I used to teach speed reading courses to adults. I remember being excited when one lady got to where she could read 3,000 words per minute. She was the fastest student that I had ever seen. It took her 6 weeks to get that good.
Then I got invited to teach some children to speed read at a local school. Not being a "regular" school teacher, this was intimidating and scary, but I wanted the experience. As it turned out, I'm glad I did it.
WOW! Kids sure learn it so much easier! And better, too. How much better?
Let me put it this way: When I taught the class of 9-11 year old kids, I was in a state of shock when one 9 year old girl was able to read 41 pages in 30 seconds, with good comprehension, ON THE SECOND DAY. I considered myself lucky to know someone of such rare intelligence.
The next day, one-third of the class was doing just as well. By the end of the week, everybody was a genius.
By the end of the one-month course, only three kids in the whole class couldn't read at least 10,000 words per minute.
I have since come to realize that most 8 to 12 year old children are natural speed readers, if they are given the chance to learn the skill properly. And homeschool parents and 2nd-7th grade teachers, especially, are positioned to take full advantage of this opportunity, if they are just willing to put forth the effort to give this simple course the "acid test" on their 8-12 year old kids.
In fact, recently, I have begun to do seminars at local homeschool groups to train PARENTS in the fine art of how to teach children to speed read.
It's all very simple, really.
Wait a minute! If this is so easy, then why aren't all those speed reading companies focusing on the kids?
That's easy. There are three reasons:
1) There's no money in it. Nobody's going to pay $300 to $500 for Junior to read The Cat in the Hat faster.
2) Those other courses are tailored to grownups. Complete with lots of written busywork. Paperwork is poison to kids.
3) I believe that many of them must be unaware that kids master the skill so well. Many of them don't even allow young children to enroll in their in-class courses.
Even though children catch on to speed reading very quickly, it's best to keep on them for at least a month to make sure that they internalize it. After that, just monitor them to see that they are using it on a regular basis for another 2 months or more (example: have them read one or two books per day for enjoyment value. You can go to the library once a week to load up on reading material).
The information in this article is abbreviated and simplified from the manual SPEED READING 4 KIDS, available from: www.speedreading4kids.com. For more Details, see SPEED READING 4 KIDS.
NOTICE: Although teens and adults can also learn to speed read fairly easily, the following speed reading course is designed for normal children, from ages 8 through 12, who can already read competently at 3rd grade level. After age 12, speed reading becomes a little more difficult to learn with each passing year of age. So the course outlined in this article MAY NOT BE AS SUCCESSFUL ON KIDS AGED 13 AND OVER. In order to teach older children (or adults) to speed read, I recommend following the instructions in Chapters 6 to 8 of SPEED READING 4 KIDS.
SECOND NOTICE: You do not have to know how to speed read in order to teach children to speed read. Just follow instructions and you should get the desired results.
First, the basic lessons:
This course is to be done 5 days per week, for 4 weeks. The children are also encouraged to: Speed read on their own time, at least 15 minutes per day in enjoyable material of their own choosing (that's enough time to speed read 1 or 2 books, for most 10 year old kids). Materials needed: 1) A bunch of books at the appropriate grade level for the kids involved. 2) A bunch of Starburst candies (these are great motivators). 3) A watch with a second hand. 4) A group of 4 or more children who want to speed read (I am a strong advocate of tutoring, but in my experience, kids learn to speed read a little easier if they are in a group setting, with 4 or more children present). They can be taught in smaller groups, but it may take more time and effort for them to make the initial breakthrough. The group environment helps to insure that the children don't get bored.
Explain to the children how to look at a page of print with their NATURAL VISION.
Example: Take a minute right now and look out the window at a tree (or imagine you are looking at one). Do you only see one leaf at a time, or do you just look at the tree, as a whole? Most people see the whole tree in one or two glances. This is what we call Natural Vision. When we are seeing almost anything, we are using Natural Vision, except when we are looking at a page of print.
You see, in first grade we were taught how to have tunnel vision. Most people can only see one word at a time.
You may as well read through a straw.
Tunnel vision is unnatural and fatiguing to the eyes.
