Reading Faster Gregory D. Loving, PhD University of Cincinnati Clermont College Click to continue Reading in College Reading academic material is one of the big challenges of college life. College students not only have to read more than they ever have before, they have to read styles that they might not have read without being forced to. Reading a cheap novel or newspaper is a far cry from reading academic material. Within academic material, reading literature or history is a far cry from reading a biology or algebra book. In this workshop, we will learn about how we read and how to read faster with increased comprehension. Click to continue Fast Reading and Study Skills Reading faster will definitely help you in your college studies, but reading fast is not a substitute for a good study plan. A good student does several things with a textbook in addition to the actual reading. We will look briefly at a basic plan of attack before we get into reading faster. Click to continue Any time you read material from a textbook, you should first determine your purpose in reading— Will I be tested on this material? How much detail will I be responsible for? Am I reading this as research for a paper or as information for a class that may be on a test? Do I just have to know the basic concepts? Knowing why you are reading will help you get the information you need. Click to continue After determining your purpose in reading, skim the section you intend to read. Look at introductory and summary paragraphs, subject headings, first and last sentences of paragraphs, charts and graphs, and any other material that will give you an overview before you get down to reading. When you know how the the pieces fit together, you will get more out of your reading. Click to continue Read only after you determine your purpose and skim the selection. We will look at this part of the studying process— the actual reading—in a moment. Click to continue There are a variety of study techniques available to you after you read the required material: •You may go back and take notes on the reading, outline the reading, or write a summary of the reading. •You may highlight the main points of the section so you can go back to the text and review the material quickly. •You may even want to transfer things like formulas, facts and definitions to notecards to use in studying. •You also may want to write down questions or comments that you would like to share with your professor. Click to continue The whole point here is: Learning to read fast can save you time, but do not neglect your other responsibilities in studying a text. Now that you have a better idea of where reading fits into studying, we can deal with the subject of reading speed. Click to continue The Need for Speed Though there are ways you can increase your overall reading speed, you will not be able to, nor will you want to, read all kinds of texts at the same speed. The more unfamiliar vocabulary a text has, the more time it takes to read. Writing styles you are not used to reading will also slow you down until you get into the swing of things. You should read complicated explanations or arguments more slowly so you don’t miss a step. Click to continue Just remember to change gears if you think you are not getting it all. As you learn more vocabulary and experience more styles, you will naturally read faster. Speed helps, but speed is not your ultimate goal. When reading for school, the ultimate goal is not to finish your assignment in record time but to learn the material. If you don’t learn the material, you will have to waste time re- reading, which defeats the whole purpose of reading fast in the first place. The goal, then, is to read fast with comprehension. Click to continue Here is an exercise that will illustrate some of this. Words and phrases will pop up on the screen. Try to read and remember them. Get some scratch paper to help you. After the group of words, you’ll answer a few questions. With pen and paper ready, click to continue and the exercise will run automatically. Click to continue Red armadillo To the moon Slanted baggage Jaldegnet flitzer Chance of showers Cool as a cucamunga Character education Recessive gene Throatgrabber townhammer Slide into home Take a minute to write down what you remember. Click to continue Now for some questions: 1. What color was the armadillo? 2. grabber town . 3. Cool as a . 4. To the . 5. Slide into . 6. What type of baggage? 7. What is the weather going to be like? 8. Character . 9. Jaldegnet . 10. gene. Click to continue Here is the original list. Check your answers and correct them if necessary. Red armadillo To the moon Slanted baggage Jaldegnet flitzer Chance of showers Cool as a cucamunga Character education Recessive gene Throatgrabber townhammer Slide into home Click to continue How did you do? You might have noticed several things: Phrases are easier to recognize if you are already familiar with them. You may also have been fooled by phrases that were close to something familiar, and your mind leaped before it looked. Click to continue Also, words that you are not used to seeing together are harder to read. Finally, words I made up may have been the hardest of all. In general, familiarity speeds you up, lack of familiarity slows you down. Different types of material will have different challenge speeds for you. Click to continue Your Reading Speed Most people entering college read at about 150-250 words per minute, about the same speed people talk. When you click after you read this, a selection of text will appear on the screen at about 170 words per minute to give you an idea of how fast that is. Click to continue All texts used in this presentation are from A Modern History Sourcebook: www.fordham.edu The following text is an exerpt from Geronimo, His own story Text will appear automatically in a few seconds When an Indian has been wronged by a member of his tribe he may, if he does not wish to settle the difficulty personally, make complaint to the Chieftain. If he is unable to meet the offending parties in a personal