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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - November 11, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta ft THI IFTHBRIDGt HERALD Solurdoy, Novembtr 11, 197J RAPID READING... Fiction? What about "speed Are the claims of its advocates realistic? Can you read with speed and comprehension at the same time? Does speed reading destroy the beauty of the language? What are its uses and limit- ations? One newspaperman decided to find out for himself. In this series of four weekly articles from the Austin (Texas) American Statesman, writer Bill Warren recounts his adventures in rapid reading. the average literate American reads only three books a year. think how many are reading 'EVELYN WOOD READING DYNAMICS' HEHE IS THE CLAM made by this reading course: that one's reading speed will in- crease at least three times, and that along with it will come an increase in comprehension. It's hard lo believe. Discussions w i t h literate friends usually end expres- tions of doubt, and at the mo- ment, havingreceivcd no instruc- tions as yet, I find it easier to accept the doubt than the claim. There's no doubt, however, in Ihe thoughts and words of Char- lie Smith, director of the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics Insti- tute. He's willing, in fact, lo guarantee increasing anyone's "reading efficiency" (note this, for it isn't speed only this course aims at least three times. His only provision is that stu- dents attend all classes, and practice the required number of hours, which is fair neough. And unless you think this must be a stodgy, pedagogical exer- cise carried oul by a roomful I of book worms, under tutelage of an let us explain thai Charlie Smith's college degrees, erudition, and 'love of reading are matched by i healthy baiting average in Ihe neighborhood of .300, earned by playing a more-lhan-accept- able outfield position in the Texas League just a few years back. Such an average in such a league requires a genuine "swinger." and stems any fears rf mine that I'm headed into a twampland of pedantry From a preliminary talk with Charlie Smith, it appears Mrs. Wood's instruction is built on the proposition that all of us can do better than we are doing. He likens one's reading capa- city (not unexpectedly) to the world. Until Roger Ban- nister cracked the four-minute mile barrier, he explained, it j secmsd impossible lo do. Once cracked, the breach grew larg- ger until now it's a rather com- mon occurance. "With a few exceptions, no matter how fast one reads Charlie Smith says, "he can d better." What eke did we learn froi Charlie Smith? Well one fat upended us: that the averag literate American reads onf three books a year! Knowini there are many who read 5 or JOO or more a year, Ihin' how many are reading none! Oh, they buy more than three books they buy 12 every year But either these books are gift or up they go in a shelf ti gather dusl. Another point: high IQs arc not required for faster, more comprehensive reading. One un schooled sheep herder was founi who devoured 2.000 books i year. The strange words tha come lo fast readers are jus as slrange lo slow readers, bu the fast renders have an ac vantage (he almost immed iale awareness of the contex which (heir fast reading pro viilcs (hem often furnishes a hint lo the word's meaning, not an outright definition. We're going to meet for three hours a week for eight weeks expected to practice fo one hour each day, using the techniques taught in class We're asked to be willing ti listen to the instruction, to givi up preconceived ideas of wha the course is about, to be read; to change from our reading method to their method, and ti expect progress from the be ginning. We're willing. We shall see. HARK! It has now been a week since starting this effort to increasi our reading speed, and voila an improvement is noticeable already, ft had to come about. Our (variously from the second to fourth the student notes that his reading speed has per- haps tripled. This is pleasing, but if he is honest wilh himself he'll probably find that this speed increase must be credited lo the pressure the instructor keeps on him, forcing him to read and lo concentrate. And if he looks into the fu- ture, into the period after his instruction has been completed, he may wonder whether this early speed will lasl cr gradu- ally diminish when (here is no inslruclor lo keep the pressure on. Such thoughts indicate a mis- understanding of [he reason for the pressure. Up to this in the class, the student probably has been trying lo read one word after another at a faster clip lo ap- pease the ever-driving inslruc- lor