Other Ways to Fly with Your Hands

These six motions represent the basic ways to use hand motions to pace your reading. But there are also many others that you may find useful. Here are some of the possibilities:

The horseshoe. Many of our top readers have found a horseshoe-shaped motion to be particularly helpful for the extremely fast overviewing phases of study. Acquiring its name from the horseshoe-shaped pattern that the hand traces, this movement works like this:

1. Using your left hand as a pacer, you begin with the left hand at the top of the right-hand page. Your right hand should be poised at the upper right-hand corner of the right page, ready to turn the page when appropriate.

2. Sweep your left hand straight down the right page.

3. Move the left hand across the bottom of the book in a curved motion until it reaches the bottom of the left-hand page.

4. Then, sweep the left hand straight up to the top of the left page.

5. When your left hand reaches the top of the left page, immediately flip the right page over with your right hand. Move your left hand to the top of the next right-hand page, and repeat the movement with the next set of pages.

6. Your eyes should move over the two pages at the same pace that your left hand is moving, though the eyes need not follow precisely in the path of the hand.

As you can see, this movement requires you to look through the book out of the normal order in which it's written. Yet you can expect to understand much of what you see, even though you take it in out of the usual word sequence. Remember: Your brain is structured so that you're not limited in your intake of information by the way words and ideas are presented on a page.

Note that this movement should only take about one to two seconds to complete for each set of two pages. So you shouldn't expect to see or read every word, or even to understand most of what you do see.

Remember, this is an overviewing hand motion, so you're supposed to move very fast and simply take in a few key concepts and the basic structure of the book. Later previewing and reading will provide more opportunity for absorbing details.

The U hand motion. A variation on the horseshoe movement is the U, which is executed in the reverse direction across the book. This motion can be used for overviewing or previewing.

1. Begin with the right hand at the top of the left-hand page. The left arm and hand cradle the book in a standard page-turning position. The left hand, poised to turn the page, holds the upper right-hand edge of the right page.

2. Then sweep the right hand, palm downward, straight down the left-hand page.

3. When you reach the bottom of that page, move the right hand over to the bottom to the right-hand page.

4. Sweep it straight upward to the top of the page. (Some prefer to execute this move with the right hand turned palm upward.)

5. When you reach the top of the right-hand page, turn the page with the left hand.

6. Repeat the same pattern with the following pages.

The brush. When Evelyn Wood first formulated the brush hand motion, she was cleaning dirt off Green Mansions, which she had tossed on the ground.

The average student may find the brush stroke most helpful when he's under considerable pressure or subject to distractions. For example, this technique may be used for reading exam questions or for reading when there's a lot of noise in the study area, as often happens in dormitory rooms.

In most cases, students in distracting environments should leave and find a quieter place, more conducive to concentration. But sometimes, it's not possible to find a better site for study, especially if you have only a short time to go over material. In these situations, the brush stroke can work quite well.

1. Using the back of your right hand at the top of the left-hand page, begin brushing your hand across the page, moving it steadily downward.

2. When you've finished the left page, move your hand immediately to the top of the right-hand page, and repeat.

3. Then turn the page in the standard way with the left hand.

The half-moon. This is another motion that some people like to use during the reading phase of study. To execute it, follow these steps:

1. Begin with the left hand or one finger, palm down on the upper left-hand portion of the left page.

2. Move the hand in a shallow, half-moon-shaped curve downward and across the page and then upward to the upper right-hand section of the left page.

3. Then, using the same curved, scooping motion, move the hand back again to the left margin, but this time across a lower portion of the text.

4. Continue back and forth until you've finished the left page, and then repeat with the right page.

There are many other motions that skilled readers have found to be useful. In fact, the possibilities are almost limitless and depend primarily on what works best for the individual student.

For example, a number of students have developed a variation on what they call the crawl. This involves moving the fingers of the right hand in a crawling motion down each page, from top to bottom.

Other students make a fist with their right hand and then extend their right forefinger and little finger in a horn configuration. As they move their hands down the page, their eyes move around between the extended fingers.

You should feel free to experiment with these and other hand motions as you develop your expertise in reading. For now, however, I'd suggest you stick with the standard hand motion techniques I've described. Now, let's try using some of these hand motions. First, practice overviewing with the horseshoe motion. Since you've already overviewed the book once, just go over the next chapter at the rate of about a second a page with the horseshoe. Then return to this point in the text.

Now try previewing the next chapter with the question-mark motion. You should move along at a pace of about four seconds a page. When you've finished, return to this point once again.

Finally, read the next chapter using a relatively tight S motion. Although you should move through it at a comfortable rate that allows you to see every word, try to read at a pace of no more than fifteen seconds per page. If you feel you've missed too much after finishing the chapter at this speed, feel free to reread it. You'll have plenty of time because at fifteen seconds per page, you'll have been reading at a rate in excess of 1,000 words per minute!


1. Hand motions help you read faster, enhance concentration and discourage regression.

2. Some possible hand motions include underlining, the S, the question mark, the X, the L, the loop, the horseshoe, the U, the brush, and the half-moon.

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