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Speed Reading - Read Fast, Learn Fast

What skill does the average executive use during a third of his working day that hasn't been improved since he was at school? The answer, of course, is reading. Reading is one of the most time-consuming functions he performs, yet coping with the information explosion at a personal level has received scant attention.

There are three basic bad habits which are the greatest barriers to improved reading - sub-vocalization, poor fixation and regression.

Sub-vocalization - saying the words to oneself - stems from the fact that small children are taught to read by reciting words and small sentences written on the blackboard.

In the same way, because of the way they first learned to read, most adults have poor fixation - their eyes are trained to fix on one word at a time.

The third bad habit is regression. Slow readers invariably read two or three lines of a page, then go back and read them again. Many get to the bottom of a page, feel they haven't taken in the information, and go back and read the whole page again.

Speed reading courses use eye exercises to break the habit of single word recognition and eventually “stretch” the reader to make it difficult for him to sub-vocalize, and impossible to regress.

Apart from teaching executives to overcome bad habits, speed reading is designed to implant new reading skills. Use of these skills ensures that the improvements made will become permanent:

Preview before reading. One of the most important skills for the executive is to recognize that the material he reads varies in importance and complexity. He should therefore preview the material in his in-tray before he begins to read. The previewing will enable the executive to decide whether to scan, skim or read seriously and this can be done at speeds ranging from 1,500-2,000 words per minute.

Adopt a flexible reading rate. The executive should then vary his reading rate according to the nature and importance of the material.

Scanning. The executive needs only to scan minutes of a meeting because he merely needs to isolate the items which require action from him. The executive reading at 400 wpm will probably scan at twice that speed.

Skimming. Material requiring serious reading will be tackled at normal reading rate. However, the social club news will require only skimming to gain a general impression of its contents and the executive reading at 400 wpm can do that at probably 600 to 700 wpm.

Look for contextual cues. Very often a word or series of words will indicate what the next word or words in the sentences will be. Spotting these contextual clues speeds reading and recognition.

Punctuation. Punctuation is used as a means of “chunking” words together, and reading them as a complete thought or idea. Once the reader recognizes this, he grasps the author's meaning much more rapidly.

Paragraphing. While a paragraph may consist of several sentences, the main core of meaning will be contained in one sentence or even within a few words in that sentence. When the reader learns the skill of recognizing that core of information, it boosts his speed and comprehension rate.

The need for a good vocabulary. The reader needs to recognize that a limited vocabulary limits the speed at which he can read, because he comes to a halt each time he encounters a word he does not understand. The real cure is to improve vocabulary by regular study of a dictionary.

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