Sandra, the sixth-grader. An extremely conscientious girl, twelve-year-old Sandra found she was spending most of her evenings on schoolwork. She was always studying, preparing reports, and reading books assigned to her. Furthermore, she was losing far too much sleep as she tried to keep up with her workload. "We had little or no family time together," her mother recalled.
But then, Sandra learned and began to apply to her work the same principles you'll find in this book. Just a few weeks later, her life and the life of her family had completely changed. Instead of reading an average 250-300 words per minute, she had "taken off' and was soaring at more than 1,500 words per minute—with increased comprehension.
Sandra's mother reported shortly afterward, "We have more family time available now. Her schoolwork is completed in a relatively short period, and she also has time to spend on pleasure reading. And amazingly, Sandra now goes to bed at a reasonable hour!"
Timothy, the eighth-grader. Like many fourteen-year-olds, Timothy was sure he knew more about how to do his schoolwork than his parents did. So for weeks, he resisted trying the learning and reading methods that we advocate at our Britannica Learning Centers.
But there was another powerful factor operating with Timothy: peer pressure. He wanted to do well in school and in fact, he had been doing quite well. But he was also beginning to pay a price. Even though some of his classmates seemed to breeze through their work, he found he had to spend hours reading the required books and doing the other homework assignments.
It appeared that Tim might have to cut out some of his extra activities, such as one of his sports teams, in order to keep up with his studies. The whole experience was becoming so discouraging that he was getting frustrated and was losing his motivation to excel at school.
So finally Tim decided to go along with his parents' suggestion to try the Wood-Britannica approach, which was being offered at a center near his school. Like many others who had followed the same route, Tim immediately began to reap the benefits of faster reading and learning.
His most significant early payoff from the course came when he was given a major reading and writing assignment at his school. His class was told to read a book that was more than three hundred pages long and then to write an essay and prepare for a test on the book. Furthermore, this requirement was imposed in addition to his regular homework, and it had to be completed within two weeks.
Quite an assignment for many eighth-graders—but Tim came through in fine style. Using his new speed-reading and note-taking skills, he finished the book in only two evenings. As a result, he had plenty of time to work on the essay, which he completed at the end of the first week. After that, he faced a relatively relaxed few days studying for the test.
His grades? An A on the essay, and an A on the exam. Not only that, Tim had found that during those two weeks he still had plenty of time available for his extracurricular activities.
Marsha, the college freshman. After taking an Evelyn Wood course for only a couple of weeks, Marsha discovered that her reading speed had increased from about 350 words per minute to more than 1,300 words per minute, with excellent comprehension. Then, unexpectedly, she found herself in the challenging position of having to use her newly acquired knowledge at school.
"On Friday, I missed one of my classes," she said. "When I came in on Monday, I learned—to my shock—that we were going to have a test in one of my courses on fifty pages of material that I hadn't read. And the class was scheduled to begin in only twenty minutes!"
So what did Marsha do? She didn't panic. Instead, she turned a potential nightmare into a triumph. Since she knew her instructor was a tough case who didn't look kindly on excuses, she immediately realized that she had only three choices. She could skip the test and take a failing grade; or try to read as much as she could at her old 350-word-per-minute rate, and then fake it when questioned about the material she hadn't reached; or attempt to use her newly acquired high-speed reading techniques.
Fortunately, Marsha chose the third option. "I figured this was going to prove to me whether or not the method really works," she said. "And it did work in this case. I got through all the material in the allotted twenty minutes; I understood it all; and I aced the test."
Clearly, the possibilities of reading and learning faster and more efficiently are enormous. But how exactly can you—or the student in your home—achieve these results?
That's what the rest of this book is about: exploring and explaining how anyone can learn the art of mental soaring. Learning these high-powered reading and studying techniques is somewhat analogous to flying an airplane. At the outset, you have to become familiar with the controls on your plane, the fundamentals of flight, and a variety of other basic aeronautic facts and principles. Then, you're ready to take off and try your wings.
But in flying a necessary preliminary step is to have a flight physical to establish the precise current status of your mental and physical faculties. It's similar with Mental Soaring. You need to evaluate your reading ability at the beginning so that you'll have a baseline to let you know how much and how quickly you're improving.
You'll recall that I asked you to begin timing your reading several pages back. Well, now is the time to STOP.
Look at your watch and record the precise minute and second.
Now you can calculate your reading speed by following these three steps:
Step 1: Figure how many minutes and seconds have passed since you first began to keep track of the time for this exercise.
Suppose, for example, that your watch indicated 10 seconds past 9:16 p.m. when you started, and it's now 30 seconds past 9:27 p.m. In that case, you've been reading precisely 11 minutes and 20 seconds.
Step 2: Convert the number of minutes and seconds that you read into a decimal figure.
To do this, just divide by 60 (the total number of seconds in one minute) the number of extra seconds you recorded in excess of the whole-minute figure. Then insert the number of whole minutes before the decimal point, and you've got your decimal number.
In our example, you'd divide the 20 extra seconds you recorded by the 60 seconds in a whole minute, and this would give you .33. Then, before the decimal point, you insert the 11 whole minutes you recorded, and that will give you 11.33 minutes that were spent reading.
Step 3: Divide the number of minutes you read (as calculated in Step 2) into 2,700. This figure, 2,700, is the approximate number of words that you read between the instruction begin reading now on page 6 and the instruction stop on page 16. This calculation will provide you with the number of words per minute at which you have been reading so far in this book.
Now to apply this step to our illustration, divide 11.33 into 2,700, and you'll end up with just over 238 words per minute—a rate close to the average 250-words-per-minute reading speed of most people, including most junior high and high school students.
If you read faster than 250, that's great. Or if you read at a slower rate, that's fine too. In any case, whatever your speed is now, you can expect to increase it by at least 50 percent almost immediately.
To accomplish this, all you have to do is apply these simple techniques, which I'll describe in greater detail in the next chapter of this book:
• Be sure that you're now reading in a comfortable environment.
You should be using or have at hand such essentials as a comfortable chair, a solid desk or writing surface, good lighting, and a quiet room. Unless the atmosphere is reasonably conducive to effective reading, your ability to concentrate and immerse yourself thoroughly and enjoy-ably in the subject matter will be impaired.
• As you read, pace yourself by moving a finger across the page, line by line.
Start from left to right on this line of print, and then return your hand like a typewriter carriage to the left-hand margin, so that it can move again from left to right on the next line below. Move your pacing hand along at a comfortable speed, but don't feel you have to rush. Your eyes should trail along just behind your pacing finger.
That is, don't allow yourself to stop at any point and look back over what you've already read. Instead, force yourself to move ahead, even if you think you've missed something or your attention has temporarily wandered.
• Try to take in groups of words as you read, rather than looking at each word individually.
But do this in a comfortable way. In other words, if you feel relaxed taking in only two or three words at a time, don't feel compelled to try for four or five words.
If you're a parent, share some of these very simple, fundamental principles with your child, and encourage him to try them as often as possible. Chances are, he'll experiment for a while and then threaten to give up because "it's too hard" or "it doesn't feel right." But expect such a reaction because that's the kind of initial response that may be triggered by the learning of any new skill.
In any event, don't push him. Just suggest a few of these techniques and continue to work on them yourself. Your pleasure, as your own reading speed and enthusiasm increase, will be the best argument to convince your child.
By the time you reach the end of this book—and learn and practice other skills I'll show you—your learning capacity should increase dramatically and your original reading speed should double, triple, quadruple, or soar to even higher rates.
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