Time is a precious commodity for college students.
Some students are turning to speed-reading classes and studying
software to solve their time crunch.
Flyers have appeared around campus advertising speed-reading
classes. The course promises to double or triple reading speeds on
the first night, said Ben Sawyer, who taught an introductory class
on speed-reading last week.
“The last person who taught you how to read was probably your
third-grade teacher,” Sawyer said. “You wouldn’t want to stop
learning math in the third grade, would you?”
Sawyer, who teaches introductory classes for his father John
Sawyer, explained that the average person’s reading rate is tied to
“We hear a little voice saying the words we’re reading,” Ben
This “little voice” is called sub-vocalization. John Sawyer’s
system teaches readers to disconnect from vocal-based reading, Ben
Sawyer said. The price of the class is $295 for three sessions.
Ben Sawyer said the average reading rate of students is between
250 and 350 words per minute. Students who take the class can
increase that rate up to 700 to 900 words per minute, Ben Sawyer
Katherine Carr, an equine science major at CSU who graduated
from John Sawyer’s course, said it was worth the $295.
“It’s not a miracle deal but it helps as far as the reading
goes,” Carr said.
A study done by the University of Texas, which offers its own
speed-reading classes, has shown that speed-reading is not for
everybody or for every type of reading material. A reader’s ability
to significantly increase reading speed depends upon such variables
as intelligence, physiological and psychological traits,
motivation, diligence in out-of-class practice and general
background of knowledge, the UT study found.
According to the study, changing reading habits requires a
“great deal of hard work, self-discipline and sometimes monotonous
The study also found that speed-reading techniques of
eliminating sub-vocalization can be detrimental to some types of
reading material. For example, poetry and drama are written to be
vocalized by the reader.
Eliminating that vocalization takes away from the intended
meaning of the work, according to the UT study. The study also
points out that, while it may be possible to read about certain
emotions quickly, it is impossible to actually experience these
emotions at high speeds.
Ronald Carver, an educational psychologist at the University of
Missouri-Kansas City, said speed-reading is not effective for
students who are trying to learn new information, according to an
Internet article by David A. Gershaw. Carver did a study in the
mid-1980s that compared trained speed-readers with naturally fluent
readers. In both groups, according to the article, comprehension
decreased as reading speed went higher than 600 words per
Another reason why humans read slowly is recovery time. This is
the amount of time it takes the eyes to move from the end of one
line down to the start of another. On average, people spend one
hour out of every three hours of reading simply moving to the next
line, according to an article on speed-reading in Industry
Another study aid being marketed to students eliminates recovery
time by only showing one word of a sentence at a time. The study
aid is called RapidReader, a product released by a local software
company. Class notes and Web sites can be viewed on a computer
screen, PDA or cell phone in a format that the program’s designer
Peter McIan said can make the user read up to five times
“Students can sit down before a class and whiz through their
notes on a cell phone or PDA,” McIan said. The program is designed
to flash single words quickly in a particular rhythm, which nine
years of research showed the brain comprehends the easiest and
Kids who grew up playing video games respond to this technology
very well, said Bill Van Eron, whose company is affiliated with
“The human brain has the capacity to read at 1,600 words per
minute,” Van Eron said. “This program helps you tap into that