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After age 12 we all take reading for granted. It is on auto-pilot and not a process we examine to improve. For the rest of your life – one-hundred years - you will continue to depend on the skills and strategies you learned in 3rd grade taught by good old Mrs. Harrison.

So what, you say, you don’t fix what aint broken. You don’t stop to improve how you walk or talk – forty-year old licensed drivers do not go back to take a class at the auto-school in how-to-drive a car better.

Tell me, do you change because the times change? Does everyone change just because time-marches-on? Do 98% of U. S. citizens own and use Cell Phones, have a Desktop or Laptop computer, or use solar panels instead of Saudi Arabian oil to heat their home? How many of us are still using audiocassettes, not IPODs and VHS and not DVDs? Answer – about 35% refuse to change what works.

Cell Phones, Computers and Cursive

Stupid things to know – the U. S. is 49th in the world in the use of Cells. Only 32% of all citizens own a cell (98 million), but 66% of adults say they use them. A recent survey of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies indicate the majority (74%) refuse to be controlled by cell phones – their words not ours.

Guess how many CEOs use a computer keyboard or surf the web? Let us reverse it – 87.2% (according to our study) – admit to being computer-challenged. They feel too high in the hierarchy to be in charge of their own email communication. An assistant can produce whatever they require from the Web, it is a class status thing.

Did you notice that in the last ten years cursive writing has disappeared?

Everyone who writes prints the words using lower case letters, not the joined letters you learned from Mrs. Harrison as real writing. The word cursive means to run, as in running together in Latin. How about your Mouse with the cursor to click what you choose on the page?

The moving marker on the computer screen marks the point at which key characters will be seen or be deleted. It is more important than cursive writing that has gone the way of the DoDo bird. Court reporters used to use cursive as short-hand. It is now electronically summarized.

By the way, the Dodo lived from 1598 to 1681 on an island called Mauritius in Southern Africa in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. It is said by scholars, experts with Ph. Ds, there is evidence when these birds wrote in their diary they exclusively used cursive writing. Now they are both gone.

The only place homo sapiens use cursive anymore is our signature, right?

Speed Reading, Speed Learning and Speed Braining

Reading consists of two programs (cognitive brain systems), the first is collecting data, and the second, thinking and analyzing the accumulated knowledge. Sounds sensible, right?

A recent extensive study of both kids in school and adult executives indicates that 98% of us combine the two separate steps into one. So what, if it works?

It does not work and is the direct cause of information-overload and chronic stress.

The process calls for first gathering information from the text using our left-brain (language-logic-linear) and our right-brain (pattern-recognition, spatial skills, and intuition) to summarize the key points the author makes. It is about a 60% left-brain and 40% right-brain proportion. Remember – not each and every word, just the headlines and gist of the details.

Step two is comprehension, thinking and analysis. This is a 90% left brain program, with just a touch of right brain assistance. When we combine both processes in one we lose the ability to hold in short-term memory (up to five-minutes) a picture of the page. This permits us to mentally refer back to the text in review.

This eidetic imagery is not a conscious act; it is an outgrowth of Persistence of Vision where images are retained after they occur on the eye’s retina. This is referred to as Iconic Memory and produces the illusion of movement we see in the movies and video screen.

Some scientists say not. They see the eye/brain loop responsible for motion-detection, detail detection and pattern detection which combine to produce our visual experience. They condemn belief in short-term memory and its ability to maintain the entire page in our non-conscious mind.

Our Experience

Snailers – those who read text at 200 words per minute with a 70% comprehension, use a single processing step – they simultaneously gather info and analyzes and think about its meaning.

Speed Readings – folks who read text up to 1,000 per minute with 75-85% comprehension do the two-step. First seek out the key-points (gist) by skimming the text; second they analyze the new ideas discovered by comparing them with old ideas located in their own long-term memory. They ask themselves – what does this new stuff remind me of?

There is no structure in the brain where we store copies of each and every page we ever read in a text book. Temporary eidetic imagery is based on short-term memory and disintegrates within less than five-minutes. Short-term memory is temporary and is either saved as long-term memory by the hippocampus, or disappears without leaving an engram (memory trace).

It is the difference between Skimming-Scanning-Screening. Skimming is searching for gist, key points and context on the page. Scanning is the process of making a copy on your printer of the page with a word-for-word rendition. Screening is the slowest of all three because you are reviewing the text for accuracy.

Persistence of Vision in short-term memory permits us to refer back to our mental copy of the page when seeking answers to questions. We do not do this consciousness, it moves too quickly for our puny 40 bits of information per second; our non-conscious mind takes over using its 11 million bits of information per second. This cannot occur when we combine Gathering-Data with Thinking and Analysis.


What is the big deal about the two-step process when all we care about is understanding the meaning of the little squiggles on the page?

Here is what A. Einstein said: All meaning and lasting change starts first in your imagination and then works its way out. Al also said - In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be.

If you think that is corny, how about B. Franklin, who said – The things which hurt – instruct. Personally, give me Carl Jung who wrote – Man needs difficulties. They are necessary for health.

The goal in reading we suggest is dancing the two-step in order to avoid information-overload and chronic stress. Both occur from not using the structures of our brain the way they were originally intended. Speed Reading gives you the competitive edge and puts you on the fast-track, now is that worth some invasion of your comfort-zone and the status-quo?

See ya,

copyright © 2006 H. Bernard Wechsler www.speedlearning.org www.hbw@speedlearning.org

Author, Speed Reading For Professionals, published by Barron's former partner of Evelyn Wood, creator of Speed Reading, graduating 2 million, including the White House staffs of four U. S. Presidents.

Interviewed for articles on speed reading by the Wall Street Journal and Fortune Magazine.

http://www.speedlearning.org hbw@speedlearning.org


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