Saturday, May 3, 2008

Speed Reading - Azara Feroz Sayed

Feroz's comments on my slow reading made me aware of an area of import to all knowledge workers - speed reading! Increasingly, we are blasted with info in form of emails, policies and procedures, technology updates and yes too much info on the internet on any topic that you focus on - an ability to read fast would certainly give us some of our valuable time back!

Motimer J Adler in the classic book "How to Read a Book" talks about the level of readings that we perform would determine the effort that we need to put into reading.
- Elementary reading or basic reading that we are taught in school is the reading for information, entertainment. Sometimes information, facts also lead to greater level of understanding. Difficulties at this level are mechanical and some of them can be tracked back to early instructions in reading like vocalization, regression, fixation. Speed Reading courses concentrate on this level. Most of our reading falls in this category and we have the advantage of correcting these flaws and benefit from the additional time that we will get back by improving in this area.
- Inspectional or Skimming Systematically is characterised by causal or random browsing the book with the aim to examine the surface of the book (structure or content of the book), to learn what the surface alone can teach us. While the focus in elementary reading would be "what does the sentence say?", the focus in Inspectional reading would be "what is the book about?". This is useful when we need to read in a time frame without having to "study" a book. Urgency of reading i.e. reading in a particular time frame would be the focus here. We would be using our skills for Elementary Reading in addition to the skills of Inspectional Reading to accomplish the reading in a limited time. - This article refers to inspectional reading as "gutting the book"
- Analytical Reading is thorough reading - the complete reading. If inspectional reading is the best and most complete reading that is possible in a given limited time then analytical reading is the best and most complete reading that is possible given unlimited time. Analytical reading is for the sake of understanding and its goal is not simply for information or entertainment, taking the reader from a condition of understanding less to one of understanding more. On this level of reading, the reader grasps a book and works at it until the book becomes his own. Speed Reading is not applicable to Analytical Reading. provides rules for Analytical Reading.
- Synoptical Reading is the highest form of reading where-in the reader reads many books, not just one, and places them in relation to one another and to a subject about which they all revolve. Synoptical Reading makes heavy demands on the reader and is the most active and effortful kind of reading. - this article provides an example for each of these type of reading from the perspective of a home schooling Mom.

This article from Alder's archive is on "Learning by Instruction v/s Learning by Discovery" an interesting topic that he talks about in his book.
Getting more information and coming to understand what you did not understand before are two different kinds of learning. To be informed is to know, simply that something is the case. To be enlightened is to know, in addition, what it is all about: why it is the case, what its connections are with other facts, in what respects it is the same, in what respects it is different, and so forth. This distinction is familiar in terms of the differences between able to remember something and being able to explain it. I envy Feroz here as he gets an oppurtunity to do this in his class everday i.e. explain what he has understood to his students. But whether it is a fact about the book or a fact about the world that you have learned, you have gained nothing but information if you have exercised only your memory. You have not been enlightened. Enlightenment is achieved only when, in addition to knowing what an author says, you know what he means and why he says it. i.e. you should be able to remember what the author said as well as know what he meant. Being informed is prerequisite to being enlightened. The point, however, is not to stop at being informed.

Speed Reading is not merely to be able to read faster, but to be able to read at different speeds and to know when the different speeds are appropriate.
We all know that we read with our mind and our eyes act as sensors sending signals to our brain exactly as the blind use fingers as sensors to send signals to the brain. Fixation and Span(using your eyes for effective reading) , Vocalization (minimizing the use of vocal organs and internal reading) and Regression(minimizing re-reading) are the three important areas that one would have to improve on to see immediate benefit of speed reading. The focus on speed reading builds concentration leading to improved comprehension and retention i.e. speed reading, comprehension and retention are related. is an article from Adler's book on how to improve Fixation. Time yourself and you will see for yourself how Fixations causes to lag our reading.

Refer for tips on improving fixation and regression.

"How to read better and faster" by Norman Lewis - yes the author of the classic Powerful Vocabulary book - is a very good book that talks about techniques for improving fixation, minimizing vocatlization and regression. This book has lot of exercises to measure the improvement in reading speed as you understand the importance of each technique as it is introduced.

The exercise at the start of Lewis's book rated me as average 250WPM (not a bad reader!) I have still not completed the book so 700WPM is not far!!

Their are lot of tools in this area - will explore and post if I come across any technique other that those mentioned by Norman Lewis.


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