Increase reading speed 100% and develop comprehension and recall. UK public speed reading courses in London and in-company courses worldwide.

The History of Speed Reading & Speed Reading Courses

People have been concerned with systematically increasing reading speeds since 1925. This is when the very first formal speed reading course was conducted at Syracuse University in the US. But at many times in writing history, literate people have considered how to speed up the reading process. In the mid 17th century a man named Antonio di Marco Magliabechi was reportedly able to speed read, comprehend and memorize entire volumes at a rapid rate. But while 1925 appears to be the first formal presentation of a speed reading course, much research in the area was being conducted before.

It was a French ophthalmologist, Emile Javal, who unknowingly laid the foundations of speed reading and speed reading courses with his eye-movement experiments in 1878. Javal discovered that the eyes move in a series of jumps (saccades) and pauses (fixations), stopping on average three or four times, while reading a line of text. It is only during these fixations, when the eyes are steady, that word recognition can occur. Prior to Javal's work, it had been believed that the eyes would stop on each letter, or at least each word. Speed reading however requires recognition of groups of words.

His discovery was the foundation of speed reading courses because it demonstrated that our field of focus is wider than previously imagined. If our eyes can fixate on a number of words at a time 'naturally', then perhaps we are capable of reading faster than commonly believed. Although this was not seen as a basis for the development of speed reading training at first. It did not however take people long to challenge the knowledge of the day and ask how reading rates could be improved upon. As early as 1894, articles were being published in magazines, such as The Educational Review, about the advantages and methods of speed reading. However the concept of speed reading at that time focused very little on visual or perceptual elements, but more on sheer effort on the reader's part.

Interest and sporadic research into speed reading continued over the following half century, but no useful speed reading programme was developed. Further advancements in speed reading were made by an unlikely group, the United States Air Force. Their discoveries represent the first large-scale usage and acceptance of speed reading as a phenomenon, and stemmed from the life-and-death experiences of their pilots. Tacticians noticed that some pilots had difficulty identifying aircraft from long distances. The goal of the tacticians and the USAF was to improve the visual acuity of their pilots.

The psychologists and educational specialists working on the visual acuity question devised what was later to become the icon of early speed reading courses, the tachistoscope; a machine designed to flash images at varying rates on a screen. This form of training demonstrated clearly that, with some work, a type of speed reading course could be developed.

The speed reading courses that followed used the tachistoscope to increase reading speeds, and discovered that readers were able to double their rates. The drawback was that post-course timings showed that speed reading had decelerated. While it had been clearly established that reading speed increases of 100% were possible and had been attained, lasting results had yet to be demonstrated, and speed reading courses remained problematic. None the less Harvard University Business School produced the first film-aided speed reading course.

It was not until the late 1950s that a portable, reliable and 'handy' device would be discovered and would make speed reading courses effective long-term. The researcher this time was a school teacher with a passion for underachievers and reading, named Evelyn Wood. Not only did she revolutionize the subject of speed reading, but she committed her life to the advancement of reading and learning development.

She was interested in understanding why some people were natural speed readers, and was trying to force herself to read very quickly. While brushing off the pages of the book she had thrown down in despair, she discovered, quite accidentally, that the sweeping motion of her hand across the page caught the attention of her eyes, and helped them move more smoothly across the page. She had discovered the hand as a pacer, called it the Wood Method, and the modern speed reading course was borne.

Not only did Mrs Wood use her hand-pacing method, but she combined it with all of the other knowledge she had discovered from her research about reading and learning, and in1958 introduced a revolutionary new speed reading method called Reading Dynamics. It made its debut in 'Speech' 21' at the University of Utah. This speed reading method was so dramatically effective that students and faculty enrolled. Mrs Wood introduced speed reading courses, as Reading Dynamics, to the public in 1959, having piloted the programme at the University of Utah for a year. She moved to Washington DC and opened the first Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics Institute. Soon her speed reading institutes were all over the world and her name became synonymous with speed reading courses. She sold the business in 1967, but continued to teach speed reading courses herself. Mrs Wood died in 1995 at the age of 86.

Since then forms of speed reading training in the guise of power reading, photo reading etc .have been developed and captured the imagination of some people in the same way as the early pioneers of speed reading did in the late 19th century.