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Traditional (and outdated) approaches to speed reading usually use a tachistoscopic approach to training the eyes, meaning that some external control flashes words on a screen rapidly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…