He's been fold thai this isn't what he ought lo he doing, but it's (he only way he knows how fo read, and so he continues lo focus his eyes on every word as il. appears. This isn't the system. Hick Ostrov and his fellcv instructors want wrcls lo be seen and understood in groups, in lots. They do not want them picked out one Tiy one. They have iterated and reiterated Ihis idea since Ihe beginning of instruclion, but for some stu- dents it doesn't really register, and for others il seems impos- sible so Ihey don't conform. Picking up words one by one, they've discovered, provides the reader time lo speak them men- tally, sub vocalize them, and this is the anchor which holds a reader back from gaining speed. If the student can be led away from Ihis time-con- suming sub vocalizing, this "fooling around" with words, he can begin to cover the pages of a book rapidly. Consequently tbc pressure put on by the in- structors. They contend thai il can be done; that the words can regis- ter mentally without being sub- vocalized. And the student soon finds il out. He linds, too, that for now at least it is of value to make a conscious effort not to speak the word mentally. One interesting test helps un dersland that it can be done A small booklel, with a single question printed in (he ccntic jjuw uiu uu. mi; cac'1 page, is placed on flic literate American makes about I desk-. Students cover Ihe lion wilh one of their hands, and do? Docs he on signal life their hands, peek only direction to move was up. For an instructor, we ha.e a regular boatswain's male (albe.t likeable and His shoe accoutrements include a ready fool (for booting) and a cot stick (for With his ever-present stopwatch, Rick Ostrov is a pusher. He wants reading students lo move! He probably thinks we're slow read- ers because we're lazy read- ers. He's yea dedi- cated, to "un-Iaze" us. As readily as the next man, Rick Ostrov can sigh raptur- ously over a beautiful phrase or sentence. Churchillian rhe- toric can turn him in like it does anyone else possibly even more so. Yet he realizes, as you and I realize, that to- day's horse and buggy has giv- en way to Walter Shirra and his Apollo spacecraft. There is, in other words, a great amount of reading that has to be cover- ed for its content alone if we're to keep pace with the times. Newspapers, magazines, novels, brochures, elc., have facts we need and entertainment we want, and there's a mountain of it. It's tliis "content reading" that Rick Ostrov is pushing his students to assimilate in a hurry. he will say. "Slow down to taste the delectable Churchillian shislikebab. But there's a lot more hamburger- meat writing in the world today which is no gourmet's delight but which has lo be eaten to live. Breast of pheasant three times a day would not a normal human All right. So what must we do1.' Well, lo start off, ol' bosun Rick Ostrov fires the starting gun as he clocks his stopwatch and commands We read. before we've gone three pages in the book. "Count the pages you've read." We count. Two and a pages. "Multiply by 3no." (Number of words on these pages.) Okay Done. Answer: 750. "Divide by 3." (number of minutes we read.) Okay again. Answer: 2.50. "Thai's your reading speed. How did we do? The average half 275. How did we think we'd tell him? Not even f he pointed a finger right at us. Then comes our first inslru- iion. "You need to 'pace' Rick Oslrov explains. (It's n new, despicable four-letter word, -fe means In this course, Ihe index fin- ;er is the pacer. With the book lat on a table, the index finger begins racing across the lines of type. The idea is for the eye o keep up with the pacer, and he pacer lo keep ahead of the ;ye like the mechanical hare ures the hounds st the race- rack. Sometimes the pacer leaves he eye and you will ;ec a student's index finger lishing back and forth on the right-hand page, while his eyes obviosly remain on the left-hand page. Rut wilh I IIP pacer nnri Kick Islrov's prodding, the student logins to read more nnd more vords per minute, find (Ihis is he strange part) remembering nore of them. That first night of instruclion oublcd Hie reading speed of lost every student pre.scnl. T THIS STAGE of his training at the works, and immediately slap them back down again. The classroom resounds wilh Ihe solid thumps ol :10 or so students clapping their desks wilh their open hands. Wilh Ihe thump, they are expected lo speak aloud the answer lo the ques- tion. It's amazing thai in a mere quarter of a second glance. Ihe reader can get Ihe question and formulate the an- swer. To hcln Ihe student break his word-for-word, lefl-lo-right read- ing habit, Ihis course teacher a riRht-lo-lefl method. At