She believes that her cat converses with her and agrees with her mission to save the astronauts. She thinks that her colleague is working against her and regrets letting her colleague stay with her later in the novel because she thinks that her plan will be figured out and thwarted.

This novel proved to be unique and although it was slow going at points the plot twists more than made up for any issues the book had. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about psychological issues or psychology in general. It was a book unlike any I have ever read before.

Your life can change in the blink of an eye…

This was first published on Blogcritics:

http://blogcritics.org/books/article/book-review-still-lolo-by-lauren/

Lauren Scruggs’s Still LoLo is quite an inspirational and moving memoir. In the aftermath of a terrible life-altering accident, Lauren and her family managed to maintain their faith in God and know that he is still there looking after the family. Lauren’s story is sad at times but also radiates positivity when you see how supportive her family is of her and her actions.

The memoir emphasizes the fact that even when confronted with great disability, there is still a chance to have strong ability. Lauren was badly injured in an accident where she was walking off a plane and walked into the still spinning propeller. She fractured part of her skull, had major damage to her left eye, and had her left hand severed. It was a horrific accident that changed her life forever.

Before the accident she had been a vibrant, energetic, and passionate journalist who had created her own lifestyle magazine with a friend from college, LoLo Magazine. Her parents had divorced when she was only four which certainly impacted her and her identical twin sister, Brittany. They remarried when the sisters were eleven, which was the answer to their fervent prayers, and any hard feelings their parents held towards one another seemed to have been resolved. The sisters had attended the same college although Lauren had been indecisive about what she wanted to do with her life and had spent one spring interning in the fashion industry, which helped to grow her passion for style and beauty.

After the accident when she was lucid enough to realize what had happened to her, she went through a very dark period where she struggled to deal with the pain of losing her eye and hand and having the left side of her face scarred. Her parents, sister, and friends were tremendously helpful to her during her recovery, and with time she learned that she would still be able to do many of the activities she had been involved in before the accident.

This book proved to be a beautifully written story of faith, hope, and love–and shows that even in the darkest of times there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. Though the accident changed the Scruggs family, it also brought them closer together as they encouraged and supported Lauren through every step of her journey to recovery.

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