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Super Reading Secrets
By Howard Stephen Berg
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Copyright © 1992 by Howard Stephen Berg
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Warner Books and the "W" logo are trademarks of Time Warner Inc. or an affiliated company. Used under license by Hachette Book Group, which is not affiliated with Time Warner Inc.
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First eBook Edition: September 1992
How the Mind Decodes Text
• UNDERSTANDING HOW THE MIND DECODES TEXT
• UNDERSTANDING THE THREE LEVELS OF TEXTUAL MEANING
• UNDERSTANDING HOW SCHEMA DETERMINES TEXTUAL MEANING
JUMPING FROM WORDS TO PHRASES
Shiny ornaments and Santa decorations hang in every store window as you briskly make your way through the crowded mall. Passing a leather goods store, your eyes glance down, glimpsing a designer wallet you've wanted for the past few months. Turning to enter the store, you spot Bob, an old friend you haven't seen in years. Isn't it amazing how much detail your eyes can instantly analyze in your daily life? Details that you use to make quick decisions. It's even more amazing when you realize that you use these same eyes to read only one word at a time in text. Something is definitely wrong with how you read, and the problem began during childhood.
As a child, you were taught to read letters that formed units called words. Watch a child read a word like dog as if it were three distinct letters, d-o-g. When was the last time you were conscious of letters in text? Can you imagine reading a book and saying, "Great book, lots of interesting letters. I loved all the words containing p's, q's and z's." It would be ridiculous. As an adult, you read words without an awareness of the letters they contain. Just as most adults read words without being conscious of letters, it is possible for you to decode entire passages at a glance without an awareness of words. The only reason you can't read entire passages speedily is because our school system doesn't teach you to read beyond the single-word unit.
Look at the words hot dog. They are two distinct words that your brain perceives as a single unit. Just as your mind can integrate these two words into a single meaning, it can also interpret a sentence, paragraph, or even an entire page. All it takes is a system to accomplish this feat. Super reading is the perfect system for comprehending numerous words at a glance.
WRITING IS CRYSTALLIZED THOUGHT
Reading is the decoding of symbols into meaning. Before learning to read fast, it's important to have an appreciation for writing's significance. Writing is nothing more than speech represented by printed symbols. Once, writing was the sole domain of priests; it was a sacrilege for a layman to know how to read or write. A magical power was seen in the written word. To these ancient holy men, writing represented crystallized thought, someone's understanding captured on a document. Even today, in the Jewish religion, prayer books are not discarded when old; instead they are placed in coffins with the deceased and buried as if they were a living thing that had died. Super reading recognizes that as a reader you are learning to decode thoughts placed on paper. Focusing upon the meanings created by the text frees you from dependency upon each individual word, resulting in larger chunks of information being read at a time with a commensurate increase in both speed and comprehension of text.
THE THREE LEVELS OF TEXTUAL MEANING
Text can contain three levels of meaning: literal, implied, and inferential. All three levels can occur within the same written document.
Literal information includes everything specifically stated in a written document. Names, dates, and formulas are common examples of literal information. In many cases, literal information needs to be memorized so it can be accurately recalled.
Implied information is not specifically stated. It contains facts that must be analyzed using information commonly possessed by an average reader. For example, an author might describe a woman in a scarlet dress, but wouldn't tell you that scarlet is a shade of red. The author expects you to recognize scarlet as a shade of red.
Inferential reading requires you to scrutinize text as an expert. You question, probe, and challenge the opinions and statements of an author. Inferential information is often quite difficult for a reader to decode because it requires considerable experience with a subject. Unlike the common experiences needed to read text at the implied level, inferential information is rarely known by average individuals; instead, it is usually possessed by professionals in a field. Imagine attempting to critically read a technical report on the biochemical effects of a new medication without any background in chemistry or medicine. Without this background you simply could not assess the validity of the article. This type of critical reading is representative of inferential reading. Most people can only read inferentially in subjects related to their work or serious interests.
HOW SCHEMA DETERMINES TEXTUAL MEANING
One of the most important things you can use to decode text is schema. Schema is the information you already possess when learning something new. Although you unconsciously possess this information, you constantly use it when decoding text. Often, schema is acquired so early in life we don't even remember obtaining it.
Surgical breakthroughs which enable people blind since birth to see during adulthood provided psychologists with an opportunity to test the importance of schema obtained during early childhood. Amazingly, many individuals seeing for the first time in adulthood required up to six months to learn to distinguish between a square and a circle. This task is easy for you because your schema of shape discrimination developed while you were lying on your back in a crib watching different shapes passing in front of your eyes. Throughout life we develop schema. Each of us possesses a unique schema that shapes our reactions to and understanding of life events. For example, when you tell someone, "I love you," prior experiences with love affect the reaction to your words.