first, even the suggestion lo road right lo left seems impossible and senseless, and when Ihe cf forl is made, result is posi- tively fihalfcring. This is pre- cisely ivhal it is mcanl to be, and before long il begins lo work. When the sluilonl limh hiin.sflf forced ID grasp groups of words and lie1 Ihcii1 meaning in with oilier groups, he dis- covers the ideas of the nuLlior beginning lo flow in. Granted, n good tloivl is miss- ed fit first. Hut as some of Ihe ideas of NIC writer slnii Irick- ling through il dawns on Ihe rp.'idpr lhal Ihr sy.slom works, i find Ihis is progress. Obviously there's nothing mag- ical here. Rather it is "work." The course requires daily prac- tice. But from our present view- point near the halfway point, the goal of faster reading with increased comprehension seems plausable if we can but break that old word-for-word reading drag! WELL, the eight-weeks course is over. Class instruction is fin- ished: It's now some three weeks later. Was il worth the cost and ef- fort? Has it helped? In one word, "yes." How? In both increased speed and comprehension. Last night, ofr instance, I tackled a brand new novel of some 250 pages adding up to about words. It took an hour and ten minutes to read, with an interruption or two, and compreliension enough lo write a review of the book for publication on these pages. This (some words per minute) isn't blinding speed. It should be more, and with practice, I expect it. to increase. There were some real speed demons in our class, however. Some of them could pull their fingers down a page (remem- ber, this class insists upon read- ers pacing themselves with a about ss fast as thsy could move them, and still come up with a pretty accurate synop- sis of what they read when the instructor asked for a written sumary. They were travelling in excess of words a min- ute. It was fascinating lo watch them operate. There arc also 'phenoms' with even higher unbelievable speeds. But the general run of stu- dents remained within Ihe realm of credibilty. What we've done you can do. And here's the amazing part speed aids comprehension! You doubt it? You wonder why? It's this: by driving yourself down a page, forcing your eyes lo keep up with your pacing (finger, and making yourrelf pay attention to the author's ideas, you squeeze out extran- eous thoughts, do away with most of your sub-vocalizing words (saying them and free yourself to think like the author thought. .It really works this way! Some people have asked whether such forcing sets up a tension that will frustrate the reader. Possibly Ihis could hap- pen to some, but the course teaches slaying and letting the comprehension come, letting it flow to you. Catching on to this little trick can discipale any such tension. Another query Is whelher speed will kill the joy of read- ing Some people say they are salisfied with their present speed, and if they can read 500 to 75C words a minute, they may have reason to be satis- fied. It's obvious that the higher the speed, the less opportunity the reader has to enjoy bsauli- ful phrases and sentences. But it's just as obvious that if the beauty of the writing is de- sired, a reader can slow down. Still olhers have asked wheth- er speed dies down after Ihe pressure (hat was put on stu- dents by instructors in the class- room has slopped. Naturally it will, unless the reader keeps up his practice, which is true whether one is playing the piano, baseball or even breath- ing. An advantage of this particu- lar Evelyn Wood Reading Dy- namics course is that once you've graduated, you have be- come a lifl sludent. You may, in other words, return to any of their classes at any lime in in any city over the nation wherever the course is taught as often as you wish. You're a paid-up member of the club! How better can a dedicated speed reader keep his new- won ability honed? And one final point: those who have stood in awe of books, who have considered reading them lo be too much of a task, who have been "defeated" even be- fore opening the front cover, will find that with this training they have acquired a new-born mastery over books. No more will a book frighten them. In- stead, it will become a helpful tool, even a friend .to which to luni for knowledge or diversion. What belter way is there to build a more lilerale you, a more literate nation? The doors are open. READING DYNAMICS GUARANTEES To enable you fo read 3 to 5 times as much as you can nowanc! increases your comprehension. REGISTRATION Will be held on Wed., Nov. 15th at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn. This will be the only time this famous course will be held this year. (Questions will be answered) ;