As long as there has been a written alphabet, and printed books, people have been interested in becoming better readers. However, it wasn’t until the 19th century that people started looking at reading from a more scientific standpoint, and applying science to the art of reading in order to create speed reading techniques. The 7 Speed Reading software system is based on the latest in scientific research related to the theory and mechanics of reading, which is why it’s so effective in helping you increase reading speed.
There’s a solid foundation of research to build on, going back to 1878, when French ophthalmologist Louis Émile Javal discovered and described the saccade/fixation pattern we all have when reading. That is, even though we think our eyes are moving smoothly along the line of text, they’re actually making jumps (saccades) and stops (fixations) as our eyes focus on one or more words, process the text, and move on. Part of a good speed reading strategy is to learn to increase the number of words processed in each fixation, so that there are fewer saccades.
By the first part of the 20th century, speed reading became a common topic in popular science as well as in the educational field. Books like Edmund Burke Huey’s 1908 publication The Psychology and Pedagogy of Reading discussed “the possibility of reading without inner pronunciation” (subvocalization) and helped form part of the curriculum at the University of Pennsylvania. Along with other researchers in universities around the United States, he explored the “peculiar fatigue occasioned by reading” and “the great variations and limitations in speed of reading [which] suggested possibilities of improvement,” which he grouped under the heading of “reading hygiene.” In other words, the discussion had started about how the reading environment and other physical considerations might affect the mental process of reading.
It seems sometimes that humanity can turn anything into a matter of war and defense, and speed reading was no exception in the 1940s and 1950s, when the US Air Force used a tachistoscope (a device that displays images at a specific rate) to conduct experiments with words flashed on screen for only 1/500th of a second each, eventually proving that even at that rate reading comprehension is possible. Many of the later speed reading courses incorporated this theory, but since portable tachistoscopes weren’t available on every street corner, a different method needed to be found to create practical image-flashing techniques into speed reading programs. In 1959, that’s what Evelyn Wood did with her Reading Dynamics program, by recommending the use of the hand, fingers, or pieces of paper to create a similar pacing and tracking method. Combined with other techniques to help eliminate backtracking, the Reading Dynamics program became the most popular speed reading course in the world.
Today, with all of the technology available, we’re closer than ever to finding the best ways to combine science and practical methods to develop the best speed reading practices. Computerization and miniaturization are leading to innovations in text presentation, and online speed reading courses open up the skill to anyone with a computer. With all the good information out there, it’s always the right time to let your speed reading skills take you into a successful future.