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So much to read, so little time. Can speed reading help?

by Andrew Maisel
image of fanned book

Every student, when confronted with a stack of reading asssignments -- put off 'until I have more time' -- wishes they could read faster. Especially on a Sunday night, with an exam staring them in the face the next morning.

Many students in the '60s and '70s experienced reading classes utilizing a tachistoscope, a projector that would take a reading passage on a scroll of film, and project it on a screen, one line at a time, one phrase at a time, or one word at a time. Students would sit in a darkened classroom, and try to train their eyes and brains to parse and absorb material, then take a reading comprehension quiz. Every day, the teacher would increase the speed of the machine, thereby forcing the students to read ever faster. Did it work? Hard to say, although some of us thought so at the time, pushing ourselves to read 600 words per minute, up from the more common 250 wpm. Others enrolled in Evelyn Wood's Reading Dynamics program, and some claimed meaningful reading at speeds over 2000 wpm.

Now a study published in Pyschological Science in the Public Interest reports that there is no shortcut to becoming a faster reader. Like almost everything else in life, the way to get better at it is to practice. More practice leads to a broader vocabulary, faster comprehension, and faster reading.



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