Thank goodness for speed reading! In the mid 1970s, when speed reading was all the rage, I worked at the American Speed Reading Academy in my hometown of Fort Myers, Florida. My job was to cold call potential customers in an attempt to sell them a speed reading class. After working at the speed reading academy for several months, I decided that, in order to be a better salesperson, and thus, make more commissions to supplement my paltry salary, I should enroll in the speed reading class. I convinced my boss, the owner of the company, to let me take the class for free, in consideration of the fact I was using it to hone my skills as a salesperson. (At the age of 16, I was already keenly aware of certain social psychological tactics that could be used to persuade someone to do something!) My boss finally agreed and I enrolled in a series of classes designed to teach the skill of speed reading. Not only did I excel at speed reading, I was the fastest speed reader in the history of the American Speed Reading Academy! I was featured in our local newspaper, the Fort Myers News-Press, and I became a minor celebrity on the local scene for my astounding speed reading ability. Not only could I read amazingly fast, but my reading comprehension was quite amazing, at least to the instructors and owners of the company. As with many things in my life, there were people who mocked me, those who disbelieved me, and those who accused me of being a shill on behalf of my employer. I accepted all challenges related to my speed reading abilities and, time and time again, I proved to the doubters that I could read very, very fast, all the while comprehending what I read to a far greater extent than they could, while they slowly sounded out each word at a turtle’s pace. Of all the classes I have ever taken, speed reading stands out as one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. My job as a jury/trial consultant requires me to read thousands of pages of legal documents on every case for which I am retained. It takes me a fraction of the time it would take the average person to read complex legal documents. I read everything once, take copious notes on what I read, then I am ready to engage in high level discussions about lawsuits with attorneys who have been working on their case for many years. David is happy we don’t bill for my services on an hourly basis; we would be selling ourselves short because of my speed reading! As the late, great B B King once said, “I’m pretty fast myself”!
Melissa’s brain does work fast in many ways. But the way she gets up to speed on a new case is impressive. We’ve gone through various iterations of ways to facilitate her reading, settling on her reading on a large iPad after going through loads of paper, then on to computer screens, then regular iPads and now the large one – she swipes fast! It is amazing how a skill learned early, with a seemingly narrow focus, can become so useful in the long run. Typing class in high school was that for me. It was painful, not fun, wasn’t really a class for an “easy A” and one that was taught more to girls than boys in a more obviously gender biased time. Learn to type – become a secretary. Little did we know in the mid 70s that we’d likely be spending huge amounts of time using a keyboard. So learning to type reasonably well serves me today more than most of the other classes I can remember. I never had the opportunity to take a full blown speed reading class, but it obviously worked extremely well for some students – one of whom I know very well. Trying to stay ahead of her reading the daily newspaper is impossible – to the point I let her read each section first so I don’t slow her down!