Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Harsh Truth about Speed Reading by Simon Oxenham

I have questioned since my college days the benefits and flaws of speed reading. To me speed reading a book can be like wolfing down a meal. You get to finish fast but did you enjoy the food for thought or meal?

Below are some takeaways from the article...

Essentially, the speed readers had increased their ability to construct reasonably accurate inferences about text content on the basis of partial information and their preexisting knowledge.

Speed-reading often produces a confused understanding—in some cases, a completely fabricated one, the researchers reported. They quoted Woody Allen’s classic line: “I took a speed-reading course where you run your finger down the middle of the page and was able to read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It’s about Russia.

The best way to increase the speed of our reading is to practice reading itself, particularly different types of text with varied language. The more familiar we are with complex styles of written language, the easier it is to conduct the “elegantly choreographed dance” that is reading.

The take-home lesson from efforts to increase our reading speed is to question whether speed-reading is a healthy aspiration at all. Speed-readers don’t see what’s on the page; they read what they want to see, which perhaps explains why the practice continues to thrive. It must feel very good to devour a whole book in a few seconds and discover it only said what you already thought anyway. But that’s pretty much the opposite of learning. 

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