Saturday, April 22, 2006

Reading The Speed Reading Book by Tony Buzan

Tony Buzan is something like a deity to me. Not only because he's the official inventor of Mind Maps, my preferred technique for making notes, giving speeches and planning tasks, but because he's shown me the way to learn.

Many people think investing time in reading how to read is useless, because you should just read more. So if you're a bad cook, you should just cook more in the same way that gave catastrophic results? Or would you consider reading a cookbook or two before attempting another shot at lasagna? Applying your old habits and approaches does not work if you want to improve.

Reading speed is something I was stuck with for quite some time. I was a painfully slow reader, not because I couldn't read faster, but because I thought and stuck (especially with study materials) to the method, that in order to understand and remember, you have to read slowly and carefully. I also like to read so I hear words in my head which additionally slowed me down. (Poems and novels are great to read this way, you can literally feel the verses and the paragraphs form in your mouth, it's not just going over words and understanding them, but feeling them, pondering about them... I love to do this, it's a physical contact with the material; likewise I can't read off the computer screen, I have to print the material out.) And here was my friend Tony, who was the first one to tell me that slow and carefully does not amount to better comprehension. And once I tried, when I forced myself to read faster, I noticed that I understand the material better.

I still have problems, because I was stuck with my old, slow reading speed for decades and have to force myself to read faster and faster (Ideally I also use a leading tool, a pencil, otherwise I start reading fast, but the more I read the slower I get.) and especially with study materials this is still difficult. Realizing I could read twice as much in the same amount of time gives me hope, though, so I force myself to read faster, even if that means I have to read the same chapter twice. Reading faster gives you more time to reread, which I like doing and it does miracles for my memory. Once I read a text three or four times I already know it (almost) by heart.

Generally, this is a good speed reading book, a real do-it-yourself book, which offers insight into how people read and how to improve reading speed. However, I'm still a little skeptic about eventually reading at 3000 wpm, because even 500 seems quite fast to me. Also reading with a backwards sweep or two lines at a time is difficult, especially when the lines are long. In a newspaper I can read two lines at a time, but in a study book or a novel I find it very difficult. However, I hope that with perseverance I will manage to read even faster in the future. The only bad thing is that without a lead, I usually get stuck and start reading progressively slower. Having a lead on you at all times is not so difficult, but getting it out and using it is. I guess I'll just have to persevere.

While Tony still advocates some old-school ideas (e.g. that the brain is split in left, rational, hemisphere and right, creative, hemisphere), he always manages to introduce me to new knowledge which helps me to continually improve myself and that's what I like about him and what makes me read his books.

Has anybody tried to speed-read? What is your maximum speed?


posted by Nadezhda | 11:06


Blogger Bo said...


What about a natural learning? Some don't keep cooking in the same way that gave catastrophic results, because they are aware of their experiences and try something different and luckily they find a natural way to better techniques.
So, could one say that if the techniques of Busman are honest and true, a sensitive person would master them sooner or latter just by himslef?

The reading speed values you mention seem awfully big to me! I would estimate that my reading normal fiction speeds are: 150 wps and 200 wps, for English and Slovene respectively. But 500? 3000!?
I obviously don't speed read, and never had. Perhaps I should. I know I will do some more measurments.

Me and blarneyfellow are leaving some related thoughts in one of his posts.

Anonymous Woody Allen said...

I took the speed reading course and read 'War and Peace' in twenty minutes. It's about Russia.

Blogger Nadezhda said...

Yeah, Woody, I know. :) However I tried to point out that stepping out of the comfort zone can help with improving not just speed, but also understanding. I did not mean to imply that you have to read so fast as to compromise understanding. The basic idea is that you can understand (as well as you did before or even better) while reading only slightly faster than your normal speed. When one reads slowly (wants to read "carefully"), the brain gets disinterested and turns off. Reading slowly virtually sends the brain to sleep.

Bo - 500wpm is not a big number. You should be able to read newspapers at that speed. Just push yourself further. Use a pen to guide your eyes along the line. Move the pen quickly and the eyes will follow.

About natural learning. I read what you and Blarney fellow posted and I found out that I naturally read by scrolling all the time. Sometimes, however, you don't "invent" a time-saving technique by yourself and it helps if you're exposed to an idea. (I heard and read about speed reading before, but never put it into practice. Now that I have, I will hopefully never go back.)

