3.2 • Do I Read Too Slowly?
This question does not relate directly to memory, but it is an important question not only because people often want to memorize what they are reading while they are reading it, but also because of fantastic claims from people who say they can teach you to read thousands of words per minute – i.e., Speed Reading.
Therefore, I’ve included this document. I have no doubt that one could devote a whole web site to this topic, and I don’t want to detract from the theme of memory improvement, so if you want to explore this subject further I invite you to search the web on the subject of Speed Reading or check your local library for books that exist on this subject.
Personally, I haven’t had time to study the subject a lot myself. Nevertheless, I’ve included my own opinion on the subject below, which is based on logic and my own personal experience. But to give a more balanced, fair view of this subject, I’ve also included the opinions of two others.
My Personal Opinion
Do I (the main author of the Memory Page) read too slowly? When I compare myself to others, yes, I probably am “below average.” But is this good or bad? I can think of two possible conclusions:
- God made me a slower learner than other people, so I should continue to read as I have been doing and not be intimidated by peer pressure or other outside forces that want be to believe that I am not reading fast enough.
- I really am reading slow because I am not reading properly or efficiently. There must exist some techniques that I don’t know about for better reading that I should find and put into practice.
Either one could be true, or the answer could be a little of both. As of now, I guess I lean toward possibility #1, because I am a perfectionist and this probably affects my learning style. I like to understand things, so it is not enough that I just read something and accept it as true; I feel better (and I retain a TON more) if I understand why something is true.
I also tend to “overlearn”: this means I learn more than what I need to know, which forces me to think about much more those things that do I need to know (and to apply them), which causes me to retain more.
I am not sure if what I am doing is “right” … but it does seem to be working for me, and I am getting A’s. My undergraduate GPA was 3.88 and my graduate GPA was 4.00. I wonder if the speed-readers do this well. But it’s also possible that my high GPA is more a factor of my intelligence rather than my reading technique; it’s also possible that my reading technique does work but there is a different technique that could cause me to achieve the same success but in less time.
The bottom line: it is not an easy picture. Oh, well, I’ll just do the best I can. Really, the only time I feel bad is when I’m comparing myself with someone else; if I just forget everyone else and focus only on myself, then I enjoy reading, even if I am slow, and I don’t feel bad about it or intimidated.
Maybe this is the secret. It still may be true that I could be reading faster, but there isn’t much I can do about it at the moment… if someday someone explains to be a better method, I will be very happy and I will accept that as an amazing gift; in the meantime, I will just accept the status quo.
I guess that’s true with my memory stuff. Until I learned the memory techniques, I really wasn’t that unhappy. Maybe I got a little frustrated at times for forgetting things or for spending such a long time to learn stuff for a test, but I just accepted it as part of life. And really, there wasn’t anything more I could do at the time. Then I discovered the memory techniques, and it was really a great gift to me.
Greg A. Chulsky’s View on Speed Reading
Greg A. Chulsky sent me the following Email on the subject of Speed Reading:
“Without trying to sell anything, I will tell people that their reading speed can be doubled in 20 minutes (though this might only work temporarily and require high concentration) and permanently within a few days. The problem, for most people, is that they cannot read without saying what they are reading to themselves; they have to hear what they are reading. The average person can talk at 200-300 words per minute comfortably, but the average eye can catch 1800-2000 WORDS PER MINUTE! You can try to read without talking, but this will be difficult and require high concentration. The way to make this permanent is, whenever you read, deliberately say it to yourself and force yourself to read slower than you can. In my experiences, the brain rebelled and the talking vanished completely.
“Another interesting exercise is, try running your finger down the middle of a page, at a speed faster than what you believe is a possible reading speed. Follow your finger with your eyes, keeping them over the center of the printed lines. Speed your finger up until you are spending 2 seconds per page, and then you will realize that although all you saw at first was a blur, you end up picking up quite a few words!
“Oh, and one more thing! Most languages have some redundant words (in the case of English, the, and, or, and many others). You can therefore start reading not quite from the beginning of each line, and jump to the next line a bit before the end. This will further improve reading speed.”
Ed Shanahan’s View on Speed Reading
Ed Shanahan is the copy editor of Brill’s Content Magazine. He tried out Howard Stephen Berg’s “Mega Speed Reading” product and published his comments in the magazine in June 1999 (page 98) as a sidebar to a main article titled “King of the Pitch”, which focuses on Kevin Trudeau, the person who developed and sold the entire “Mega” series.
I can’t reproduce the entire sidebar here, lest I violate the magazine’s copyright, but the basic verdict from Mr. Shanahan is, “Four hours, one videotape, and six audiotapes later, I’m stuck at my pathetic 420-words-a-minute rate, well below the 25,000 words a minute Berg claims to devour using his ‘revolutionary techniques’.”