The Ceiling to your Success
Avoiding a highway chase in a lousy truck with a big tanker-trailer behind you You would be in dire straits if you were chased by a T-1000 and your truck was capable of mere sixty miles an hour Likewise, you are severely disadvantaged if your reading speed is a bottleneck in your programme of success. All smart cyborgs know how to speed through their problems. In this chapter you will learn how to read a book at FTL – faster than light – warp speeds. Commander Data, warp nine and engage!
Speed Reading – The Basic Concepts
What your grade school teacher didn’t tell you
Remember when you first learned how to read? You must have started off by learning how to pronounce individual words, and then stringing them together by reading aloud the entire sentence. Soon, you were told to “read to yourself,” and that culminated in the subvocalization you experience today, when your mind “silently” pronounces the words. This form of reading, subvocal reading, is relatively slow. Unfortunately, the only way to minimize it is through practice. If you’re reading this chapter in order to speed through a certain book, you will not be able to afford the time required for speed reading training. Therefore, I will present a quick and dirty method of higher reading speed first, and give you the proper training information at the end of the chapter. But first, some information about the factors involved in reading speed.
Achieving Mach Speeds
Breaking the Sound Barrier
As mentioned, pronouncing words while reading them slows you down. The worst form of this is explicit vocalization, or actually reading the words out aloud. Even the fastest talking person on this planet cannot read as quickly as person who has broken the “sound barrier.” Better, yet still considered slow, are the readers who subvocalize. Subvocal readers may move their lips, or their tongue, or parts of their speech system, without actually making any noises, yet this physical movement puts a check on their speeds. Even the reader who silently imagines each sound in the mind will be slow compared to the graphic-oriented reader. To explain this concept, imagine that you are driving on a road, or walking around in your house. You do not pronounce the name of every object you see, nor do you consciously tell yourself what you are doing at all given moments. If you did, it might drive you crazy! The only reason why you hear the words when you read them, is because of habit. Words in themselves should not elicit a sound. They are merely icons, or symbols, not unlike the way a set of skull and crossbones automatically tell you that something is hazardous. Graphic-oriented readers will be able to ascertain the information from the text by “seeing” pictures in the mind’s eye, instead of “hearing” the sounds. Likewise, watching a movie is usually faster, and provides more information, than hearing a story that is read out aloud. The only way to really cut down on subvocalization is by reading so quickly that your mind does not have time to form the sounds.
In order to be able to read quickly, you must avoid anything that slows you down. The very first thing that will do just that, is lack of concentration. Be sure you are focussed, and in a quiet place. Use maximum shielding. Be comfortable in your chair, or on your bed. Ensure adequate lighting. If you wish to do so, meditate before you begin your reading session. Minimize multi-tasking by jotting down all the things that worry you, and just leave them alone for the reading session. Forget all else. You cannot dwell on topics in your mind while reading at the same time. Your mind will wander, and you will experience the all-too-common phenomenon of not realising what you had read just moments ago, and regressing to, or re-reading, previous text.
The number of eye “stops,” or the number of times your eye focusses on certain words while reading an entire line on a page, will determine the overall speed at which you complete the reading of the line. High-speed readers generally make between one and four stops per line, while low-speed readers may stop at every word.
Finally, the number of stops you make per line is determined by the amount of peripheral vision you are capable of, or the “width” of your vision span. If you can see, and understand, a wider area of the text, you will take in more information at any given moment. Likewise, speed-readers train themselves to read multiple-lines simultaneously. For the time being, just understand that it can be done.
The CyberRead® Method – Rapid Reading Rapidly
Or the no-frills way to immediately increase reading speed
Acquire a sheet of transparent plastic. It should be relatively firm. Saran Wrap will not do. The best material to use is a transparency sheet for overhead projectors. Now, place the plastic sheet on top of a page of text. Pick a page that is typical and representative of the bulk of the material you will have to read. Take a permanent marker with a thin point, and a ruler, and draw a vertical line about one-third the width of the text, from the left margin. Repeat with the right margin. In this manner, you will have two vertical lines running down the page, roughly dividing the text into three columns.
