Evelyn Wood jumped out of the pages of speed reading history in the late 1950s. She claimed to be able to increase a person’s reading speed up to threefold while improving comprehension at the same time. She and her husband began offering a reading course called Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics.
The history of speed reading courses and speed reading assistance devices is a long and varied one. The concept of speed reading has been around for centuries, but it wasn’t until the 20th century that it really began to gain popularity.
Evelyn Wood was one of the first people to commercialize speed reading. In the late 1950s, she began marketing a method of speed reading that she called “Reading Dynamics”. Wood’s method involved a number of different techniques, including using a finger or ruler to pace the reader’s eye movements, reduce regressing, eliminating subvocalization (silently thinking or mouthing the words), and using visual imagery to help the reader understand the text. One could call the process shorthand in reading.
Wood offered workshops around America teaching these skills. She claimed endorsements from many politicians and celebrities.
Ebb and Flow
In the years since Wood’s time, many other speed reading courses have appeared. Some of these courses came from Wood’s original method, while others use different techniques. There are also a number of speed reading assistance devices available, such as tachistoscopes and software programs.
The popularity of speed reading courses and speed reading assistance devices has waxed and waned over the years. However, there is still a strong interest in these products, and they continue to be used by people who want to improve their reading speed.
Here are some of the key milestones in the history of speed reading courses and speed reading assistance devices:
1940s: The United States Air Force begins using tachistoscopes to train pilots to quickly identify enemy planes.
1958: Evelyn Wood develops her “Reading Dynamics” method of speed reading.
1959: Wood’s method becomes commercially available.
1960s: Politicians such as Senator Proxmire, and celebrities such as Steve Allen and Burt Lancaster endorse Evelyn Wood’s program.
1980s: Popularity of speed reading courses declines.
1990s: The development of new speed reading software programs leads to a resurgence in interest in speed reading.
2000s: The popularity of speed reading courses and speed reading assistance devices continues to grow.
2007: Pryor Learning acquires Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics. Pryor Learning is a company that specializes in providing training and education services. Under Pryor Learning’s ownership, Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics has continued to offer its speed reading courses and software programs.
Questions and Decline
There are a few reasons why speed reading courses such as Evelyn Wood’s declined in popularity in the 1980s.
First, skepticism arose about the effectiveness of speed reading courses. Some people argued that the techniques taught in these courses were not effective in improving reading comprehension. Others argued that speed reading courses were simply a way to make money off of people eager to improve their reading speed.
Second, the development of new technologies, such as computers and the internet, made it easier for people to access information. This meant that people no longer needed to read as much text in order to stay informed.
Third, the focus on speed reading shifted to self-help books and software programs. These products often cost less than speed reading courses. People could use the programs from home.
There have been a number of studies that have examined the effectiveness of the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course. However, the results of these studies were mixed. Some studies have found that the course can significantly increase reading speed, while others have found that it has little or no effect on reading comprehension.
One of the most comprehensive studies of the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course came from the University of Utah in the 1960s. This study found that participants who took the course were able to increase their reading speed by an average of 250%. However, the study also found no significant difference in reading comprehension between participants who took the course and those who did not.
Another study, conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, in the 1970s, found that participants who took the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course increased their reading speed by an average of 100%. However, the study also found a significant decline in reading comprehension among participants who took the course.
These studies suggest that the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course may be effective in increasing reading speed. However, the evidence is mixed on whether the course can also improve reading comprehension. More research is needed to determine the true effectiveness of the course.
Limitations of the Studies
Here are some of the limitations of the studies that have been conducted on the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course:
The studies were often small and had a limited number of participants.
They did not always use standardized measures of reading speed and comprehension.
Studies did not always control for other factors that could affect reading performance, such as motivation and prior reading ability.
Despite these limitations, the studies that were conducted on the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course suggest that it may be an effective way to increase reading speed.
No Nonsense Methods
Here are some relatively non-controversial ways to improve reading speed and comprehension:
Practice reading more often. Just like an athlete, stretch yourself to cover greater ground in less time. Improve concentration and regress less often.
Preview the text before you start reading.
Read actively by asking yourself questions about what you are reading.
Take breaks to avoid eye fatigue.
Reread difficult passages.
Use a dictionary or thesaurus to look up unfamiliar words.
This writer took the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course in the mid 1960s while in college. I probably didn’t practice the skills taught as much as I needed to. However, my takeaways included improved speed by pressing on, regressing less (my biggest reading fault), and learning to see words in group rather than just on at a time. That last skill also helped reduce my subvocalization. I am still not a fast reader, but I am much better at both speed and comprehension since taking the course.
Speed Reading in the Age of AI
The rise of AI-powered language models like Alexa, Bard, ChatGPT, and Siri has led to some people questioning whether speed reading is still necessary. These language models can access and process information much faster than humans can, so why bother learning to read quickly?
There are a few reasons why speed reading may still be valuable in the age of AI-powered language models.
First, these language models are not perfect. They can sometimes misunderstand what you are asking them, and they can provide inaccurate or incomplete information. By learning to read quickly, you can be more confident that you are getting the correct information from the source.
Second, speed reading can help you to be more efficient with your time. In today’s world, there is more information available than ever before. If you want to stay informed, you need to be able to process information quickly. Speed reading can help you to do this.
Third, speed reading can help you to improve your comprehension. When you read quickly, you are forced to focus on the main points of the text. This can help you to understand the text more deeply.
Of course, there are also some potential downsides to speed reading. If you read too quickly, you may not be able to understand the text as well. Additionally, speed reading can be tiring, so it is important to take breaks when you are reading quickly.
Overall, whether or not you need speed reading in the age of AI-powered language models depends on your individual needs. If you want to be more efficient with your time and improve your comprehension, then speed reading may be a valuable skill for you. However, if you are happy with the way you read now, then there is no need to learn speed reading.
- Year Started: 1958
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: Name of Founder / Descriptive
- Location Sales: United States
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Evelyn Wood
- Owner While In Use: Evelyn Wood
- Owner Successor: Pryor Learning
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics
- Naics Code: 611699
- Location Headquarters: Salt Lake City, Utah USA