You need to look at a page of print with more Natural Vision so that we are seeing several lines of words at once. In fact, let’s pretend that each page of print is just a picture of a tree, with each word being a ’leaf.?With Natural Vision, you use your whole field of view (peripheral vision) to catch LARGE GROUPS of words at a glance.
EXERCISE 1: Give the kids 10 seconds to see 5 pages of print. Don't try to understand anything at this point. You are just trying to get used to seeing the words with your Natural Vision.
Now, have the kids see at least 15 pages in 30 seconds. Again, no understanding is required.
EXERCISE 2: Have the kids go through at least 15 pages of material in 30 seconds, again. This time have the kids report to you what they recalled.
I ask each child what they recalled, until I find one who is not scared to tell me something that they remembered from the selection they read (quite often they are reluctant to "stick their neck out" and risk embarrassment). As soon as one child starts talking about specific details of what he read, I will say something like "you are doing really good at this," and I will toss them a piece of candy (even if they can only recall one minor detail from the 15 pages read, it merits a reward).
Suddenly, everyone starts recalling.
Tell the kids what it means to VISUALIZE. Have you ever read a book that was so interesting that you could picture the story and details in your mind, as if you were watching a movie in your mind? That's what you want when you Visualize.
Repeat Exercise 2 a few more times, until everyone gets comfortable with the ideas of Visualizing and using their Natural Vision to speed read. Make sure that ALL of the kids have earned at least one candy to motivate them. KEEP IT FUN.
EXERCISE 3: Have the kids read at least 15 pages in 30 seconds. But this time have them tell EACH OTHER (if you're teaching a group of kids) all the details of what they recall. As they tell each other their stories, systematically listen to individual children and give them advice on how to improve, if necessary. Also, tell each child how fast they are reading. This alone motivates some kids more than anything else. (For your information, most kid books have about 200 words on a full page. So 2 seconds per page is 6,000 wpm. You can figure the rest from there).
Also, reward each kid with another Starburst as he/she shows progress and understanding of the skills.
EXERCISE 4: Do a series of 3 TAP DRILLS. This is VERY important. Here's an example of how I do them.
Give the students 3 seconds to complete each page. Tap your pen on the table every 3 seconds for about 3 minutes. Have them stop and think about what (if anything) they recalled for about 10 seconds. Then give them another 3-minute tap drill at TWO SECONDS PER PAGE. Finish off with a 1-SECOND TAP DRILL for 3 more minutes. I usually do 2 or 3 tap drills per day just after a series of drill sets, but they can be useful any time the kids start to slow down too much.
EXERCISE 5: Tell the kids that whoever can read a WHOLE BOOK in 5 minutes or less, with at least FAIR understanding, will get another candy. Set, go.
Some kids will read 3 books in 5 minutes and be able to tell you, or their neighbor, about them.
Lesson 1 shouldn't take more than about 45 minutes to one hour.
LESSONS 2 THROUGH 20
1). Repeat Exercise 3 above, a few times, making sure you go through the class and listen, to make sure that all the kids have a good feel for the speed reading process.
2). Do the Tap Drills.
3). Repeat Exercise 5 at least once each day. More would be nice.
This gets the kids used to the idea that it is neither difficult, nor time consuming, to read a whole book with complete understanding. Also, their ability to recall minor details of the book dramatically increases with experience in speed reading. Some children even get photographic memories after mastering the art of speed reading.
AFTER THE 4 WEEKS of "official" speed reading instruction, monitor the kids, for at least 2 more months, to make sure that they are using their speed reading skill on a regular basis (each day), on enjoyable reading material of their own choice.
Lessons 2 through 20 shouldn't take more than 30 minutes each. (You may break this into two 15 minute sessions if you find this helpful).
After you have completed following up on this with your child, I would be delighted to hear about your results. Please write me, if you wish, at:
PO Box 227
Toppenish, WA 98948
THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO THE COURSE
One of the major problems you may have in teaching the course is actually BELIEVING that the kids are really understanding the material they are reading, instead of just faking it. It looks so phony.
