The eye's fovea is a small spot near the retina's center filled with a high concentration of photoreceptors that allows the focal point of your vision to send visual information to the conscious thinking part of your brain. The fovea receives only a small part of the light entering the eye, and when reading, usually no more than 7 letters are acknowledged at a time. The number of jumps your eye makes with the focal point of your vision limits you to normal reading speeds.
The parafovea is an area that surrounds the fovea and can take in much more information with your peripheral vision. The parafovea is connected to other areas of your brain that govern instinct and reflex. The light that hits the parafovea is subliminal information (beyond the conscious threshold). When tachistoscopic blips are flashed at 1/100th of a second throughout a movie, they are subliminal and not consciously noticeable until you are told that they are there. Then your conscious awareness can easily see the quick flashes.
Training your subconscious awareness to acknowledge this peripheral visual input for interpretation by your conscious awareness is the process of speed reading. Also remember that your mind will have the tendency to want to complete things that appear uncompleted (see "Exercise -- Completion"). So as the words flow past your eyes, your mind will develop the ability to complete the text as thought forms.
Internal verbalization ceases at speeds over 1000 wpm. As a result, auditory learners often have the most trouble quieting their mind. Evelyn Wood showed that adapting your brain to higher speeds was a learned process like any other new talent. She also demonstrated that comprehension and retention of speed read material was considerably higher. To increase your reading skills, you must open your thinking about it. Attitude is everything. You must "want to" read fast and affirm and believe you "CAN" read fast, and "know" comprehension will be better. Adopting an attitude of "wanting to" read and recall information at faster speeds is important.
The training procedure involves moving down the page and seeing all the print with a sense that goes beyond normal reading methods. The hand is used as a pacer to curb regressions, to enhance perceptual ability, to control the rate of speed and to direct concentration. You do not make the eyes follow each motion of the hand slavishly, but instead you "let go" and allow the eyes to move where they will. By looking for total concepts you become aware of details with more thoroughness. It's like shifting your conscious awareness to the right brain to do the job instead of to the internally verbalizing left brain. You learn to allow all the words to come in rapidly and effortlessly without stopping and considering each word individually. You learn to read thought by thought instead of word by word.
As you read down the page, you become more aware of the feeling, atmosphere and mood of the story as well as the thinking of the author, and thereby you receive more vivid and lasting impressions. Learn to form visualizations as you read involving any of your senses that you feel comfortable with. Periodically ask yourself, "What is going on?" and "What is being told here?" When you start to speed read, images will begin to flow past your inner eye in a rapid, understandable and natural way (see "Exercise -- Time Distortion"). When this happens, integrate other sensory imagery of tastes, sounds, smells and kinesthetics for better retention.
As an exercise in speed reading, first look over the material in its entirety by turning all the pages and skimming for the general gist of the material. Look at the table of contents; note subdivisions; and review summary paragraphs. Determine where the book intends to take you. This preliminary increases the assimilation process. Also, make sure that you're in a relaxed, comfortable position with good posture (review "Exercise -- Relaxation For Improved Awareness"). It's important to be in a proper state of readiness before actually beginning. In actual practice, if you used a lazy "S" hand movement or made a series of overlapping circles down the printed page at varying high speeds for one half hour per day with no thought of comprehending and paying attention to only the white areas of the page, in six weeks your brain would be comprehending the words, and you would be reading at thousands of words per minute!
Just make sure your conscious awareness (review "Exercise -- Mindfulness: Improving Your Conscious Awareness") is directed to following your hand movement down the page and not directed to idle internal visualizations. Use a definite sweeping rhythm, and consciously watch the words flow in front of your eyes. Catch yourself every time your attention wanders and direct your conscious attentiveness back to the pages. If you're having trouble with this, you might reiterate aloud the phrase, "I am reading shockingly fast" to disengage your left brain from the reading process while running your finger down the pages.
As you progress, you might also cock your head to the right and look at the printed material slightly in the left field of vision while reading. This projects the material directly to your right brain, which is the side with the high speed reading skill. You can also experiment and position the book above eye level by cocking your head downward and tilt the eyes upwards for the reading process. Just like in "Exercise -- Meditation" and "Exercise -- Learning Self-Hypnosis," the eyes tilted up wards physiologically opens a suggestive avenue in the brain/mind process and encourages achieving the alpha state. When the reading shift is finally made to your right brain, reading speeds of 50,000 wpm or more are quite possible. Some speed readers even read backwards (from the bottom to the top of the page) with equal ease. Remember in this exercise, it is the right brain or mirror and upside down brain doing the reading.
This exercise might seem to proceed in a totally opposite manner than you have been previously taught in normal reading, but you must suspend your skepticism and judgment, and simply believe it is possible for you to read thousands of words per minute.
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When parents help their children learn to read, they help open the door to a new world. As a parent, you can begin an endless learning chain: You read to your children, they develop a love of stories and poems, they want to read on their own, they practice reading, and finally they read for their own information or pleasure. They become readers, and their world is forever expanded and enriched.