Articles from
Ed Caldwell.

Speed Reading Tips: To Read Supersonically Use Your Natural Sight Experience

In this 3rd part of the series “How to Read Supersonically,” or reading above 600 words per minute (wpm), we’ll be exploring the use of the eyes, or the mechanics of reading. If you are to be able to read and understand at rates above 600 wpm, then learning to use your eyes more fluidly and efficiently is certainly important. Unfortunately most other programs focus exclusively on this aspect and miss comprehension, the cognitive aspect of reading.

Traditional (and outdated) approaches to speed reading usually use a tachistoscopic approach to training the eyes, meaning that some external control flashes words on a screen rapidly as a perceptual training exercise. The next step is to then flash 3 words at a time, then six words, then a couple lines, until eventually a whole paragraph might be displayed in a fraction of a moment.

Today there are a number of software programs based on this approach. Some of them are “best sellers.” These programs then tell the learner to focus on  3 “words per chunk,” and then six words, and then a whole line etc. Eventually the reader may achieve some fairly rapid rates using the software as the external pacer tool. However, many complain about not understanding the print (comprehension) and long term results are questionable.

Here’s the problem with these types of training programs – THEY DON’T WORK!

As far back as early 1960, tachistoscopic training has been shown in academic studies to be an ineffective approach. Here’s why:

1. When the learner is finished with the training, the learner has not adequately replaced the external pacer with their own accelerated internal pacing.

2. When actually reading we will be faster in some areas and slower in others depending on how our mind is responding. Mechanically pacing is not natural to effective reading and comprehension. Mechanical pacing is useful as an initial tool for training, but it is not effective for real reading.

3. Depending on the width of the text on the page, expanding your vision to see “whole lines” is outside the area of normal visual clear focus and may cause eye muscle problems. A person’s clear focal area at normal reading distance is 1-3 inches in diameter. If the text expands 6-8 inches across eye muscle strain will occur.

Here’s what you can do instead:

1. Use your natural dimensional sight experience. Notice how your eyes look at anything new in the environment. Start to pay attention to this so that you may soon apply it to reading print. Let’s say you were looking at a new picture on the wall. Your eyes first scan the whole image, and then focus more on the details of the picture.  The brain constantly seeks meanings and perceives dimensionally (that means both horizontally and vertically) and in “wholes.”

In fact all the keys that we have spoken about are natural abilities that we use elsewhere, but not when reading!

For most  people this dimensional sight area at normal reading distance shows about 1-3 inches in diameter. Experiment for yourself. Look at the center of a page. As you look don’t concern yourself with trying to “read the text” to understand it.  Just notice how much area you can see clearly without moving your eyes.

2. After completing the above, try to keep paying attention to this “dimensional sight” experience when you read. You’ll notice that you can see not only the words on the line you might be focused on, but you can also see words a line or two above and below the one you are focused on. As you become more aware of this dimensional sight, you’ll now understand why the first 2 keys I’ve already written about are important (See previous posts).

Using Dimensional Sight means that you learn to trust your mind’s ability to accept the meaning of the print without expecting grammatical sequencing (see the first post in this series) because you are seeing dimensional areas of the print as you move your eyes in a generally downward direction. It also means that you use your mind’s ability to see and know the words without having to sound them out (see the second post – “Accepting Meanings Visually.”

Play with this idea of moving your eyes in a generally downward direction on the page using this natural “cone of sight” for a couple days. Do this for at least a few minutes over a few pages. You may also want to repeat the process a over the same pages a few times to experiment and see if your mind starts making sense of the meanings. As you do this keep the first 2 Keys of supersonic reading in mind. Feel free to return to this post to comment and/or question about your experience.

There is one more key that helps to facilitate these first three we have discussed so far. Keep reading…

Read Supersonic Reading Key #1  

Read Supersonic Reading Key # 2    

Ed Caldwell.

Speed Reading Tips: Reading Super Fast Means Accepting the Meaning Visually

(This is the second in a series of 5 posts on the keys to supersonic reading – reading at speeds above 600wpm)

If we were in a conversation with each other I might say to you, “Can you imagine a pink elephant?” Immediately in your mind you would probably picture this unrealistic image of a large mammal with big drooping ears, but colored pink rather than grey. Your mind fills in all the details.

How does this apply to reading fast you ask?

When you read nearly anything most often you already know 90% of the printed words and do not have to say them in your mind. However, the “saying in the mind,” which is referred to as subvocalization, is a habit that stems way back to your beginning days of reading. Your reading mentors had you read individual words before you even read one book. As you progressed you continued to read aloud for quite some time.

At some point in your reading development you were told to read silently. If you asked what that meant, you were probably told to read “to yourself, inside your head.” Then, instead of sounding the words aloud, you merely said them inside your mind. You still decoded the print using a 4-step process: you saw the words, you said the words inside your head, you then heard the words, and finally you understood them.

As an adult reader, you may not say the words aloud, but there are many adults still lip synching as they read. Perhaps you are one of them. On the other hand, perhaps you don’t lip synch. However the 4-step process is still happening. Unless your speeds are over 600 wpm, you are still doing some subvocalization.

Subvocalization is how you feel assured of comprehending. The “saying and hearing” give you confidence and assurance. But that assurance is false assurance because our mind has an incredible ability to visualize words we know. The auditory reassurance that subvocalization provides is not necessary.

“Visual Reassurance” is what readers who read at speeds above the 600 wpm threshold and into the thousands of wpm use. It is one of the keys of “supersonic reading.”

A quick example of visual reassurance is to think of driving in an unfamiliar neighborhood. If you see a red octagonal sign, you don’t sound the word on the sign in your head, do you? Or, do you immediately apply the brakes?

Visual Reassurance can be developed with some practice. It requires a combination of brain stretching exercises, reading exercises, and replacing your word by word linear approach to comprehension to a different path of perceiving and thinking which begins by preparing your mind for reading. All of these developmental tools are part of what you can learn in the Dynamic Reading methodologies.