encounter, and disdains to make complaint, anyone may in his stead inform the chief of this conduct, and then it becomes necessary to have an investigation or trial. Both the accused and the accuser are entitled to witnesses, and their witnesses are not interrupted in any way by questions, but simply say what they wish to say in regard to the matter. The witnesses are not placed under oath, because it is not believed that they will give false testimony in a matter relating to their own people. The chief of the tribe presides during these trials, but if it is a serious offense he asks two or three leaders to sit with him. These simply determine whether or not the man is guilty. If he is not guilty the matter is ended, and the complaining party has forfeited his right to take personal vengeance, for if he wishes to take vengeance himself, he must object to the trial which would prevent it. If the accused is found guilty the injured party fixes the penalty, which is generally confirmed by the chief and his associates. Remember, that was about 170 words per minute. It may have seemed fast or slow to you, depending on your current reading speed of average difficulty material. It’s easy to figure out your reading speed if you’re up to a little math sometime. Click to continue Get an average book with pages of solid text. Count the words on one page: count the words in ten lines or so and multiply the average number of words per line by the number of lines on the page. Read at a normal speed for ten minutes. Multiply the number of words per page by the number of pages you read, which will be the total number of words you read. Then divide by ten, and this will give you number of words read per minute. Click to continue When we are reading for pleasure, we really don’t have to read any faster than around 200 words per minute. After all, no-one is breathing down your neck demanding that you finish “Gone With the Wind” or that article in “WWF Monthly” by Friday so you can take an exam on it. Click to continue When we read for school, though, the object is usually to get the job done, and we can’t take our sweet time about it. The key to reading faster centers around the fact that we read much like we talk—one word at a time. Click to continue A large portion of reading time consists of the time it takes to physically move your eyes from one word to the next. Look at a word— focus on it— read it— understand it— move your eyes to the next word— focus on it— read it— understand it— And so on. Reading is actually more physical than we realize. Click to continue The best way to increase reading speed is to look at more than one word at a time. This can be easily accomplished using a little bit of our peripheral vision. On the next slide, a phrase will appear in the middle of the screen. There will be a dot in the middle of the phrase. Just look at the dot and see if you can read the whole phrase. Resist the almost overpowering temptation to look at each individual word. Click to continue Arriving on Tuesday It’s hard for most people to intentionally concentrate on the dot and read the words without looking directly at them. The phrase, by the way, was “Arriving on Tuesday.” Now a series of words will appear around the dot. Just keep staring at the dot and see if you can read the words. Click to continue In the still of the night I saw a leaping armadillo. That was “In the still of the night I saw a leaping armadillo.” Let’s try another one. Click to continue While at the dentist you may chance upon antique magazines. That was “While at the dentist you may chance upon antique magazines.” Click to continue you can practice reading more than one word at a time with real reading material by looking at several artificial points on every line. You can literally put these points in with something like a highlighter or pencil every inch or so, or you can use imaginary points. Your aim in either case is to look at these points and use your peripheral vision to read as many words around the point as you can. Click to continue Using the artificial point method is helpful, but it adds an extra step that you don’t have to go through (now that I’ve made you go through it, of course.) Click to continue Looking at more than one word happens naturally if we force ourselves to read faster. When we read faster than we are used to, our eyes get used to reading single words faster. When we push ourselves past about 300 words per minute, our eyes start looking at two or three words at a time instead of one (two or three words is the limit that most people’s peripheral vision can read consistently with understanding.) Looking at several words at once cuts out a lot of re-focusing time, and therefore cuts reading time. Click to continue There are a number of ways you can increase the speed your eyes see the words on a page without intentionally looking at an artificial point: You can use a piece of paper or even your finger to sweep down the page at a speed that challenges you, forcing yourself to read at a faster pace. You’ll miss things in the beginning, but your eyes will eventually adjust and you will start to read faster, taking in more than one word at a time. Click to continue You can also use electronically paced texts, some of which you will experience in a few moments. The low-tech method, however, is the most available and the most flexible. You can do it anywhere, and speed up or slow down whenever you need to. It’s also cheap. Click to continue After you practice for a few weeks or months, you should be able to read average difficulty material at 400 to 500 words per minute. Don’t get hung up on the number of words per minute, though, just try to read faster. Click to continue 800 words per minute is about tops for human word consumption. It may be hard to believe now, but when you read at 800 words per minute, you actually can see every individual word. Any faster than 800 words per minute, though, and you start skipping words and you’re technically skimming, not reading. Skimming is fine for overviews before or after you read, but it