Wednesday, April 9, 2008

How to Read Faster


My present fascination with audiobooks reminded me of a 'speed reading' program I had when I was in high school. The program came via cassette tapes (remember those?) and a booklet. According to the program, most people can read only as fast as they can speak.

Look at how kids are taught language - they start with letters and the sounds the letters represent. Then they move on to words (combinations of letters) and the sounds the combinations make. As the years go by the association between letters (and words) and their sounds become automatic - we see a word, and the 'sound' automatically pops up in our head, then our brains process the meaning.

But the flaw in this way of learning is that we have to HEAR the word, whether aloud or silently in our heads, before our brain can give us the meaning of the word. For example:


Compare that with the picture at the start of this post. They both represent the same thing. But the interpretation of S-U-N-F-L-O-W-E-R takes just a tiny bit longer for our brains to process because we convert it to sound before we look for the meaning. But we didn't do that when we saw the picture. The image was immediately interpreted without the need to convert it to sound.

Look at our other senses - whenever we smell, taste, or touch something there is no need to convert what we sense to a sound. It automatically goes straight to the interpretation part of the brain.

Even if the conversion of words to sound is very fast, they all add up when you're reading materials with thousands of words, like books, for example. Plus it adds to the workload of the brain so it gets tired faster.

Ever wonder how kids who are born deaf learn to read? They are taught that the picture of the sunflower and the combination of S-U-N-F-L-O-W-E-R point to the same thing without the need to hear the word.

Unfortunately most need to hear the words we read before we allow our brains to give us their meanings. As a result, we can only read as fast as we can speak. In order for us to read faster, the program gives exercises that help UNLEARN the way we read.

Was the program successful for me? Yes it was... except for a small problem... it didn't address my problem of getting very sleepy just after reading a few paragraphs. ©

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