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Speed Reading Tips: Get Physical!

Jul 4, 2008
The need to get physical while reading will often shock people at first. But think about it for a moment. If you're like most people, you probably think about reading as a rather passive activity. How often do people read to fall asleep? Better yet, how often do you fall asleep when you're trying to read something important?

If you have that tendency, then it only makes sense to do something different, if you want to have a different effect.

When you are physically involved with most activities, your brain is fully engaged. Neuro-science has demonstrated this with imaging that shows more parts of the brain are active when doing something that has physical involvement. You want this to happen when you are reading.

Good reading is an active thinking process. You don't want to let your mind fall asleep.

There are 2 key components of speed reading, or as I prefer, "dynamic speed reading." One is the mechanical aspect, the other is the cognitive aspect. In this article, I'm talking about the mechanics. The word "dynamic" means full of energy and movement. Does this describe how you read?

Mechanically how do you read? You move your eyes. The eyes are the mechanical windows to your brain. Your brain is the cognitive control panel that makes decisions about what it is seeing. But, it can't make the decisions, or interpret the data fast, if the data is coming in slowly, or piece by piece.

Because of old habits that have been reinforced over the many years you have been reading, your behavior and habit is to mechanically look at printed text pretty much in a word by word approach. How fast can you do that? This is true if you read below 600 wpm (words per minute). And, if you read slower than 600 wpm, it is even more true.

But your mind wants to take in the data (printed material) much faster. Some neuroscientists have theorized that if we could convert our rate of thought to words per minute, it would be in the range 80,000 - 100,000 words per minute range! Think about that.

However, if you're plodding along at 125 wpm, 250 wpm, or even 400 wpm, your mind is racing way ahead. Lack of concentration and mind wandering is a direct result of your old habits.

Observe this yourself. Watch someone read. Watch with careful observation to see how the eyes stop and go. If they are a linear reader, it can seem a painful process just to get through one sentence!

So, to break the habit of looking at individual words, and to get those cameras (your eyes) unstuck, you have to get physical and force the eyes to move more fluidly and efficiently.

So here's the catch. How do you learn to break that habit? Well you have a couple of choices:

1. You can buy a book. But that would mean you have to read it and repeat the same habits you're trying to break. Then you would probably get frustrated and stop reading the book.

2. You can buy a software package that forces the text up on the screen and makes it disappear! This approach won't work either. What do you do with materials that are not in electronic format?

3. You could buy an audio program. Sounds good. But it doesn't show you how to do it.

4. You could buy a video. This is a better choice. But, who's going to help you when you get confused or frustrated?

5. You could take a course with an experienced user and an educational expert that can personally guide you and answer your questions, and give you personal feedback.

Obviously number 5 is the best choice to insure your lasting behavioral change. However, I want to remind you that there is more to effective speed reading than merely moving the eyes, and that is comprehension, but that is for later tips.
About the Author
Ed Caldwell, formerly National Director of Instruction for Evelyn Wood, created the "Masters Online Program: Dynamic Reading, Memory, and Recall" at ProductivElearn.com You can learn more at http://speedreadingtactics.com/speed_reading_newsletter.html
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