The Foundations of Layered Reading

To understand how the Multiple Reading Process, or layering technique, works, it's important to recognize four basic principles on which this concept is based:

Principle 1: You must learn to see and accept words and phrases out of their normal expectancy order.

To illustrate, suppose you divide this page in half, drawing a vertical line from top to bottom. Then, assume that you subdivide it crosswise. Imagine a series of about four or five parallel horizontal lines across the page, from the top to the bottom. The words on the page will then fall into a series of rectangles.

Start reading by looking first at the words in the upper left rectangle. Then read those in the upper right rectan gle; next, move to the words in the second rectangle from the top on the left; and so on, down the page.

Probably, some of you will find you can take in all or most of the words in each rectangle at a glance. But you won't be reading them in the order in which they're written, as you would if you were reading line by line. Furthermore—and most important—while reading this way you can comprehend what the writer is saying, even though you're reading the words out of order. In other words, your mind, in taking in information, isn't limited to the order in which words and concepts are arranged on the printed page. You'll find that the author's logic, the literary style and other features of the text come across quite clearly.

The same principle applies when you're reading the words from the bottom to the top of the page, or even when you go through the book backwards, from the last page to the first.

Granted, getting the maximum amount of information through this out-of-order exposure to the words on a printed page does take some practice to perfect. But you'll find that even on the first try, you can pick up an amazing amount of information by using this approach to reading.

Being able to take in groups of words out of their normal order is one of the fundamentals of Mental Soaring. So when you begin to practice reading later in this book, don't be afraid to take the plunge and get used to dealing with the text this way. Becoming more confident with the out-of-order technique will be a big help as you prepare to break through the 900-word reading barrier to very high speeds and rates of comprehension.

Principle 2: Accept visual, as opposed to auditory, reassurance as you read.

As you already know, most people read in a linear sub-

vocal fashion, moving through a book line by line and either actually or in their minds sounding out the words. Yet the fastest and most effective readers rely on their vision as their eyes move in a predominantly vertical direction down the page.

To this end, you must be prepared to believe your eyes alone when you read. Don't feel you have to test or hear the sound of words or phrases before you can accept them.

An analogy I like involves the way most people look at a painting, a photograph, a clock, a beautiful scene in the country or a human being. When you see a person you know, you don't have to say to yourself, "That's Joe." Instead, you see Joe and you immediately accept the validity of what your eyes have conveyed to you.

It's much the same with visual reading. You must learn to trust your eyes, even though you've been conditioned for years to check or test the words you see by sounding them out in some way in your head.

To apply this principle, I want you to spend about two to four seconds per page just looking at each of the next six pages. As you look, say out loud key words that you see, and ask yourself, again, out loud, some question about those words. It doesn't really matter what words you choose or what questions you ask. The point here is to keep your voice "busy", to remove it from the reading process. But as you talk out loud, don't allow your eye movement to slow down. Continue to move through each page at the two- to four-second pace.

Now, begin this exercise. When you've finished glancing at the following six pages, return to this point in the text.

We encourage the "talk-out-loud" technique to help readers become more active in learning. When you begin to engage aggressively with words and phrases, you are more likely to establish specific objectives in your reading, generate more thoughts and move through the material more swiftly and efficiently.

Also, if your voice is engaged during reading, you can't use it, either actually or in your mind, to sound out the words you're reading. Note that it's important to distinguish this talk-out-loud technique from ordinary subvocal reading. In the former, stating occasional key words and asking periodic questions will block most of your ability to sound out the words in the text. In the latter, the tendency is to sound out most or all of the words in the text.

Let's assume you've followed my instructions and talked while allowing your eyes to take in the printed matter at two to four seconds a page. In that case, you'll find that most of what you've assimilated has been through your visual rather than your auditory faculties.

Obviously, you can't use this talk-out-loud technique in many settings because if you try saying key words out loud, you'll disturb everyone within earshot. But you can say key words silently as you read and thus help to short-circuit your need for auditory reassurance about most of what you see.

The more practice you get with this technique, the more confident you'll become in accepting at face value the visual appearance of the words on the page, without any further checking or testing. Then, your speed and efficiency will leap forward significantly.

Principle 3: You must learn to read vertically.

The more adept you become at the various techniques of Mental Soaring, the more you'll tend to read down the page rather than across it.

Also, you'll find that you use your peripheral vision more effectively: You'll comprehend increasing numbers of words in that one- to one-and-a-half-inch-diameter circle on the page where your eyes focus. This ability to make better use of peripheral vision will further enhance your ability to move down the page in groups of words, rather than across the page, word by word.