Schema is the backbone of super reading. Properly used, it enables you to read at high speeds with excellent comprehension. Let's perform an exercise that highlights both the importance of schema, and the three levels of meaning contained within text.
Imagine for a moment I have the power to turn you into a four-year-old child attending preschool just prior to Columbus Day. You've never heard of Christopher Columbus, and I'm about to enlighten you about the importance of tomorrow's holiday.
"The year is 1492, and a man named Christopher Columbus just crossed the ocean from Europe and discovered America. I'd like you children to answer some questions about what I just discussed. First, who can tell me the name of the man who crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1492?"
"Christopher Columbus," you proudly respond.
You knew the answer because I provided you with the specific information. This is an example of literal information acquired from text—information that is given.
"Who can tell me how Columbus traveled to America?"
"He took a boat," you logically respond.
But wait—how did you know he took a boat? I didn't say anything about Columbus taking a boat, all I mentioned was that he crossed the ocean separating Europe from America. If you were going to travel to Europe today, you'd probably take a plane. So why didn't you suggest that Columbus took a plane? Using schema, you knew planes didn't exist in 1492; the only logical method of traveling across the ocean during this time period was a boat. Most adult Americans know that boats were used to cross the ocean in the year 1492, making this an excellent example of an implied meaning in text. If only a small segment of the population knew this information, then this would be an example of inferential reading.
When you think about it, even the concept of a boat is subject to interpretation. Many children might envision the Love Boat as the means of transportation. A Love Boat with people strolling the decks, drinking glasses donning little umbrellas, and all the comforts of home. How many young children would envision a tiny wooden craft similar to the one that actually took Columbus to the New World? It would be even more difficult to explain what a ship and an ocean were to a child who had been born in a desert and had never seen the sea. Schema can both help and hurt our understanding of text.
No author would attempt to provide all the schema necessary for reading a book. Can you imagine having to explain in a history book that planes weren't used by Columbus because internal combustion engines hadn't been invented? The amount of information that an author would need to provide would become an unmanageable task. All authors have to assume their readers possess some background. When an author makes the wrong assumptions, a book becomes difficult to read.
"Last question, children. What made Columbus take his famous trip that resulted in his discovery of America?"
It would take a pretty precocious four-year-old to determine that Columbus was searching for a new trade route to the East to avoid the hazard of encountering barbarians. Actually, no one could answer this question without additional information about the time period in which Columbus lived. Inferential questions are of this nature, requiring detailed information for accurate conclusions to be made.
Schema and Reading Difficulties
Have you ever found it difficult to understand a book that others seem to easily comprehend? The difficulty may lie with the writer rather than with you. If an author fails to provide necessary schema, comprehending the text becomes difficult. Usually, this occurs when an author erroneously assumes you possess a schematic background in the subject, a background that others obtained by reading other books or through various life experiences. This type of problem is often encountered in academic writing. Authors, particularly those who have spent their lives immersed in a technical subject, often become desensitized to the complexity of their material and assume everyone will find their information easy to follow. Naturally, those having the assumed background or schema can effortlessly read the same material that would be challenging to you.
Although schema is a single word, it usually means a conglomeration of information about a topic. Schema enables you to read materials at higher speeds because you recognize the familiar ideas encoded by text, rather than the individual words. Even if you miss a few words when speed reading, it is unlikely you will miss a familiar concept which permeates long passages of text. We shall learn in later chapters how to master material for which we have little schema.
Possessing schema in a subject enables you to read even difficult material with ease. Schema is the reason a biologist can read a biology book faster than an art book. The technical terms and concepts of biology are part of a biologist's everyday life, but the information in the art book is unfamiliar. Similarly, an artist, possessing schema about art, would find an art book easier to read than a biology book.
To illustrate how dependent you are upon schema when reading text, I've composed a passage in which schema has been deliberately removed. Although this passage is about something you know, the lack of schema will make it difficult for you to comprehend. Take a moment now to try and comprehend the following exercise.
This is an easy thing to do. If possible, you will do it at home, but you can always go somewhere else if it is necessary. Beware of doing too much at once. This is a major mistake and may cost you quite a bit of money. It is far better to do too little than attempt to do too much. Make sure everything is grouped properly. Put everything into its appropriate place. Now you are ready to proceed. The next step is to put things into another convenient arrangement. Once done, you'll probably have to start again really soon. Most likely, you'll be doing this for the rest of your life—perhaps not. Who knows?
OK, can you tell me what this passage describes? Did I hear you say laundry? If you did, then you're correct. Notice that this selection omits all references to clothing, detergent, washing machine, dryer, laundromat, or any other information you might use as a schematic clue. The difficulty you experienced when trying to read this passage is identical to the problem you have when reading text lacking critical schematic information. It is difficult to identify the subject without this important information.