These two vertical lines represent your focal points. In other words, you are only allowed two stops per line of text, and the two stops are where the lines intersect the text. Unless the book you have to read is extremely wide, you should be able to peripherally see all the text you need, per stop. If you have a wide book, make three lines instead of two.
Now, be sure your mind is concentrated, and begin your reading session. Force yourself to make the two stops, and not any more than that. Speed through the text. At first, you may find that your comprehension drops even though your speed has increased. If this happens, slow down a little. However, as long as your mind doesn’t wander, you will be able to take in much more information at much higher speeds than you had thought possible. Don’t slow down to the point where you can subvocalize again. You should aim at speeds higher than that. In any case, by reading faster, you will have created the opportunity for a review reading later on. If the plastic sheet becomes unwieldy to handle, cut it down so that it fits exactly on the page. You may have to adjust the lighting to minimize reflections off the plastic.
Higher Reading Effectiveness
To increase your comprehension level of the text, it is advisable to do a “prescan” of the book before you actually begin reading the material. The prescan is easily done. Simply read the front and back covers to get an idea of what the book is really about. Next, check out the table of contents to see the overall layout. This is the master plan for the book. See how the author develops the ideas. Finally, look through the index if there is one. Consider the index to be a complete checklist of all the important ideas in the book. If something isn’t in the index, it probably isn’t very important anyway. You will want to use the index at a later time to review the entire book.
Your prescan serves multiple functions. The primary objective is to give you an overview of the book. Ask yourself whether or not you actually have to read the book at all. Perhaps you were misled by the title or the description. Don’t waste your time reading the book if it contains very little material relevant to your needs. Even if the book does contain important material, consider whether or not the effort to read it would be worthwhile. Some books have such a poor presentation format or writing style, it takes considerable effort to ascertain the valuable information contained between the covers. The prescan allows you to quickly determine if a book should be read, and allows you time to make another selection if need be.
If you decide to go ahead and read the book, determine which sections of the book deserve more attention. Sometimes it is not necessary to read the entire volume from front to back, in order to extract the information you need. Of course, the procedure in which you read the book depends on the genre of literature you are perusing. Non-fiction can usually be read out of order, but most works of fiction demand a strict chronological order from beginning to end. When reading the book proper, start with the prefaces or introductions , and look for important information that describes the overall theme of the book. The introduction is usually the first chapter, or it may be an entirely separate section altogether. Read these initial sections and try to locate the thesis for the book. There is usually an argument the author is trying to make through the book.
When you have finished all of this, read the book itself. You will have enough background knowledge to guide you through the book. You should be able to tell which points are important and which are not. In this manner, you won’t waste your efforts trying to understand irrelevant concepts. Always keep in mind the book’s thesis.
Finish the reading with the conclusion. At this stage, you should note any discrepancies between the author’s summary and what you understand regarding the material. Pay attention, furthermore, to opinions that you have formed about the book. Perhaps you disagree with certain arguments, or can provide more effective ones. In many subjects, personal opinions are the focal point of the entire schedule of instruction, and instructors may require you to describe them in essays or class discussions. In any event, the concluding chapter should summarize the book contents. You can complete the reading session by scanning the index again, noting whether or not certain entries are listed.
Throughout the reading of the book, have your microcassette recorder, or pen and paper, handy. Dictate, or write down, ideas that pop into your mind. These are valuable for future use in essays or class discussions. The microcassette recorder is more desirable for this purpose because it does not detract from your reading as much as the use of pen and paper.
CyberRead® Explained – The Reasoning Behind the Technique
To finger or not to finger, that is the question
Speed reading theory can be divided into two camps. On the one hand, there are techniques that stress hand or finger movement. The placement of fingers on the text serves as a marker for the eyes, and helps the reader keep track of the focal location. The movement of the hand across the page then guides the eyes as it flies over the words.
