6 Speed Reading Secrets for Adult Students

Evelyn Wood's Former Partner Shares Speed Reading Secrets

You may be old enough to remember Evelyn Wood's name as being synonymous with speed reading and speed learning. She was the founder of Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics. Her former business partner, H. Bernard Wechsler, shares six of the techniques successful speed readers use.

Wechsler was director of education at The SpeedLearning Institute and was affiliated with Long Island University, the Learning Annex, and New York schools through the DOME Project (Developing Opportunities through Meaningful Education). He and Wood taught 2 million people to speed read, including Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter.

Now you can learn with these 6 easy tips.

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Hold Your Material at a 30-Degree Angle

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Hold your book, or whatever you're reading, at a 30-degree angle to your eyes. Never read material lying flat on a table or desk. Wechsler says reading from flat material is "painful to your retina, causes eye fatigue, and after about two hours often leads to dry eye and irritation."

Adjust the angle of your computer screen to 30 degrees also.

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Move Your Head Left to Right as You Read

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This is not the way I was taught to read, but Wechsler cites scientific evidence that moving your head slightly back and forth while you read helps stabilize images on your retina. It's called the vestibulo-ocular reflex, or VOR. 

Moving your head while you read also helps you to stop reading individual words and read phrases instead. Wechsler says, "The secret of reading multiple words at a time and doubling or tripling your learning skills is widening your vision by using your peripheral vision."

"Relax the tiny muscles on either side of your eyes," Wechsler says, "and soften your focus."

This practice alone, he says, will help you increase your speed from 200 to 2,500 words per minute, the difference between speaking and thinking.

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Read with a Pointer

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Wechsler calls on your survival instincts with this tip, the instinct to follow a moving object in your field of vision.

He advocates using a pen, laser, or pointer of some kind, even your finger, to underline each sentence as you read. Your peripheral vision will pick up six words on either side of the point, allowing you to move through a sentence six times faster than reading each word.

The pointer helps you create a pace and focuses your attention on the page.

"When using a (pointer), never permit the point to touch the page," Wechsler says. "Underline about ½ inch above the words on the page. In just 10 minutes of practice, your pacing becomes smooth and comfortable. Your learning speed will double in 7 days and triple in 21 days."

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Read in Chunks

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The human eye has a small dimple called the fovea. In that one spot, vision is clearest. When you divide a sentence into chunks of three or four words, your eyes see the center of the chunk most clearly but can still distinguish the surrounding words.

Think of reading a sentence in three or four chunks instead of reading every word, and you can see how much faster you would get through the material.

"Chunking makes it easier for your retina to use central vision (fovea ) to offer you sharp, clear words to read," Wechsler says.

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The mind is far more powerful than most of us give it credit for. When you believe you can do something, you usually can.

Use positive self-talk to reprogram your belief system regarding reading. Wechsler says repeating positive affirmations 30 seconds a day for 21 days "creates linked  brain cells (neurons) in permanent neural networks."

Here are the affirmations he suggests:

  1. "I release my past beliefs/perceptions/judgments and now easily and quickly learn and remember."
  2. "Every day in every way I'm speedlearning faster and faster, and getting better and better."
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Exercise Your Eyes for 60 Seconds Before Reading

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Infinity AdobeStock_37602413

Before you start reading, Wechsler suggests you "warm up" your eyes.

"It sharpens your vision and activates your peripheral sight to speed up your learning speed," Wechsler says. "This daily one-minute exercise may help you avoid eye-muscle fatigue."

Here's how:

  1. Focus on a single spot on the wall 10 feet in front of you, keeping your head still.
  2. With your right hand extended in front of you at eye level, trace an 18-inch infinity symbol (a sideways 8) and follow it with your eyes three or four times.
  3. Switch hands and trace the symbol with your left hand, effectively awakening both sides of your brain.
  4. Drop your hand and trace the symbol 12 times in one direction with your eyes alone.
  5. Switch, moving your eyes in the other direction.
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Peterson, Deb. "6 Speed Reading Secrets for Adult Students." ThoughtCo, Jul. 29, 2021, thoughtco.com/speed-reading-secrets-for-adult-students-31627. Peterson, Deb. (2021, July 29). 6 Speed Reading Secrets for Adult Students. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/speed-reading-secrets-for-adult-students-31627 Peterson, Deb. "6 Speed Reading Secrets for Adult Students." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/speed-reading-secrets-for-adult-students-31627 (accessed June 10, 2023).