What does it feel like to read vertically rather than linearly? As you looked over this passage using the talk-out-loud technique, your eyes moved mostly down the page. Otherwise, you never would have made it through the page in two to four seconds. So just from that exercise, you've gained some idea of the sensation of reading vertically.

Later, you'll find that you can slow down the pace to about eight to ten seconds a page, and with a vertical eye movement you'll actually be reading every word. Not only that, you'll comprehend more than when you read line by line and spend one to two minutes on the same page. At ten seconds a page, by the way, you'll be soaring along at approximately 2,000 to 3,000 words per minute.

Also, when you tried the talk-out-loud approach, you were most likely making greater use of your peripheral vision. Generally speaking, when we increase our eye speed, we automatically "spread out" our vision to the maximum in an effort to capture all the images we can.

To understand how this works, stop reading for a moment and look up at some object in the room. Focus on a particular point on that object. Even as you bore in on that point, see how many other objects or movements you can take in out of the corners of your eyes. Without moving your eyes from the focal point, you'll find that you can take in countless other images around you—and that's part of what peripheral vision is all about.

Our peripheral vision is so important that in nighttime training in the military, infantrymen are taught not to look directly at an object if they want to see it more clearly. Various studies and practical experience have shown that many images and movements come across more clearly at night when they are viewed off-center.

As you practice reading with your peripheral vision, you'll find that you have a somewhat similar capacity. By allowing images to come in from all around your central line of vision, you can take in many words and phrases that are off center from your main focus on the page. And the more words you can grasp at a glance, the more quickly you'll move through any text.

Principle 4: Understand the gestalt of what you read.

"Gestalt" is a German word meaning the shape, form or basic structure of a thing—in our case, of a book, article or other reading matter. In the Evelyn Wood technique for reading and learning, gestalt refers to the whole of a text, or the big picture of what has to be absorbed by the student.

The main idea is that before beginning to read, you should first get a sense of what the entire book is about. Among other things, you should determine such things as who the author is, the main purpose of the book, the general range of the subject matter or content, the tone or emotional thrust of the work (i.e., the extent to which the author is trying to convey erudition, excitement, passion, or some other emotion or message) and how the book fits into the course as a whole. You can determine the gestalt simply by employing the overview method—the first step of the layering technique.

Layering, or the Multiple Reading Process, involves five steps: 1. overview; 2. preview; 3. read; 4. postview; and

5. review. Here, in more detail, is what happens as you move through each step.

Overview: This procedure involves looking the entire book over quickly to determine its organization, structure and tone. The main goal is to understand the gestalt—the main thrust or big picture—of the book.

Among other things, you should check what the cover and jacket copy say about the contents and the author. Also, you should see if there's a preface and introduction, and if so, look them over quickly to get the gist of the text. As part of this preliminary perusal, it's helpful to note the identity of the publisher and the date of publication. In addition, the overview should include a look at the table of contents as an aid in determining the organization of the book.

To complete the overview, flip quickly through the pages, at the rate of about one second per page. (For example, with a three-hundred-page book, this part of the overview would take about five minutes.)

During this flip-through, you needn't worry about reading, but should constantly be asking questions of the material:

• Is there any special or difficult terminology?

• Is there a glossary? (In technical books or texts that demand an advanced vocabulary, it's important to know if the author has included a glossary. A listing and definition of tough words in the book itself is generally easier to use than a large or specialized dictionary.)

• Do the chapters tend to be short or long?

• Does each chapter have a helpful introduction or sum mary? (If so, it would be wise to focus on those sections in later exposures to the material.)

• Does the author pose questions at any point in the text?

• Are there maps, graphs, charts or other pictured materials?

• Does the author use subheadings? (If so, they may act as a useful guide through the text.)

Finally, when you've completed your overview, you should step back and set your goals for further reading. To this end, it's helpful to pose some other pointed questions, such as the following:

• What exactly do you need to learn from the text?

• What are you likely to be tested on (or be required to use for your research paper)?

• How much of the book do you expect you'll be responsible for—e.g., is it a secondary text or the main one your teacher is using?

With a normal-sized book, overviewing will take no more than about five to ten minutes.

Preview: Next, go through the reading assignment at the rate of about four seconds per page. During this phase the main goal is to absorb more detail and to begin to draft an outline (a recall pattern, which I'll be describing in detail in a later chapter).