doesn’t replace reading. Click to continue 800 words per minute is the extreme top end of the scale. College reading uses unfamiliar terminology and more complicated sentence structure, which will slow you down. 500 words per minute is an admirable goal, and 300-400 words per minute isn’t shabby either. You will read different types of material at different paces anyway. Overall improvement is more important than raw speed, and comprehension is the most important thing of all. Click to continue This leads us to another advantage of reading faster: Did you ever stop reading and realize you have no idea what the last five pages said? Click to continue Your brain got bored and wandered away. Your brain got bored because it can take in information a lot faster than you normally read. In the split-seconds between words, your brain has time to think about stuff like what you had for breakfast, what you’re doing this weekend, duckbill platypuses, or whatever. When we read faster, our brains stay interested because information is coming in faster and those pesky neurons don’t have time to do anything else besides read. Click to continue When your brain stays interested, your comprehension increases. Learning to read faster, then, gives you a double payback—you save time and you increase comprehension. Click to continue The Exercises In the exercises that follow, text will appear on the screen at a predetermined pace. Just follow along. Do not be surprised if you can’t read everything. The whole point of these exercises is to challenge you. Don’t consciously try to look at groups of words. Your eyes will do that for you when you are reading at uncomfortably fast but understandable speeds. Click to continue Reading Speed Examples Let’s give you a sample of various reading speeds. We’ve already seen 170 words per minute, so let’s start off with a selection at 250 words per minute. Just sit back and read. Click to continue Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy in America (1831) Excerpts from Book 1, Chapter 13: GOVERNMENT OF THE DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA On my arrival in the United States I was surprised to find so much distinguished talent among the citizens and so little among the heads of the government. It is a constant fact that at the present day the ablest men in the United States are rarely placed at the head of affairs; and it must be acknowledged that such has been the result in proportion as democracy has exceeded all its former limits. The race of American statesmen has evidently dwindled most remarkably in the course of the last fifty years. The greater or lesser ease with which people can live without working is a sure index of intellectual progress. This boundary is more remote in some countries and more restricted in others, but it must exist somewhere as long as the people are forced to work in order to procure the means of subsistence; that is to say, as long as they continue to be the people. It is therefore quite as difficult to imagine a state in which all the citizens are very well informed as a state in which they are all wealthy; these two difficulties are correlative. I readily admit that the mass of the citizens sincerely wish to promote the welfare of the country; nay, more, I even grant that the lower classes mix fewer considerations of personal interest with their patriotism than the higher orders; but it is always more or less difficult for them to discern the best means of attaining the end which they sincerely desire. Long and patient observation and much acquired knowledge are requisite to form a just estimate of the character of a single individual. Men of the greatest genius often fail to do it, and can it be supposed that the common people will always succeed? The people have neither the time nor the means for an investigation of this kind. Their conclusions are hastily formed from a superficial inspection of the more prominent features of a question. Hence it often happens that mountebanks of all sorts are able to please the people, while their truest friends frequently fail to gain their confidence. While the natural instincts of democracy induce the people to reject distinguished citizens as their rulers, an instinct not less strong induces able men to retire from the political arena, in which it is so difficult to retain their independence, or to advance without becoming servile. This opinion has been candidly expressed by Chancellor Kent, who says, in speaking with high praise of that part of the Constitution which empowers the executive to nominate the judges: “It is indeed probable that the men who are best fitted to discharge the duties of this high office would have too much reserve in their manners, and too much austerity in their principles, for them to be returned by the majority at an election where universal suffrage is adopted.” Such were the opinions which were printed without contradiction in America in the year 1830! I hold it to be sufficiently demonstrated that universal suffrage is by no means a guarantee of the wisdom of the popular choice. Whatever its advantages may be, this is not one of them. Here’s 350 words per minute, from Cecile Augon, Social France in the XVIIthe Century, Report of the Estates of Normandy (1651) Click to continue Of the 450 sick persons whom the inhabitants were unable to relieve, 200 were turned out, and these we saw die one by one as they lay on the roadside. A large number still remain, and to each of them it is only possible to dole out the least scrap of bread. We only give bread to those who would otherwise die. The staple dish here consists of mice, which the inhabitants hunt, so desperate are they from hunger. They devour roots which the animals cannot eat; one can, in fact, not put into words the things one sees.... This narrative, far from exaggerating, rather understates the horror of the case, for it does not record the hundredth part of the misery in this district. Those who have not witnessed it with their own eyes cannot imagine how great it is. Not a day passes but at least 200 