What E.W. Whispered in My Ear For Your Benefit

I was sitting in my freshman contracts law class when a drone from the administration office walked in the room. He whispered something to the instructor who pointed at me and wiggled his finger to follow the administrative assistant. My stomach rumbled because I was certain it was not a notification of being chosen Freshman of the Year.

We silently rode down the elevator to the Dean Reppy’s Office. This was my second semester and it was not going well. I could not keep up with the class assignments (homework) and had failed two of my midterm exams. Last semester I barely got by with “c’s” and “d’s.

“Mr. Wechsler, have you considered accounting or your father’s chocolate empire?’

“No, Dean Reppy, I am going to be a contracts lawyer.”

“I am not a gambler, but the odds are not in your favor.”

“I was an “A” student at university, but at law school keeping up with the class assignments is a holy terror. There is no difficulty in briefing what the cases stand for, and I enjoy all my classes, it is the totality of keeping up day-after-day.”

“You recite well in my English Common Law class, but your Midterms have done you in. Give it up, son.”

“If you can suggest anything at all – a full-time tutor – test-taking training, I am up for it. Money is no object. I know I have the right stuff to be a great contracts advocate.”

Cut to the chase – not the bank. Dean Reppy gave me until the finals of this semester to prove myself – or else. He was from Missouri and an international scholar, and I was a lowly freshman, so his suggestion was my command.

“Contact Evelyn Wood in Washington, D.C. She teaches a new 16-hour course in speed reading, it could change your academic life. Take it on the weekends and make it work for you before the finals.
Are you certain you would not like to be a CPA instead or a candy baron?”


Speed Reading was brought to the White House by John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert F. It happened this way: JFK was U.S. Senator for Massachusetts and was a natural speed reader of two- to three-books daily. He demanded Bobby improve his reading absorption and long-term memory

In 1954 both brothers commuted from D.C. to Baltimore, Md. every Tuesday for a rapid-reading class from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. It was held at John-Hopkins University (night-college) by Professor Elton Y.
Mears (Big-Ears-Mears) and called “How to Read Better And Faster”.

Both Kennedys discovered new strategies in text-reading and finished the program at about 1,500 to 2,000 words per minute in complex material, with 85% comprehension. What does that mean? The average U.S. College graduate then and today reads complex (tough) text at an average of 100-125 words per minute. Their comprehension is only 60%. Some educators call it Snailing along, not reading. Professionals read even slower because of their fear of error or loss of comprehension.


JFK the 35th President of the U.S. and was sworn in at noon, January 20, 1961. He immediately required all White House staffers, including his wife and brothers to take the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course. She coined the term – ‘Speed Reading’ and taught her classes at the White House.

JFK wanted his staff to digest and absorb articles, reports and professional books at his own astronomical rate. The Kennedy staffers became Speed Reading addicts. Ted Sorenson, his aide and speech-writer, surpassed the President in Speed Reading skills to 2,500 words per minute. Sorenson created the phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

As you know, JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas at age 46, on November 22, 1963. Five years later RFK was assassinated June 6, 1968. Sorenson lived to support Barack Obama. The Kennedy legacy made Evelyn Wood and Speed Reading part of executive education in the U.S.

H. Bernard Wechsler passed the Bar exam on his first effort, and was the business partner of Evelyn Wood (1909-1995). She graduated 2-million, including the White House staffs of four U.S. Presidents: Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon-Carter.

Her Secret

“Let me tell you this Hal, you can omit all my strategies and schemas about speed reading and still get students to triple their learning skills, if you do this one thing.” She paused for theatrical effect.

Give them a Pointer, Pacer or their finger to follow. We repeat it endlessly but speed reading is the art of a visual reflex – our eyes must follow a moving object. See, if a fly is buzzing around your head and never enters your peripheral (side) vision, it is an invisible irritant.

But let it move that extra inch or two into your field-of-vision, and instinct (reflex) wakes up and your head automatically turns to follow the flying path of that critter. The scientists call it Vestibulo-Ocular-Reflex, you eyes must speed-up and follow a moving object. Your head turns to follow what moves.”

I sort of got it, but not 100%. “But so what? How do you translate that to teaching students to speed…
Hold it, your metaphor with the fly is using your finger as a pacer, right?”

She smiled at me like my Grandma at an Aha-Moment. Frankly, I always hated using my finger or spread-hand because it felt uncomfortable and covered up the words around it.

“Evelyn, the success of Reading Dynamics is use of the finger as a pacer, I get it. But could you use something else as a Pointer or Pacer for the eyes?”

“Sure, but if you quote me I’ll deny it because it has been tough enough getting students to use their finger or hand. The point is that getting anyone over the age of 21 to change anything in their daily rituals, and reading is a custom, habit and procedure – a ritual, you are THREATENING them.
The human reaction to threat of change is to go on the defensive. It activates their Fight-or-Flight reaction and they hate you. Where? It occurs in their Nervous System – the all-powerful Sympathetic Nervous System.

Go to the office and tell your secretaries you have a new way of filing papers, adding a computer to their duties, or a new job description. The result is stress, panic and fear in their minds. You are threatening their standing operating procedure. Humans are most comfortable when they are operating on Auto-Pilot. We really hate, not even a strong enough emotion, when we must CHANGE our habits.

They are stressed in the pit of their stomach. The stress will not cease until the new system of doing things goes on automatic. Folks hate to think about what to do, their comfort-zone is auto-pilot.”

“I got it, Evelyn. Just our secret, what could you use as a Pointer or Pacer if you had never come up with the finger or hand sweep?”

Her Answer

“How about the Stylus of a writing instrument. The first form of writing was on wax or clay with a short branch of a stick. It was by the ancient Sumerians, and kept tract of the Lord’s property and chattle. Call it a nub or stylus and point at the page and underline the words of each sentence.”

“It works as well?”

“Perfectly, because it is a teaching instrument for the eyes. It makes us avoid distractions, and forces us to focus on the text. Use the stylus and you cannot REGRESS. You know professionals and college graduates regress 5-7 times per page because they lose their place on the page or their mind gets distracted. That’s it, Reading Dynamics is using your finger or hand as a Pacer. Cancel anything else as foolishness, right my friend?”

She was done with that subject and never brought it up again. I was just at the beginning of my own research. It ended with a handheld Laser Pacer (pointer) used in Speedlearning. Last thing, today we spend more time reading on-line than in books.

Internet articles, reports and textbooks can be learned three-times faster with better comprehension using the CURSOR as your pointer/pacer. It produces the 20-minute hour, meaning you triple your learning with an increase of about 15% in comprehension and double their long-term memory.

We teach it to students to ace their grades, classes and exams, and to executives to win promotions and raises, and produce powerful corporate profits. It uses our instinct and reflex, your eyes must follow (speed-up) when confronted by a moving object. The result is competence and confidence.

See ya,

P.S. If you are turned on by having a competitive advantage over your peers to win the rewards of your career, contact us and ask for a Free, no strings attached, Speed Reading report on how to triple your learning skill. We really want to help you with Evelyn Wood’s dream of how to 3x your reading speed with better comprehension for life. She is a Hall of Fame teacher.

Copyright © 2011 H. Bernard Wechsler www.speedlearning.org hbw@speedlearning.org

Author's Bio: 

Author of Speed Reading For Professionals, published by Barron's.
Business partner of Evelyn Wood (1909-1995) creator of Speed Reading.
Graduating 2-million, including the White House staffs of four U.S.
Presidents: Kennedy-Johnson-Nixon-Carter.