Some Well-known Speed Readers

Category: Speed Reading

Numerous famous people have been strong supporters of speed reading and the benefits associated with improving your reading speed, comprehension and recall. Here are a few of the most popular speed readers in history:

George Washington, for example, wanted to read anything and everything. He especially liked English books on agriculture (he considered himself a "country gentleman farmer"). He even read books while riding horseback. His reading speed was not particularly fast, but he was consistent and persistent, generally pacing himself through his books without re-reading passages ("regressing").

Thomas Jefferson was very disciplined in his reading, covering many topics with purpose and forcing himself to complete his planned reading schedule. These were the keys to his unusual power of concentration: no distractions, no time-consuming actions through inattention. He strongly believed in reading with purpose, whether for knowledge or leisure, and made lists of books to be read on schedule. In addition, Jefferson also used a clock to guide and control his reading time. One account said his speed, although relatively fast, was "always calm, even stately, like the tick of a tall mahogany clock."

Abraham Lincoln was known to beg or borrow books to read. He is often remembered for educating himself by candlelight at an early age. In any event, he was always reading. Later, he applied his self-taught reading habits as a lawyer, legislator and President. Although he was constantly reading, his speed was probably "average," and he often read aloud because he liked to hear the words.

Theodore Roosevelt was known as a very rapid reader and a tireless reviewer of books. Even by today's standards, his reading speed would seem incredible. One of his reading qualities, besides speed, was knowing when to skim and scan, while still absorbing the thrust of his reading material. In a letter to his son Kermit about the best way to read Dickens, Roosevelt said: "The wise thing to do is simply to skip the bosh and twaddle and vulgarity and untruth, and get the benefit out of the rest." Roosevelt was also fond of reading favorite books more than once. He even left a list of novels that he had read "over and over again." While in the White House, President Theodore Roosevelt was said to read a book every day before breakfast, and occasionally reading three books in a day.

Franklin D. Roosevelt would certainly be included among the leaders in speed reading. Like most people, he began reading two or three words at a time, then stretched that to three or four words, then six to eight words. Eventually, he was able to read (and absorb) an entire paragraph at a single glance. He often practiced reading two or three lines at a single glance ("fixation"). Even more interesting, he would glance quickly at a single page, then turn the page and ponder over what the author was trying to say.

John F. Kennedy wanted to read faster as a young man, feeling restricted by his reading rate of less than 300 words per minute (WPM). After studying speed reading techniques, his reading rate increased to about 1,200 WPM. He attributed some of his speed to an ability to read and absorb large groups of words at a glance ("thought units"). He also encouraged and inspired many of his staff personnel to learn and apply speed reading in their own lives.

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