By 1965 the course was being offered free to the entire student body. The Course featured a special projector called a tachistoscope. The projector flashed numbers and words onto the screen for one tenth of a second. Members of the class quickly developed the ability to capture 5-digit numbers and three-word groupings of words.

 

Eventually we were introduced to "racing with the line" Texts were flashed on onto a screen. Parts of the text were highlighted very quickly as previous parts were blocked out. No going back! The average reading speed of an adult is around 225 to 250 words per minute. As a young man I clocked out at my best at 900 words per minute. Even today I am capable of cruising along comfortable at 500 to 600 words per minute. When I was with the Department for Humanities and Social Sciences at Wentworth, I found that the type of program I had experienced was available on film and I had it loaded onto several computers in the computer center tor student use and drill.

 

My point is that most people read everything at the same speed which is terribly inefficient. Research has shown that reading more quickly does not result in any loss in the understanding and retention of content. I am a strong advocate of a person's having multiple reading speeds just as a car's transmission has multiple gears. We do not roar along in first gear. Everything does not deserve the same effort.

 

There are three barriers to faster reading. The first barrier is lazy eyes. The brain operates on electrical impulses. Electrical impulses move at the speed of light. The fastest thing about us is our brains. In second place is our eyes. Most of us have lazy eyes and most of us fail to utilize our peripheral vision. When we watch football and basketball played at the highest levels we are always amazed how well the athletes manage to see the entire field or court and determine where all of the other players are. Most of us could do much better in eye speed.

 

The second barrier to rapid reading is our tendency to go back and reread what we have already read because we do not believe that we have an adequate hold of the information. That is why the machine programs black out the material already flashed so that there can be no going back.

 

The third obstacle is called subvocalization. Since we first learned to read there has been a little voice, that reads out loud to us in our heads. This is delightful. We love our little voice. Mine has been with me for more than sixty years. The truth is that the little voice is not necessary. We can simply read without the little voice.

 

I am not equating faster reading with studying. You might quickly read a chapter in a text book to have an idea about a subject matter. Materials in math and physics are not good candidates for rapid reading. Some materials seem to require our full, loving attention. I refuse to read Ron Chernow's biography of U.S. Grant quickly. I will read anything written by Rick Bragg. His loving treatment of southern life should be enjoyed like a fine meal where we savor every bite.

 

But my point is that not all reading matter deserves the same effort and people can learn to improve their reading speed for lots of the materials we have to process in a matter of minutes.

 

Take a 3" by 5" index card and place it under a line of text in a book or magazine. Don't pick some reading matter that you love. Pick anything. Now move the card down the page so that you take in one whole line of text at a time. Don't worry about punctuation. Now keep moving the card and eventually try to move the card down the page faster. No card? Use your finger. Place your finger in the middle of the line and make yourself see the edges of the line. Move the card or finger.

 

You will improve. You will not lose comprehension. What I am talking about is as much a physical skill as a mental SKILL. You can always go back to reading more slowly. Do you want to improve your golf game? Practice. Want to improve your reading speed? Practice this simple technique.