First, some quotes by the unique Steven Wright.
- "I just got out of the hospital. I was in a speed reading accident. I hit a bookmark and flew across the room."
- "I took a course in speed waiting. Now I can wait an hour in only ten minutes."
- "I took a course in speed reading. Then I got Reader's Digest on microfilm. By the time I got the machine set up I was done."
I've always been a slow reader. Not due to a lack of focus or that I'd rather be doing something other than reading. In fact, I'm more than happy to spend a day with a few good books and articles, and my retention rate is, I've recently learned, well above average. My problem is subvocalization. Essentially, when I read (and when I write, normally long-hand) my brain pronounces the syllables of each word. This is a habit left behind from early reading practice which apparently causes me to lose 0.2 seconds for every word that read, totalling three to four hours for each book. Why have I, now in my thirties, managed to retain early reading habits? I believe it's because as a child I was learning three languages simultaneously, and attended kindergarten in my third language.
I was twelve when I first noticed that I was a slow reader. My grade seven English teacher assigned the class Josephine Tay's classic mystery novel The Franchise Affair. We were instructed to begin that class with a half hour or so of silent reading. My friend David sat to my right, both of us reading quietly along, until, being a friend and undoubtedly from pure concern, turned to me and whispered, "Geez you're a slow reader! I'm already on page so-and-so." As I was a mature twelve year-old, I replied without hesitation, "Yeah me too, I just needed to flip back to double-check something." Well, for the rest of that silent reading period I watched David as he flipped from page to page to page, seemingly engrossed in the mystery, whereas I was only trying to keep up with him, skimming lines and skipping paragraph, and of course without a clue what was going on in the text. (This, by the way, prejudiced me towards the book and its author for years to come, though I do plan to re-read it and give it a fair chance.)
Over the years I've always been frustrated with the rate of my reading. I have two English degrees, have published books reviews as well as my own fiction, participated in literary seminars, workshops, conferences and so forth, and I always feel I am the least widely read individual present. While doing my graduate work, with the incredible number of novels and theoretical texts we had to consume weekly, I was not always able to keep up and left many texts only partially read.
Several times I've considered taking courses and have looked into ones offered through the university I work at, but the price is always steep and I've stubbornly told myself that I could be a self-taught average reader. How idealistic and utterly deluded. Recently, however, I was given the opportunity to enroll in an online speed reading course and quickly jumped at the chance. Inexpensive compared to the courses I'd previously encountered, and with the belief that life is short so the time devoted will be time gained, I promptly registered.
The course is offered through the site GoYourMind.com, begun by a certain Grzegorz Grzegorcyk, an apparent speed-reading instructor who has also published a book on the craft. The course promises a significant increase in not only reading speed, but also in comprehension. I have begun the lessons yesterday and will be tracking my progress on this site.
Having completed my first lesson, I have discovered the following:
- I read 187 words per minute, and anything between 150 to 200 is considered "slow" (no term is offered for those who read less than 150).
- My comprehension, on the other hand, is 70%, while the average person falls between 50-60%.
The lessons are not simple and can be irritating, but I have lain my faith in Mr. G.'s system and will follow his plans blindly, hopefully for my benefit.
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