Take another look at this exercise. It would have been easy for you to read and comprehend this passage if the title Laundry appeared centered right above it. Sometimes all it takes is a single word to provide the schema you need to understand a passage. Fortunately, most authors—with the exception of some lawyers—do not intentionally strip the schema from their text as I just did. A typical author attempts to provide the schema you will need to understand the writing. Consequently, you must search for the schematic clues offered by an author when you experience difficulty while reading. Usually, you can find a critical word or phrase that will help you understand the writing. If you experience difficulty interpreting a book's schema, you will find several chapters in this book that offer useful tips on how to find and use a book's schema.
Just as a lack of schema can make understanding text difficult, passages rich in schema are easy to comprehend. In the exercise found below, I've written a story that lacks sentences, grammar, paragraphs, and all the elements of writing usually considered essential. The passage consists of nothing more than a checkbook register with dated entries, amounts, and the name of the individual writing the checks. Yet, because it is rich in schema, you will be able to read this selection with a great deal of understanding.
|8/1/02||Medical Center||$500.00||Bob Clarke|
|8/2/02||Abe's Baby Furniture||$280.00||Bob Clarke|
|9/2/02||Dr. Peterson||$300.00||Bob Clarke, Sr.|
|12/12/02||Celia's Toy Store||$91.75||Bob Clarke, Sr.|
|8/30/09||St. John's Boy's Prep.||$3,000.00||Bob Clarke, Sr.|
|8/30/14||Hamilton Military Academy||$3,500.00||Bob Clarke, Sr.|
|9/1/20||Fred's Cadillac||$4,200.00||Bob Clarke, Sr.|
|9/8/20||Sam's Body Shop||$400.00||Bob Clarke, Sr.|
Let's examine the information contained within this unusual passage on the literal level. Obviously, this is a story about a man named Bob Clarke. Bob becomes the father of a baby son sometime around August 1. When old enough, the boy is sent to prep school, and later to a military academy. Sometime around the boy's eighteenth birthday, Bob purchases a new Cadillac which requires body work four days later. Bob's checkbook specifically states all these facts.
Reading this passage on the implied level adds an additional level of meaning. Although the exact date of birth is not given, we can determine the baby most likely was born either on the first or second day in August. There are two pieces of evidence indicating these are the likely birth dates. First, the hospital receives payment on August 1, the date the mother was probably admitted to the hospital. Second, Dr. Peterson receives payment on September 2, approximately thirty days after services were rendered. There certainly appears to be quite a bit of evidence supporting our hypothesis on the date of birth. Additional information can be gleaned by reading on the implied level of this passage. Most likely, the baby is named Bob Clarke, Jr. as indicated by the addition of Sr. to his father's name.
More subtle information is also revealed on the implied level of this passage. You can determine Bob's economic condition from the information it contains. Bob appears to be quite wealthy as indicated by the $91.75 spent on toys on December 12, 1902. When I showed this figure to Alex, my ten-year-old son, he thought Bob was really cheap in spending so little on a Christmas present. Alex doesn't have the schema we possess about the value of money during the early part of this century. Schema that indicates that a huge amount of money was spent on the toys. Even if you weren't certain about the value of this money, the passage contains additional information useful in evaluating the value of a dollar in 1902. We contrast the $91.75 spent on toys in 1902 with the cost of a new Cadillac 18 years later for only $4,200. Imagine buying a new Cadillac today for that sum of money! A simple analysis of these figures proves beyond any doubt that $91.75 was a considerable sum of money to spend on toys in 1902.
During my super-reading workshops, I ask everyone to determine the type of relationship Bob Clarke, Sr. had with his son. Using the inferential level of meaning contained in this passage, two distinct interpretations are given. Many individuals describe Bob Clarke, Sr. as a man of wealth and power whose desire for privacy motivated him to send his son to boarding school and military school. Certainly, this is a scenario supported by the information contained within the passage. Others dispute this interpretation. They believe that Bob wanted his son to develop into a disciplined gentleman, capable of responsibility handling the money and power his father would one day hand on to him. Both versions could be supported by the data contained in this passage, which raises an important point about inferential meanings. Often, inferential information is neither true nor false; your reaction to the information is affected by your prior experiences in life.
Take a moment and examine the bill from Sam's Body Shop on September 8. When I ask students in my super-reading workshop to explain the cause of this bill, the majority usually believe that Bob Clarke, Jr. had an accident. One which made it necessary for his father to fix his car. Others believe that the new car had a defect when purchased which required making a repair not covered by a warranty offered in 1920. Upon questioning the students having this second opinion, I discovered the majority had experienced problems with new cars they had purchased, and that this had altered their schema and affected their interpretation of the passage.