Also, use the preview to divide the chapter into logical segments—a task which should be relatively easy with non-fiction texts, which are usually organized rather clearly. Headings for subsections, items printed in boldface, and other highlighted material can help you identify the basic structure of the text.

For nonfiction texts, it's usually best to preview the book one chapter at a time. Then, you can go back and read that previewed section (as described in the next step) before moving on to preview and read the next part of the text.

In contrast, works of fiction may be previewed and then read in their entirety, without conducting the preview-and-read process chapter by chapter. The same goes for nonfiction assignments that have a single narrative thrust, such as biographies.

(One of the main goals in previewing fiction, by the way, is to identify the characters, setting, time period and general direction of the plot.)

Obviously, going at a fast preview pace (i.e., about four seconds per page) the first time through a text, you can't hope to absorb or even see every word. Instead, you should look for key facts and concepts. Concentrate especially on the introduction, on summaries and on any questions posed in the chapter. The main purpose is to get a fairly good idea of what the chapter is about.

After you've previewed the chapter (or the entire book) quickly draw up a skeletal outline on the main sections and points contained in the material covered. (This outlining technique will be discussed in detail in chapter six.) Then, you're ready to move on to the next step—the actual process of reading.

Read: The goal here is to see every word on every page, and to assimilate and record all the essential information you need for taking tests or writing research papers.

First, you should again preview the first main subsection in any nonfiction chapter you plan to read. Then, go back and read that subsection at your fastest comfortable speed. Don't skip anything at this point; you're not just scanning or hopping from key word to key word. (Usually only one preview will be necessary for a novel or short story.)

As you read, you should make light marks in the book margins with a pencil, but don't underline the text. The marks may be simple lines, checks, question marks or other notations to alert you to particularly important or difficult material, appropriate for later study.

We advise against underlining because it can easily get out of hand. You've probably encountered plenty of students who underline practically every word in the text. (In fact, many of us have been such students.) Yet underlining tends to postpone learning and recall, rather than allow you to learn facts and concepts immediately.

Judicious marking, in contrast, helps keep you active and engaged with the text. For example, we recommend that after you have read a section once, you may want to reread it quickly, especially if it contains crucial course material. This time, though, you should focus on the marked sections.

During this rereading, you may concentrate on those passages noted with question marks because they didn't come across clearly the first time through. Or you may want to mull over very important segments that you starred or checked.

I've heard some students object, "But doesn't all this previewing and repreviewing, reading and rereading, take more time than just going through the book once the way I've always done it?"

The answer to this question is emphatically no. As you'll see in later examples—and also in your own personal experience employing these principles—the multiple-expo-sure or layering approach to learning does increase your comprehension of and contact with study assignments. But this approach doesn't take more time; it takes much less.

After you've finished with your reading and feel you've obtained the information and understanding you need, you should fill in extra details in the recall pattern notes. Then, you're ready to postview.

Postview: With a nonfiction textbook, the postviewing should be done immediately after reading a chapter. On the other hand, fiction—or nonfiction with a single, strong narrative flow—may be postviewed as a whole.

Postviewing is the time to go over the entire assignment and think through the relationship of each part of the chapter, section or book to the whole. Also, you should make any final changes that seem appropriate on your recall pattern.

Review: At regular intervals, preferably about once a week, you should look over your recall patterns and refresh your memory of the material you've read and how it relates to other materials in the course.

As you can see, in the layered approach to study, only a portion of the time is devoted to what we normally think of as "reading." Furthermore, the more a person needs to absorb written material for academic or business purposes, the less time he should expect to spend reading. On the other hand a greater proportion of time will be required for overviewing, previewing, postviewing and reviewing.

We suggest these guidelines for time allotment:

When going over material in preparation for an exam, devote equal time to previewing, reading and postviewing. In doing background reading for a research paper, however, it may be best to spend less time in previewing and postviewing—say about a third of the total hours you de vote to the entire assignment. The rest of the time, about two-thirds of the total, should involve reading.

In contrast, if you're reading for pleasure, you might spend minimal time in previewing and postviewing a book or article. Almost all of your time would be devoted to reading.

What kind of comprehension can a person expect at each stage of the layered-reading process? Our experts have discovered that there are five levels of comprehension, which correspond roughly to the five phases of the Multiple Reading Process:

Comprehension Level 1: In the overview phase, the student recognizes only individual words and isolated concepts. Comprehension during this process is usually about 10-20 percent: that is, a student would be expected to answer correctly only about one to two questions out of every ten on the material.

