It's always so interesting how much controversy speed reading generates! In my 15 years teaching speed reading (among other things), I have heard everything, ranging from those who claim it is impossible, to those who insist that a word must be subvocalized in order to be learned, to those who feel that 500 words per minute is the upper limit of human achievement.
The problem, I think, is that most folks don't realize how powerful the conditioning is in all of us who were taught to read in a way that has limited our thinking as well as our reading.
Reading is the only subject in school that never changes. Every other subject grows and changes with every year of study, but once you learn to read by the 2nd or 3rd grade, that's it. It is easy to see why we grow up assuming that any other way to read must have issues. Anything that you do for decades of your life becomes conditioned behavior that feels like it is in your bones. Same with reading.
The fact is that there are many options for reading. The practice of reading is only about 10,000 years old, which is pretty young by evolutionary standards, so it is clear that the human brain did not evolve with reading in mind. There is no one center of the brain that controls reading, like there is for other functions. Many different parts of the brain are used to bring the printed word into our thoughts.
That also means that there are a number of ways you can bring awareness of a word into your brain.
The trick is to overcome the conditioning we have lived with for decades, thanks to our troubled mass-education system which is determined to teach children how limited and faulty they are instead of the limitless beings we all have the potential to be.
Of course, limited, powerless people make way better shoppers - but that is the subject for another post!
It really isn't all that complicated. There have always been naturally fast readers in our world who, without any special training, read AND COMPREHEND 1,000 to 3,000 words per minute.
Evelyn Wood in the 1950's interviewed 54 of these naturally fast readers and discovered three common behaviors among them:
1. No naturally fast reader reads one word at a time. They all read multiple words at at time, letting their brain do what it is designed to do: see lots of things at a glance and know what is going on. The words can be out of order or upside down and backwards. It doesn't matter to our powerful brains.
2. No naturally fast reader reads left to right and then stops all thinking and moves back to the left side of the page. Who invented that! Reading direction is irrelevant to your brain. It is a cultural choice. Some cultures read right to left, some top to bottom, etc. Your brain could care less. Naturally fast readers read in a sweeping, backwards "S" type pattern down the page.
3. No naturally fast reader says the words aloud in their head. None. Period. End of story. And you all know it is possible to just look at a word and know what it means. You do it every day with the hundreds of store and street signs. When you approach a stop sign, you don't say the word aloud in your head! Of course not. That word has become a pattern, a shape, an object, that you associate hundreds of behaviors and responses to that happen in the blink of an eye.
My question to you then, is why don't you read like you look at signs? BECAUSE YOUR TEACHER TOLD YOU NOT TO! If you had been taught that since early childhood, then that is the way you would read.
THAT is what real speed reading programs are all about - getting you to transition from reading at the SPEED OF SOUND, which is painfully slow, to the SPEED OF SIGHT, which is blazingly fast. In my classes, I give the student a process for transitioning into this new way of perceiving words, a way that your brain is already quite comfortable with.
Learning to speed read opens up all kinds of opportunities to realize yourself as the limitless, powerful being that you are and can show you that you can have it all. Imagine being able to read EVERYTHING about ANYTHING, never again being confused by what you hear on the radio or TV, and never again relying on those in power who insist they have to tell you what to believe and know.
Of course, if everyone believed that, there wouldn't be much need for hundreds of legislators, mental health drugs, and we wouldn't shop all that much either! Speed reading could be considered a dangerous and subversive activity to those who want the world to stay the same.
I say, let's be subversive and give it a try!