Software teaches 'fluent reading'

January 30th, 2008

Reading always has been a special love of mine. Every time I go to the library, I take out as many books as I can carry or I and my companions can carry.

So it comes as a shock to realize that:

  • Twenty-one million Americans can't read, 45 million are marginally illiterate, and one-fifth of high school graduates can't read their diplomas, according to the Department of Justice.

  • Sixty percent of America's prison inmates are illiterate, and 85 percent of all juvenile offenders have reading problems, according to the Department of Education.

  • Nearly half of the adults in the United States are "functionally illiterate," according to the National Adult Literacy Survey of 1993. They can't do simple tasks such as balancing a checkbook or reading a drug label.

High-functioning readers are exposed to more vocabulary and more general information, so they have a big advantage in studies and career. However, helping children learn to be effective readers is not something that an educator - or parent - can do easily.

I recently discovered new software that helps both youths and adults read faster and with greater comprehension.

The Reader's Edge is a literacy program that teaches fluent reading. According to research, many people develop the habit of reading one word at a time, physically or mentally "saying" the word as they fixate on it. This restricts their ability to grasp the meaning because they basically are reading more slowly than they are thinking. Their minds may wander, and they may forget what they have read, so they must go back to remind themselves, getting more and more frustrated.

According to the Web site www.readfaster.com, "Fluent silent reading proficiency is achieved by an opposite set of skills from those employed by oral readers. Fluent readers incorporate the vital reading skills that enable them to see, read and process groups of words with each eye fixation without the need to vocalize." This software helps retrain the eye and brain to see the text differently. This helps the ideas be absorbed more effectively and the reading become more enjoyable.

Developed jointly by Richard Sutz, a globally recognized business leader and engineer, and Richard Coppola, a software wizard, this program can be downloaded from the Internet or from a CD-ROM. A free demonstration lets you test your current reading level and then check your reading comprehension to establish a base line of your current speed and absorption.

The software is available in three versions - for individual learners, for professionals who are teaching others and for a network of an unlimited number of users - with prices ranging from $79 to $299. You can get a 20 percent discount by taking the survey on the products page.

Because literacy is one of the most vital skills needed for every other type of learning, it makes sense to have learning tools that help develop the various sets of skills involved.

Certain features support reading skills for those with dyslexia or other learning differences. The site also has 29 interactive tests for cultural literacy on subjects including history, current events and science, which your family can use for free.

Improved reading ability can translate into savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars for corporations and other agencies. Lack of full functional literacy costs us as individuals - and even as business or government agencies.

Home-schoolers outperform their counterparts in schools, but many still struggle with developing effective reading skills. The Reader's Edge can help anyone - adults and youth alike - develop excellence in both speed and comprehension of reading. This is a worthwhile investment for families and organizations, one that will bear dividends in professional success and personal enjoyment of the written word.

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