Speed reading

In book one in our thriller series THE ORPHAN TRILOGY, our lead character Nine, the ninth-born orphan, is a pure genius who exhibits a level of intelligence rarely if ever seen in any character in literature. He and his fellow orphans have photographic memories, can read entire books in five minutes flat and speak dozens of languages. Plus they learn new skills extremely fast and are highly adaptable.

How Nine and the other orphans at Chicago’s (fictitious) Pedemont Orphanage reached that level of intelligence, though, is merely implied or hinted at.

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In book two, the prequel – THE ORPHAN FACTORY – we had to design an education system that would reveal exactly how the Pedemont orphans grew up to become that smart. This was quite a challenge; we had to do a lot of research into radical types of learning. Highlights from that research are covered in our book THE ORPHAN CONSPIRACIES: 29 Conspiracy Theories from The Orphan Trilogy.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Having both gone through the traditional education system and finding it laborious and uninspiring, we found it fun to write about an alternative and more accelerated form of learning in our trilogy. Even so, it took several years of study before we felt confident enough to write about what it would take to create youngsters with intellects as advanced as those of our Pedemont orphans.

One of the most important skills our orphans possess is the ability to speed read. Having vast amounts of knowledge, or being walking encyclopedias, is a common trait in geniuses, and even more so in polymaths.

Probably the simplest way to gain this amount of knowledge is to learn to read very, very fast.

Speed-reading is therefore at the core of the radical education program we designed in our conspiracy thriller series. However, our orphans’ technique is much more advanced than the majority of speed-reading programs currently available to the public. Many such programs simply offer complementary reading skills rather than allowing for a whole new way to absorb the written word.

As we say in The Ninth Orphan, “It wasn’t so much speed-reading as mind photography – a technique where the practitioner taps into the brain’s innate photographic memory. The orphans were taught how to use their eyes and open their peripheral vision to mentally photograph the page of a book, magazine or newspaper at the rate of a page per second. Then they’d consciously recall every detail as if they’d read the material at normal, everyday reading speed. Tens of thousands of books, on all manner of subjects, were sent to the Pedemont Orphanage to keep up with the children’s prolific reading habits.”

The technique we wrote about was inspired by the most sophisticated speed-reading methods in the real world, as well as analysis of renowned speed-readers. It’s also based on the brain’s scientifically proven ability to pick up things subliminally and rapidly. By incorporating peripheral vision and photographic memory, it’s possible to pick up or photograph entire pages at a time rather than one word at a time.

This method enables the Pedemont orphans to read at the rate of about 20,000 words per minute. That’s many times faster than most readers can manage. In fact, the average reading speed is only 300 words per minute, or about one page per minute.

Although some skeptics – along with one or two book critics who reviewed our series – have expressed doubt over whether the human brain can absorb such vast quantities of data all at once, speed-reading is not fiction. And it has some famous devotees.

Various US Presidents were confirmed or rumored speed-readers. They include Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter.

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, a self-taught speed-reader, is reported to have read a book before breakfast every single day while serving as president. Teddy’s recall was said to be perfect and he could often quote from the books he read.

Evelyn Wood…coined the phrase ‘speed reading’.

Kennedy studied under American speed-reading expert Evelyn Wood who could read at an impressive 6000 words a minute. JFK claimed he could read at around 2000 words per minute with a very high comprehension rate.

Carter, who also studied speed-reading during his time in the White House, took courses with his wife Rosalynn.

The fact that Dwight D. Eisenhower said “Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book” may well allude to the fact he was yet another US president who could speed read. Who else but a speed-reader would have the time or ability to read every book in their local library?

Bestselling author, life coach and motivational speaker Anthony Robbins practices speed-reading and recommends it to audiences, personal clients and his readers.

In 2007, when J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published, six-time world champion speed-reader Anne Jones was the first to read it. Jones finished the 200,000-word, 759-page hardcover book in 47 minutes flat. Immediately afterwards, she completed a book review and sent it out to media outlets to prove her total comprehension of the story.

Harry Potter…read cover to cover in 47 minutes!

Jacques Bergier, French Resistance fighter, spy, journalist, chemical engineer and author of the bestselling book The Morning of the Magicians, was a born speed-reader. He started reading magazines and newspapers as a toddler, and by the age of four was fluent in three languages. By the time he reached adulthood, Bergier was reading 10 books a day.

New Yorker and State University graduate Howard Berg was listed in the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s fastest reader. His reading speed was clocked at a remarkable 25,000 words per minute. Berg says his skill was developed out of boredom. He spent his childhood in the library, which was apparently the only place in the world that interested him.

Autistic savant Kim Peek is one of the world’s foremost speed-readers. The real-life inspiration for Dustin Hoffman’s character in the 1988 movie Rain Man, Peek reads at between 10,000 and 20,000 words per minute and has a 98% comprehension rate. His method is to read two pages simultaneously, one with each eye. Spending most of his days in the public library in Salt Lake City, Utah, Peek has read many thousands of books.

Kim Peek on Jan 16, 2007.png

Kim Peek…the original Rain Man.

Of all the examples of speed-readers, living or deceased, Peek’s methods are closest to those described in The Orphan Trilogy. We sincerely hope in years to come scientists will figure out exactly how Peek so readily absorbs information from books so that children can be taught the technique the world over.

Since the term speed-reading was coined by Evelyn Wood more than 50 years ago, the skill has featured in various TV series and Hollywood movies. In the 1996 feature film Phenomenon, lead character George Malley, played by John Travolta, exhibits extraordinary speed-reading skills. Dr. Spencer Reid, one of the main characters on the hit TV series Criminal Minds, is also a speed-reader.

There’s a speed-reading scene in the 2004 spy film The Bourne Supremacy, starring Matt Damon, in which CIA agent Pamela Landy, played by Joan Allen, is seen reading agency files at rapid speeds. Landy uses her finger to run up and down over text on each page. This finger pointing method is a real speed-reading technique known as Meta Guiding. In Good Will Hunting – another Matt Damon movie – Damon, who plays natural-born genius Will Hunting, is seen alone in his apartment flipping through page after page of a book without pause. Whether these two films on the actor’s resume are just a coincidence or whether he’s a speed-reader himself, is anyone’s guess.

Read more in The Orphan Conspiracies: 29 Conspiracy Theories from The Orphan Trilogy – available now via Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Orphan-Conspiracies-Conspiracy-Theories-ebook/dp/B00J4MPFT6/

A book that’s for the common people...the 99%

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