people die of famine in the two provinces. We certify to having ourselves seen herds, not of cattle, but of men and women, wandering about the fields between Rheims and Rhétel, turning up the earth like pigs to find a few roots; and as they can only find rotten ones, and not half enough of them, they become so weak that they have not strength left to seek food. The parish priest at Boult, whose letter we enclose, tells us he has buried three of his parishioners who died of hunger. The rest subsisted on chopped straw mixed with earth, of which they composed a food which cannot be called bread. Other persons in the same place lived on the bodies of animals which had died of disease, and which the curé, otherwise unable to help his people, allowed them to roast at the presbytery fire. From Letters of the Abbess of Port-Royal (1649) This poor country is a horrible sight; it is stripped of everything. The soldiers take possession of the farms and have the corn threshed, but will not give a single grain to the owners who beg it as an alms. It is impossible to plough. There are no more horses all have been carried off. The peasants are reduced to sleeping in the woods and are thankful to have them as a refuge from murderers. And if they only had enough bread to half satisfy their hunger, they would indeed count themselves happy. (1652) People massacre each other daily with every sort of cruelty.... The soldiers steal from one another when they have denuded every one else, and as they spoil more property than they carry off, they are themselves often reduced to starvation, and can find no more to annex. All the armies are equally undisciplined and vie with one another in lawlessness. The authorities in Paris are trying to send back the peasants to gather in the corn; but as soon as it is reaped the marauders come to slay and steal, and disperse all in a general rout. Now we’ll go to a brisk 500 words per minute. The next few selections are from TAKING A NEW LOOK AT THE WOMAN SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT Courtesy of the National Women’s History Project Click to continue Women won the vote. They were not given it or granted it. Women won it as truly as any political campaign is ultimately won or lost. And they won it by the slimmest of margins, which only underscores the difficulty and magnitude of their victories. Take the successful California referendum campaign of 1911, for example. The margin of victory there was just one vote per precinct! In the House of Representatives, suffrage passed the first time by exactly the number of votes needed, with one supporter being carried in from the hospital and another leaving his wife's deathbed to be there to cast their votes. In the Senate, suffrage passed with just two votes to spare. When the Nineteenth Amendment was sent to the states for ratification, Tennessee, the last state, passed it by a single vote, at the very last minute, during a recount! Consider this for a moment: Women were a poor and disenfranchised class when they first organized to gain political power in the mid-1800s. Their struggle for the ballot took over 70 years of constant, determined campaigning, yet it did not take a single life, and its success has endured. Compare this with male-led independence movements. Without firing a shot, throwing a rock, or issuing a personal threat, women won for themselves rights that men have launched violent rebellions to achieve. The suffragists' deliberate rejection of violence may be one of the reasons the movement has not received the attention that is lavished on other, more bloody periods of American history. But this neglect should not deceive us; this struggle was waged every bit as seriously as any struggle for equality. We would do well to consider how women were able to do what men have rarely even tried to do, change society in a positive and lasting way without violence and death. But despite all of this, the suffrage movement has been routinely and consistently ignored by mainstream historians. And when it has not been ignored it has been substantially misrepresented. The result is our mistaken notion that the suffrage movement was an inconsequential cause, one hardly worthy of our attention, much less our respect. The woman suffrage movement is often treated as a lone curiosity with nothing much to teach us, or worse, as a target for clever academics to critique. Fortunately, there have been some notable exceptions, but this attitude lies at the heart of the problem. But when we take a closer look at the history of the American woman suffrage movement we can see something very different. What we can see is definitely not a dour, old-woman cause benevolently recognized by Congressional gods. We can see a movement of female organizers, leaders, politicians, journalists, visionaries, rabble rousers, and warriors. We can see an active, controversial, passionate movement of the best and the brightest women in America, from all backgrounds, who, as we say today, boldly went where no women had ever gone before. Here is 800 words per minute, the limit between reading and skimming. Click to continue It is important to remember that men were suffragists, too. The suffrage movement both included men as supporters and depended on the votes that only men could cast. Even when state suffrage measures were lost, the question often received tens of thousands of male votes of approval. And, of course, it was a virtually all-male Senate and House that approved the amendment, along with 36 virtually all- male state legislatures that ratified it. Many courageous men risked ridicule and worse to actively support women's rights. In my opinion, those men are far better role models for us today than many better-known political and military figures in American history. You do not need to be female, consider yourself a feminist or even political, to enjoy learning about the suffrage movement. For while the subject is woman suffrage, the larger story is about democracy, and how a powerless class of Americans won concessions and guarantees from those