History of Speed Reading

Gathering information is something all humans do naturally. So it’s only natural that once learn to read we want to start doing it faster so we can gather and absorb more information.

One of the first insights into speed reading was developed through the United States Air Forceusing the methodology behind the tachistoscope, a device that displays an image for a certain amount of time. The tachistoscope was being used to train pilots to quickly identify enemy planes while in the cockpit. After a little experimentation, they discovered that flashing four words on a screen at 1/500th of a second was understood completely by the reader. This had dramatic implications for reading.

It was originally believed that people read by looking at each and every letter in order to understand the meaning of a word. The U.S. Air Force experiments killed this idea of reading by letters and helped create an understanding the humans are capable reading not just a word at a time, but groups of words.

Speed reading became popularized in the U.S. during the late 1950s by a woman named Evelyn Wood. She actually coined the term “speed reading” before it became a conventional phrase. After studying the habits of naturally fast readers she developed a methodology that was taught in many seminars throughout the country. She is famous for having her methods taught to President John F. Kennedy, who was a strong proponent of speed reading. Until the late 1990s, her classes were frequently taught at college campuses throughout the U.S. She passed away in 1995 at the age of 86.

Although speed reading techniques have been refined through the years, the foundations remain the same. Speed reading involves reading multiple words at a time in phrases without sub-vocalizing every word.

Paul NowakAbout the Author: Paul Nowak is the founder of Iris Reading, the largest provider of speed-reading courses in North America. His workshops have been taught to thousands of students and business professionals in major cities across the U.S. He has been a guest speaker at numerous institutions, some of which include Harvard, Stanford and the University of Chicago. He has also trained employees at NASA, Google, Groupon and a number of Fortune 500 companies.

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