Comprehension Level 2: With a very fast preview—say about two seconds per page—the student can recognize many more facts, including some key phrases and thoughts. He typically picks up enough information to score 20-40 percent on a comprehension test.

Comprehension Level 3: With a slower, more careful preview (approximately four seconds per page), the reader grasps meaningful patterns, main ideas and key themes. Comprehension now moves up to the 40-60 percent range.

Comprehension Level 4: At a reading pace slightly faster than the level at which the student feels most comfortable, he becomes even more adept at recognizing meaningful patterns, main ideas and themes. Also, he begins to grasp supporting details in the assignment. Comprehension at this level should bring scores of 60-80 percent.

Comprehension Level 5: Finally, reading at a fast but comfortable pace, the student takes in all the material needed to do well on a test or to satisfy other academic objectives. Comprehension should be 80 percent or higher.

Furthermore, combining reading with rereading, post-viewing and reviewing helps the student tap his highest academic abilities.

To see how this layered approach to reading and study can work in practice, let me introduce you to Jennifer, a fourteen-year-old who had been assigned a 120-page history book by her teacher.

How Jennifer Learned to Use Layered Reading

Jennifer listened closely and worked hard in a class she had been taking on the Evelyn Wood approach to study. But like many students we encounter, at first she lacked confidence in applying the techniques to her daily schoolwork.

To put it bluntly, she feared that the new methods she was learning wouldn't really work, even though she had proved an adept reading student who could consistently average more than 1,200 words per minute.

To her, it was one thing to be reading at a much faster pace, with high comprehension, in the special course we were teaching. It was quite another to try to make the transition with these techniques to an ordinary classroom. Jennifer worried that in practice, in the real world of junior high schools tests and grades, she would fall flat on her face —and fail to measure up academically.

Then, the academic pressure began to increase. She was assigned a 120-page historv text on top of other heavy homework assignments, and her teacher said the class could expect a quiz on the book on Monday. That meant she now had two quizzes and a paper deadline for the beginning of the week.

Jennifer realized that if she continued with the slow, pre-Wood way she normally used to read and study, she would be hopelessly overloaded. Yet because she was a serious student and preferred to play it safe in her effort to maintain a high grade-point average, she believed she had only one option. "I'll just have to skip the football game this weekend and cancel some other activities," she sighed. "Otherwise, I'll never finish all my classwork."

Jennifer's Wood instructor, learning of her dilemma, suggested that now might be the ideal time to take the plunge. "Why not take a chance and see if the high-speed approach to learning is really usable for you?" he suggested. "What have you got to lose? Today's Tuesday. Try going through this new book and your other assignments before your Friday game and your other weekend activities. If you make it, you're the winner—you'll have the weekend free. If you don't make it through your work, then you can skip the activities."

This proposal seemed reasonable to Jennifer, and that very evening she tackled the history book, using the Evelyn Wood approach to learning.

Each page of the book contained about 400 words, and 120 pages had been assigned. That meant Jennifer had to read approximately 48,000 words.

Using the basic Evelyn Wood method of layered or multiple-exposure reading, she first overviewed the book. That entailed looking at the cover and flap copy, the table of contents, the introduction and the conclusion. Also, she flipped through the book at a rate of about one to two seconds a page.

During the five minutes Jennifer spent in overviewing, she noted that in presenting George Washington's life, the author seemed interested in exploding or confirming myths and legends like the cutting down of the cherry tree.

In this short period, she obtained a good sense of the overall thrust or big picture of the book. Not only that, she came up with a host of questions about Washington she wanted answered—so she was well on her way to setting solid goals for her study.

Now, it was time for a closer look at the text—a preview. Jennifer knew that with a nonfiction textbook, it was usually best to preview, read and postview one chapter at a time. Also, a set of outlines or recall patterns should be built up chapter by chapter.

But in this case, because the book was relatively short and well-written, with an integrated narrative movement, she decided to preview the whole thing at once. Moving along at a rate of about four seconds per page, she began to identify large sections, boldface headings and major concepts.

This preview process took Jennifer about eight minutes, and she also devoted two minutes to drawing up a basic recall pattern, which contained the main headings in the book. The total time she had put in so far on the book was only fifteen minutes—and she was already well on her way toward learning what she needed for that Monday quiz.

Next, Jennifer began to read. At a pace averaging sixteen seconds per page, she read every word in the book and also filled in her notes with many details that she hadn't picked up during the overview and preview.

Unlike an untrained reader, she had the gestalt of the book in mind. In addition, she had a definite sense of where the author was taking her and a host of questions she wanted him to answer.