For the first few days, their understanding may, in fact, be a little shaky for some kids. But don't discourage them by doubting them. Give them some time, and they will amaze you. In my experience, the number of kids that really are faking it is usually less than 10%.
The best cure to any doubt about this course is to JUST DO IT. That's what I did, and that's why I hardly ever teach speed reading to adults any more. Teaching kids is too much fun.
SOME Q'S AND A'S
Q. If a person learns to speed read, do they HAVE TO always speed read whenever they read?
A. No. Most speed readers still slow read when they want to. Common things to slow read are: scriptures, poetry, letters from Grandma, etc. But when they get a good book, read the newspaper, or do a term paper, look out!
Q. My child did very well speed reading on his first day of the course. Is it really necessary to continue the instruction for a whole month?
A. Yes. Easy come, easy go. When third graders learn the multiplication tables really easily on the first day of practice, we don't just skip it from then on. We have them continue to use it for several months, on a daily basis, so it can sink in. In this way the multiplication tables become internalized.
So it is important to keep up the formal lessons long enough for your child to feel comfortable with being able to speed read. Many kids will need the full month of instruction that the lesson plan indicates. But some children will reach a good level of competence within a week, or even less. When this happens, you need to still closely monitor them to make sure they are speed reading fun, easy, enjoyable books for at least 15 minutes per day for the first month of instruction. This will insure that they get in the habit of using the skill, and it reinforces their commitment to follow through with the course.
It is equally important to monitor the children, for at least 2 more months (after the month of "formal instruction"), to make sure that they are using their speed reading daily for 15 minutes.
Remember, the goal is to get the kids to the point that they are using the speed reading skill on their own, naturally.
Two parents that I know of accomplished this by setting aside 10-15 minutes each day, for the next four months, just for speed reading. At that point their daughter could read 6,000 words per minute (that‘s equivalent to one Nancy Drew book every 6 minutes), and her reading ability improved from 7th grade level to 10th grade reading level (according to the Star Reading Assessment).
Q. A friend of mine learned to speed read when he was 12 years old (in 1980). He now has a "partially photographic memory" that he believes he acquired as a result of learning to speed read while he was still a child. Could this be true?
A. Yes, I believe so. I have noticed a similar pattern with a number of my young speed reading students between the ages of 8 and 12.
Q. My child goes really fast during practice sessions, but when he speed reads on his own time, I notice that he is not going as fast as he is capable of going. Should I make him speed up?
A. Children normally speed read at a slower rate when they are speed reading on their own time for enjoyment purposes. Remember that, during practice sessions, the emphasis is on speed. So as long as they are still speed reading (when they are on their own time), they will still maintain the skill, regardless of how fast they are capable of going during practice sessions. If they speed read for 10-15 minutes per day, for at least 2-3 months, the skill will become as natural as riding a bike.
Q. My child is dyslexic, and he has trouble with "normal" reading. Is it possible for him to do well with speed reading?
A. Yes, it is. Speed reading is a right-brained activity, while "slow reading" is a left-brained activity. Since most children with dyslexia and ADD are very right-brain dominant, they often do extremely well with speed reading.
Q. Should I try to teach myself to speed read while I am teaching the children to speed read, or even before I teach them?
A. Neither. It will interfere with their learning. TEACH THE KIDS FIRST, then teach yourself, if you wish to do so.
Q. I can't speed read myself. How can I expect to teach my kids to speed read?
A. Easy. Just follow instructions like everyone else. ANY non-speed reader can teach 8-12 year old kids to speed read.
Q. Will this course work on people over the age of 12?
A. Probably, but it will probably take more effort than it will for a 10 year old. In my experience, the older kids and adults must put more effort into it in order to get similar results, and you would probably benefit from getting a copy of SPEED READING 4 KIDS to help you out. SPEED READING 4 KIDS contains all the currently available information on how to teach speed reading to children (but it works for adults, too). It is available from www.speedreading4kids.com
George Stancliffe lives near Yakima, WA and teaches speed reading locally and nationally. In 1997, he formed The American Speed Reading Project, dedicated to making speed reading a universal skill for all children by the age of 12. He is the author of SPEED READING 4 KIDS, and can be contacted at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org