In a nonfiction book on a subject you have never read about before, read a few chapters and interpret their meanings on the literal, implied, and inferential levels. Repeat the exercise using a nonfiction book on a familiar subject. Make an effort to be conscious of how your mind interacts with the material in both books. Notice how you use schema to easily master the familiar material, and pay attention to how your lack of schema creates a learning problem. Begin to look for the schematic clues offered by an author that will help you master difficult material with less effort.
1. Children learn to read letters.
2. Adult readers interpret the meanings of words.
3. Super readers focus upon the meanings of passages.
4. The information we possess when learning something new is called schema.
5. Schema enables you to maintain comprehension when reading at high speeds.
6. Text contains three levels of meaning.
7. Literal meanings are specifically stated in text.
8. Implied meanings can easily be decoded using schema.
9. Inferential meanings of text require extensive background to be interpreted.
How to Increase Your Reading Speed
• DETERMINING YOUR INITIAL READING RATE
• MEASURING YOUR READING RATE IN ANY TEXT
• DEVELOPING TECHNIQUES FOR CO-ORDINATING YOUR HAND AND EYE MOTIONS
• INCREASING YOUR READING SPEED BY USING SPEED MASTERY TECHNIQUES
Most speed-reading systems rely primarily upon mechanical skills to increase your reading rate. Learning a mechanical technique requires mastering a motor skill. Motor skills you probably already know include typing, playing an instrument, driving a car, and performing in sports activities like swimming. Mastering motor skills requires frequent sessions with repetitive practice. For example, learning to type requires hitting each key hundreds of times until your fingers instinctively hit each key.
Since reading is a habit learned early in life, it usually takes considerable practice to replace your old reading method using mechanical techniques. Most speed-reading systems require practicing for at least a month. Often they require from 30 to 60 minutes of daily training to achieve a higher reading speed. After instructing hundreds of speed-reading workshops, I know that most speed-reading students lack the time these programs require.
Many people who rely primarily upon mechanical methods experience another serious problem. They lose their higher reading speed unless they continually read at their optimum rate. At times, everyone prefers to read slowly, making sole dependency upon mechanical methods unacceptable. Fortunately, the super-reading system enables you to get the benefits of mechanical techniques for increasing reading speed, while eliminating their potential hazards.
Traditional mechanical skills are only part of the super-reading system. Super reading uses many metacognitive techniques for increasing your reading rate. Metacognition is the branch of psychology that deals with questions concerning how the brain masters learning. Super reading describes how your mind decodes text. This enables you to adjust your reading speed for different materials without losing your peak speed. Since super reading does not depend solely upon motor skills, you will increase your reading speed in hours instead of days.
DETERMINING YOUR INITIAL READING RATE
In any self-development program, you must measure your initial skill level. Before learning to increase your reading rate, you must calculate your current reading speed. As your reading speed increases, you can refer to this initial rate to determine your progress.
Use the passage immediately following this section to determine your current reading rate. There are about ten words on each numbered line. Use the following steps to determine your reading speed:
1. Set an alarm so that it rings one minute from your starting point.
2. When it rings, stop reading, and look at the line's number listed in the right column.
3. Multiply this number by ten (the average number of words per line) to find your initial reading speed.
Imagine that after reading for one minute you are on line 30 in the sample text. Multiplying 30 by 10 gives you an initial reading speed of 300 words per minute.
Reality—What a Concept!
Even as you read, a revolution is occurring in the minds of scientists. A revolution that will affect every thing that touches your life. Yet this is a strange revolution. No explosions, no guns, not even a glimmer of activity that might reveal its presence. This is not a violent revolution with maimings and death; instead, it is about how science views reality. The consequences of this incredible vision are only beginning to affect your life.
Quantum physics has opened a crack into the mystery of the creation of the universe itself. A crack that sharpminded scientists are trying to widen each day. For the layman, their discoveries are almost unkown. Some cryptic puzzle of math and physics that many erroneously believe is not meant for the minds of ordinary men. Yet the effects of these discoveries threaten to dwarf even the significance of nuclear energy. Discoveries that will not only change the way you live, but alter the way you think about reality. As the world's fastest reader, I used my skill to investigate the wonderful discoveries these brilliant men have made. As you sharpen your reading speed using my writing samples, I will provide you with information that reveals some of these incredible discoveries. You will find this information given in a down-to-earth fashion that will not cloud the importance of this work with technical formulas and equadons that often do more to confuse than to inform.
THE PHILOSOPHICAL ROOTS
- On Sale
- Dec 14, 2008
- Page Count
- 256 pages
- Grand Central Publishing