The other side of the coin has other theories that discourage the use of fingers on the page. They consider the mechanical guidance a hinder to rapid reading. Hands can cover up text which can otherwise be read via peripheral vision. Eyes can also scan an entire page at much higher speeds than the hand can move across it. The “hands-free” methods stress training the reader’s vision capacity, per se, without the need of incorporating the training of hands and fingers as well. I have taken an intermediary approach with the CyberRead method. The use of lined transparencies on the page take the best from both worlds. The vertical lines provide the “crosshairs” to prevent losing the place in the text, while avoiding the complications of the text being obscured. The only drawback lies in the relatively cumbersome need to reposition the transparency on every page. However, in time the reader will be able to dispense with the transparency altogether, and reading with minimal eye-stops will become second nature. Therefore, the lined-trasparency is to be considered a helping hand at this early stage of development.
CyberRead® Enhanced – Advanced Techniques
Turning yourself into a gigantic eyeball
I presented the CyberRead method above so that a student can use the information immediately to accelerate reading speed, in the event of imminent demand for knowledge of the book the next day. Advanced training for speed reading can be accomplished when the reader has more time on his or her hands.
The very first skill we must develop is the ability to read in more text at every glance. In essence, this calls for the expansion of peripheral vision. Some rapid reading books provide the learner with various columns of letters, and require the reader to focus on the center of the column while attempting to determine the outermost letters. This is very effective, yet extremely boring when the exercise is repeated with the same columns of letters, ad nauseum. A more interesting approach is to actually use reading material for practise. Take another sheet of transparent plastic, and this time draw a vertical line down the centre of the plastic. Take this sheet and place it on top of a column in a newspaper or magazine. Make sure the column is narrow enough for you to be able to read all the text without shifting the eyes from the centre. The exercise simply requires you to read the column from top to bottom, keeping your eyes on the centre line. Fight the natural urge to look from side to side. In time, you will be able to minimize and eliminate unnecessary side-to-side motion, and rely strictly on vertical scanning and peripheral vision.
Practice every day for five to ten minutes. Try to find selections to read which are of interest to you. There is no worse deterent to high-speed reading than textual material that does not appeal to the reader. Likewise, very exciting and interesting material is usually read at higher speeds.
When you have become reasonably proficient at reading that uses extensive peripheral vision, try to expand that peripheral vision vertically. That is, try to take in more than one line at a time. The best manner in which to consider this is by focussing on the space between two lines, and read the text that sandwiches it. The tricky part of this skill is the requirement of maintain a check on two sources of information at the same time. Actually, it is not as hard as it sounds. Although technically two lines of text represent two trains of thought, usually the information on the two lines are so related that they essentially say the same thing. By reading two lines at the same time, you are doubling your already accelerated reading speed. When twin-line reading has been perfected, the motivated reader can try for three lines of text for even more reading power.
Greased Lightning – A Final Note on Accelerated Reading
The need, the need, the need for speed – maybe
The speed at which you read a book is determined by a multiple of factors. The basic speed is established by the fundamental comprehension level of the reader. It is boosted by physical skills such as those described above. Favourable environmental circumstances such as comfort and tranquility will provide the ambience conducive to clear thinking and concentration. Finally, the actual level of interest the reader has for the material will make or break the motivation during a reading session.
Sometimes, speed-readers will make the mistake of confusing the means for the ends. They make reading speed the objective, and sprint through whole volumes of book, instead of using the skill to accomplish a specific goal: Making the reading session more effective and, above all, more enjoyable. While it may be possible to read an entire novel in half an hour, rapid reading will likely prevent the reader from “chewing on” the story itself. Therefore, vary your reading with the material. It may be better to spend an hour contemplating the nuances of a poem, rather than whipping past it in five seconds. Reading ability is a critical resource. The ability to read quickly will enable you to access much more information in the same amount of time. You will also be less physically and mentally drained by being able to finish a large book in a fraction of the time originally required. Remember to keep training yourself. The only way to more rapid reading speed, is by reading more, at a rapid speed. Now that you have broken new ground in your reading abilities, let us examine the revolutions from the cutting edge of technology. Look to the horizons, and see the blazing neon of…