The background she had gained from the first two exposures to the book—or the first two layers of contact— now enabled her to move along easily at sixteen seconds per page and to finish the book in thirty-two minutes. How fast was she moving? She had read the text at her accustomed reading rate of 1,500 words per minute.

During her reading, she placed check marks lightly in the text to note key facts and concepts she wanted to include in her notes. Upon finishing the first reading, she decided to reread the book at a faster pace of about 3,000 words per minute and to focus on the checked passages. This rereading required sixteen minutes, and revising and adding to her recall pattern took about four.

Now, Jennifer was ready for the postview phase of study. With her recall patterns at hand, she went back through the book at a rate of about four seconds a page. During this eight-minute exercise, she checked to see how the various sections of the book related to one another. Also, she added a few additional points and details to fill out her notes.

When Jennifer finally sat back and surveyed her completed work on the book, even she was amazed at what she had accomplished.

In the first place, she saw that the total time she had devoted to this seemingly formidable history assignment was only one hour and fifteen minutes! Yet she had gone through the book five times (including two complete readings); generated many thoughts; answered scores of questions; and compiled an extremely useful set of notes for her test.

In reflecting on how much time this assignment might have taken, Jennifer recalled two approaches to study she had used in the past.

She might simply have plowed through this book at her usual subvocal linear reading rate of only about 400 words per minute. And that would have included no overview, no preview, and no note-taking. Then, she would have taken some extra time to go through the text again and make copious notes.

She knew from experience that no matter how she tried it, recording the notes after the reading would have been excruciating. She would have been required to reread the material at a slow subvocal linear rate (in her case, probably about 200 words per minute) as she jotted down the important facts and concepts.

Alternatively, she sometimes elected to jot some notes down during her first reading, but that approach also presented a host of problems. For one thing, she usually tried to develop a written outline without any idea of where the book was heading. Also, she was frequently in the dark about whether the facts and concepts she was recording had any particular significance. Of course, this kind of note-taking during the reading process would have slowed her reading down to a crawl—usually no more than about 100 words per minute.

How much time would Jennifer have spent using one of her old methods of study? Realistically, Jennifer had to admit that what she had accomplished in one hour and fifteen minutes with the Evelyn Wood approach would have taken at least six to eight hours with either of her old methods. That would have forced her to spend the rest of the evening and part or most of the next on the history book— just to get through it once and take some notes. She also knew that significant revision of the notes would have been required to prepare them as a study tool for the test.

As it was, she had finished with the basic assignment en tirely in a little over one hour and could now move on to her other assignments—which she also planned to do using the Evelyn Wood learning strategies.

All that remained for Jennifer to accomplish before the history test the following Monday was to review her notes and perhaps glance through the text another time or two. During this final phase of her study, she planned to focus on those areas that she expected the teacher to emphasize on the test.

The review process took less than one leisurely hour, which she scheduled for a convenient time on the weekend. In fact, she could have spent even less time on the review than she did, but she wanted to be sure she really nailed the test.

Jennifer easily completed all her other assignments by Friday, and as a result, she was able to attend—and enjoy —her various weekend activities. And she did very well on her two quizzes and paper.

Like many other students who learn the techniques I'm describing in this book, Jennifer knew what was required to achieve Mental Soaring and, in fact, she was quite skilled at the process. But she hadn't gained the confidence she needed to actually apply those skills to a real-life situation.

As we continue with this discussion, try using the concepts I'm talking about on this book and on your other reading. It's only by doing what I'm talking about that you'll learn how these methods work in practice. Also, as you acquire experience, you'll automatically gain the self-assurance you need to engage in supersonic reading and studying.

So now, try putting into practice some of these principles that I've been preaching. Most likely, you haven't over-

viewed this book. Do so at this point, and then return to this section of the text.

Next, the following information on hand motions will enable you to incorporate still another prerequisite skill for layered study. These techniques are absolutely fundamental for developing maximum speed and efficiency in every step of learning that we've discussed—overviewing, previewing, reading, postviewing and reviewing.


1. For the fastest reading speeds, you must observe the four basic principles of layered reading.

• See and accept words and phrases out of their normal order.

• Accept visual reassurance as you read.

• Read vertically.

• Understand the gestalt.

2. Know the five steps in layered reading, or the Multiple Reading Process: overview, preview, reading, postview, review.

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The Art Of Cold Reading

The Art Of Cold Reading

Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.

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  • luca
    What is layered reading?
    3 years ago

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