in power without the use of violence. In learning about the suffrage movement, you will find a new view of American history, brimming with new heroes. Next to George Washington and his cherry tree we can set young Carrie Chapman Catt driving a wagon across the prairie by "dead reckoning" or brave Lucretia Mott trusting her own safety to a member of the mob roused against her. Let us honor Sojourner Truth no less than Patrick Henry, and Alice Paul no less than Woodrow Wilson. The celebration of the suffrage movement victory holds a particular relevance now, as it has helped lead us as a country and a people to where we are today. It celebrates a substantial milestone on the road to equal rights for women, and it honors those who helped win the day. It puts women back into our national history as active participants. It reminds us of the necessity of progressive leaders, organizers, and visionaries in every local community. It is the origin of the yet-unpassed Equal Rights Amendment. It exposes the misplaced fears and prejudices of those who oppose equal rights for women, and offers a sobering reminder that too many of these same foolish, reactionary attitudes from 100 years ago still exist today. Clearly, the wider goal of women's full equality and freedom has not yet been achieved, but the victorious woman suffrage movement offers a new generation of activists a solid base on which to build for the future. Just for torture, let’s double the 800 and see what 1600 words per minute looks like, whizzing by. This text is a speech by Barry M. Goldwater, “Ban on Gays is Senseless Attempt to Stall the Inevitable” Click to continue After more than 50 years in the military and politics, I am still amazed to see how upset people can get over nothing. Lifting the ban on gays in the military isn't exactly nothing, but it's pretty damned close. Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar. They'll still be serving long after we're all dead and buried. That should not surprise anyone. But most Americans should be shocked to know that while the country's economy is going down the tubes, the military has wasted half a billion dollars over the past decade chasing down gays and running them out of the armed services. It's no great secret that military studies have proved again and again that there's no valid reason for keeping the ban on gays. Some thought gays were crazy, but then found that wasn't true. Then they decided that gays were a security risk, but again the Department of Defense decided that wasn't so-in fact, one study by the Navy in 1956 that was never made public found gays to be good security risks. Even Larry Korb, President Reagan's man in charge of implementing the Pentagon ban on gays, now admits that it was a dumb idea. No wonder my friend Dick Cheney, secretary of defense under President Bush, called it "a bit of an old chestnut" When the facts lead to one conlusion, I say it's time to act, not to hide. The country and the military know that eventually the ban will be lifted. The only remaining questions are how much muck we will all be dragged through, and how many brave Americans like Tom Paniccia and Margarethe Cammermeyer will have their lives and careers destroyed in a senseless attempt to stall the inevitable. Some in congress think I'm wrong. They say we absolutely must continue to discriminate, or all hell will break loose. Who knows, they say, perhaps our soldiers may even take up arms against each other. Well, that's just stupid. Years ago, I was a lieutenant in charge of an all-black unit. Military leaders at the time believed that blacks lacked leadership potential - period. That seems ridiculous now, as it should. Now, each and every man and woman who serves this nation takes orders from a black man - our own Gen. Colin Powell. Nobody thought that blacks or women could ever be integrated into the military. Many thought that an all-volunteer force could never protect our national interest. Well, it has, and despite those who feared the worst - I among them - we are still the best and will continue to be. The point is that decisions are always a lot easier to make in hindsight. but we seldom have that luxury. That's why the future of our country depends on leadership, and that's what we need now. I served in the armed forces. I have flown more than 150 of the best fighter planes and bombers this country manufactured. I founded the Arizona National Guard. I chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee. And I think it's high time to pull the curtains on this charade of policy. What should undermine our readiness would be a compromise policy like "Don't ask, don't tell." That compromise doesn't deal with the issue - it tries to hide it. We have wasted enough precious time, money and talent trying to persecute and pretend. It's time to stop burying our heads in the sand and denying reality for the sake of politics. It's time to deal with this straight on and be done with it. It's time to get on with more important business. The conservative movement, to which I subscribe, has as one of its basic tenets the belief that government should stay out of people's private lives. Government governs best when it governs least - and stays out of the impossible task of legislating morality. But legislating someone's version of morality is exactly what we do by perpetuating discrimination against gays. When you get down to it, no American able to serve should be allowed, much less given an excuse, not to serve his or her country. We need all our talent. If I were in the Senate today, I would rise on the Senate floor in support of our commander in chief. He may be a Democrat, but he happens to be right on this question. Now it’s time for you to practice on you own. You can either use the paper/finger technique to make yourself read faster, or use more computerized speed-texts to sharpen your skills. Calculate your reading speed every once in a while on various types of material to see how you’re doing. Come back to this workshop occasionally to see if it’s any easier at the higher speeds.