Blogger Bo said...

I haven't read War and Peace and I also know it's about Russia.

But, really, Nadezhda: What are your additional thoughts on gaining from a certain book in dependence of increasing the reading speed?

Blogger Bo said...

Oh, the 3rd comment (of Nadezhda) wasn't displayed as I was editing mine.

I said I would try reading speedier, I am pretty excited about that. Wait a minute, I could've started just before ...

Blogger Nadezhda said...

If you read faster, you gain more time to read other books. Increasing your speed just by a factor of 2, you can read twice as many books! That's quite an improvement!

Blogger Lilit said...

How about enjoying your books?
I can read faster than anyone I know, the fastest was about 100 pages a minute (which is probably not as fast as Tony Buzan can get you - and btw I love him for the mindmaps, too); but I don't really enjoy reading that way.
Usually I read really fast when I'm really interested in what's going to happen next or in the end.
But if a book is really good I like to read it slow to savour every word of it.

Blogger Nadezhda said...

Well, when you want to enjoy your books, it's but natural that you read slowlier than usual. I never said reading really fast (as fast as you described) was enjoyable. I don't think we're on the same wavelength, either. I was naturally a very slow reader (about 150 wpm) and especially with textbooks, that speed was sending my brain to sleep. It'd take me about a day to read three chapters (approx. 60 pages), whereas I could read the same amount in about an hour was it a Harry Potter book.

Probably for really fast readers like you, reading faster is nonsensical. But for slow readers like me, increasing speed (about 2 or 3 times) enables you to stay focused on your material and read much more of it with better comprehansion. TRy reading one of your textbooks at 150 wpm and I guarantee you will be dozing off before the hour is over.

Blogger Lilit said...

Of course it's not 100 pages per minute but per hour...
I never looked at it like this, that increasing reading speed can help you stay focused. Interesting point. In textbooks I generally have to slow myself down and try to actually understand what I read, because I loose focusif I read them as fast as fiction. For me it's more a matter of knowing what I read than of speed.

Blogger Nadezhda said...

I understand your point about textbooks; sometimes while trying to understand what the text is about, I slow myself down to the speed of a snail and I start to lose focus, so reading faster enables me to stay more focused. I sometimes even temporarily compromise understanding in a section and just try to get through the text as opposed to undestanding everything. The next time I read this same section (usually the same day), I focus more on the parts I didn't understand on the first take. I find that this strategy enables me to proceed through the difficult sections faster whereas before I would just stay stuck in a difficult paragraph even though following that paragraph might be something much easier to understand.

Blogger Tess said...

Hmmm.this was something interesting to think about.

I also tend to zip through things I "have to read", whereas when I am reading something for pleasure I may read it more slowly. Actually, that's not entirely true. I read novels fairly quickly; on short stories I prefer to take a bit more time because I enjoy the subtle nuances usually included in a short story -- the way more attention seems to have been paid to each word and phrase, as opposed to a novel. And poems? It depends. If I am reading one in English I read fairly slowly, because I like to turn phrases over in my head, think more consciously about how they make me feel, and sometimes remember bits of them. In Spanish I read poetry a bit more quickly, but read the piece more than once or twice in a row.

Blogger Nadezhda said...

See, so you're varying your speed naturally according to what you feel needs more careful reading and what does not. I agree - sometimes a novel has much excess, whereas in short stories the words are exactly measured and only there if they're needed.

Blogger Belgothiel said...

I haven't tried speed reading yet, but I'm on my way there,I'd say. I mean I want to try it because I'm such a slow reader! It' is good for some texts, but not for all of them and I can't wait to learn to read quicker; so I'll save some time. Have you heard about the Vid Pečjak's book Hitro in uspešno branje? I've just got it so it usually takes some time before I get started with things like that :/

Blogger Nadezhda said...

Belgothiel - I know how frustrating it is to be a slow reader. But the good news is that you can improve, even if slightly! :) Yes, I heard about Pečjak's book, but haven't laid my hands on it yet. I found Buzan to be quite comprehensive (he also has speed reading tests), but in the summer, I'll definitely read more books about speed reading.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read the speed reading book and found it very interesting. I've also found an actual web
speed reading program that I really like.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not all speed reading courses are the same. I had great success with the one I found. I recommend it to everyone.

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