I recently discovered a couple of speed reading programs that are free plug-ins for electronic reading especially web-based reading. I excitedly downloaded and installed them onto my desktop machine. Unfortunately these free plug-ins were a major disappointment that built upon common a misunderstanding about speed reading. This misconception is especially problematic for comprehension at high speeds that most, if not all speed reading software programs promote in such a way that tarnish the topic due to their ineffectiveness.

The web-based plug-ins had the user either copy and paste the selection into a window, or highlight text on the page to be read. Both used what is called a tachistoscopic approach which flashed single words in the viewer window at a pre-determined speed. This approach fails for a variety of reasons, especially considering that it is built upon seeing one word at a time. The user cannot get a sense of context reading in this manner. Seeing words in context is critical for comprehension.

It is not just that these plug-ins miss the mark for real speed reading where the reader can read and understand in the thousands of words per minute range, but most, if not all software and software training fail the learner due to the same tachistoscopic approach. A tachistoscope uses a mechanical method of flashing words on a screen. It can be set to display from single words to entire paragraphs. As early as the 1960s, tachistoscopic training was clinically proven to be ineffective in learning real lasting speed reading abilities.

These software approaches are intended to break the habit of untrained readers of stopping and lingering the eyes on single words (prolonged fixations), and to move the eyes more fluidly and efficiently over print. The idea's intention is a useful one in that untrained readers do need to learn to move the eyes more efficiently. However they fail to deliver on training the learner to master speed reading for a number of reasons.

1. The eyes can naturally see between 1-3 inches in diameter with clarity of focus at normal reading distances (page in a book, magazine, electronic screen, etc.). Programs that expand the focal area greater than that can cause eye muscle problems.

2. When the focus is on expanding the size of the "word groups" or "word clusters," and the number of words per fixation (eye stops), it does not recognize the true nature of reading comprehension. If you are focusing on the size of the word group, it prohibits your mind from focusing on the meanings of those words. Rather than focus on "word clumps," the reader should focus on the meaning of the text, not the number of words seen.

3. Pacing at a set speed is artificial to the actual act of reading for comprehension. Set speed pacing works well for basic skill practice and breaking of old habits but ineffective as a lasting reading methodology. Effective readers are faster in certain topics and slower in others because of the nature of reading comprehension. Within a particular document the reader may read one section faster because the structure is simpler and the content is easier, and then read slower in another area because the writing is more complex. Similarly, as the reader moves from one reading source to another source, the topic of the first source may be more familiar and thus easier for that reader and thus the mind can respond faster.

4. What happens when the reader wants to absorb something from a non-electronic environment such as reading books, magazines, newspapers, printed reports, etc.? How will the reader continue the eye movement without the software running? Follow-up studies are conclusive that the vast majority of readers will slow back down to their original speed.

As mentioned earlier, pacing can be effective as an initial aspect of training to break old inefficient habits. However the pacer should be the readers' hand, or fat end of a pen/pencil, or the mouse pointer. Self-pacing using the hand, pen, pacer, or something similar, puts the reader in control of the reading process. Another way of expressing it is from the inside out, rather than being externally driven in some automated fashion. After the initial training, this self-driven pacing helps to keep the eyes moving efficiently, but it does so at the control of the mind of the reader. The pacer helps move the eyes, but the reader moves according to the mind's response. Again the reader is faster in some area and materials, and slower in others.

Effective speed readers know that there is not just one speed to achieve. Effective speed readers know how to adjust continuously during their reading according to how they comprehend the material. Software program pacing can sometimes be useful in the beginning stages of learning speed reading, but they are ultimately limiting and ineffective in the long run because they are too artificial and one dimensional in approaching the issue of reading comprehension and speed reading.

Now that you know about the myth of artificial pacing programs for speed reading, I invite you to learn more truths about developing this critical skill and get more free tips at http://speedreadingtactics.com/speed_reading_newsletter.html

Author's Bio: 

Cut through the maze of mis-information and myths about speed reading and get real facts, tips, and articles from the speed reading expert, Ed Caldwell, who has researched, tested and trained tens of thousands of learners in the art and science of dynamic speed reading. Get instant access to tips, mini-sessions, and articles at http://speedreadingtactics.com/speed_reading_newsletter.html

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