Articles on PhotoReading
A Fast Read
Read this carefully. Or read it upside down. It may not matter. Using a "PhotoReading" program created by a Wayzata company, you can blast through thousands of words per minute, flipping a page per second while retaining a surprising amount of information.
By Paul Levy Star Tribune Staff Writer
appearing in the Star Tribune
"Would you like to be able to PhotoRead 25,000 words per minute?" Paul Scheele's invitation seemed too ludicrous to resist. I've always been a slow reader. Federal budgets get balanced in the time it takes me to read the newspaper. The Twins will have a new outdoor stadium and Minnesota will have a National Hockey League team before I finish the half-dozen books collecting dust on my desk at home. Even my youngest thinks he's a faster reader—and he won't enter kindergarten until fall.
But 25,000 words per minute? "Or more," Scheele said.
Note that Scheele said PhotoRead, not read. Scheele, co-founder of Learning Strategies Corporation in Wayzata and author of "The PhotoReading Whole Mind System," has devised an innovative system in which you read with your "other than conscious mind" rather than consciously look at words and interpret their meaning.
PhotoReading is not speed reading, Scheele explained. Your eyes don't move quickly down the page. In fact, your eyes don't move at all. And the book you're reading needn't be rightside up. You can even start from the back and thumb your way toward the beginning.
This is how PhotoReading works: You take a mental photograph of an entire page with one glance. The material is exposed to your subconscious mind.
You allow your subconscious mind to store, digest, decipher—whatever it is that subconscious minds do—the information for at least 20 minutes, but preferably overnight. And then, through activation techniques, you gain the level of comprehension you need.
Scheele, who majored in biological sciences and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1977, claims to have PhotoRead a book given to him by a school teacher at a rate of 68,000 words per minute. Tests showed he'd retained 74 percent of what he'd PhotoRead.
I've heard about guys like Paul Scheele.
"I wrote the book [on PhotoReading] with the intent that anyone could learn to do this," Scheele said. "I didn't know if anyone would."
Somebody has. Since teaming with Pete Bissonette 11 years ago and developing a course in PhotoReading, Scheele's program has been taught to 15,000 readers, and in seven languages. Last year, 20,000 books were sold—in Hungarian, Bissonette said. The company has sold an additional 55,000 books in English. [Since the article was written, over 750,000 PhotoReading books have been sold.]
"If all those others can learn how to PhotoRead, you can do it," instructor Susan Savvas assured me.
Were the others as skeptical as I was? And what's the point? Granted, being able to read 25,000 words per minute would be great if you were a college student cramming for final exams, a lawyer needing to pore over court documents or a high-stakes business person swiftly closing in on a new deal. But what of the average Joe, who reads for pleasure?
"You mean you actually have time to read for pleasure?" Bissonette asked. He then added, "You can read for pleasure this way. And once you begin to PhotoRead, you won't want to read any other way."
No way! I accepted Bissonette's challenge and Scheele's offer to review the tapes, book and course material for free. Besides, the pictures in the book's margins made everything less intimidating. Scheele explained that most of us begin to lose track of our natural ability to absorb information in the first grade. Forget about conventional learning methods, he insisted. Relax.
Who can relax with the prospect of reading 25,000 words per minute?
I had to develop a rhythm to my deep breathing, to assume a relaxed posture, to count to myself. Scheele suggested I balance an imaginary tangerine at the crown of my head.
Then I had to ask myself if I was really interested in what I was reading, and what I wanted to get out of the book. I opened the book, reading the table of contents, the first page, any bold print throughout the book, and the final paragraph, as suggested.
Now I was ready to PhotoRead. I opened a book, so that I could see the book's corners and margins, propping the book at a 45-degree angle. I was told to stare at the fold between the two pages. If you stare long enough, blankly enough, an imaginary cone sprouts between the two pages. This is called a "blip" page. If you see this "blip"—and not everybody does—everything else becomes a blur.
It matters little if the words are in focus. Your mind will take a clear photograph, Scheele said.
It was all a blur
Finally, I was ready to PhotoRead. My first book was an abridged dictionary that comes with the course packet. I prepared myself, relaxing as much as two noisy kids will allow, and opened the dictionary.
When Scheele's taped voice gave the signal, I began turning a page per second, staring at this revolving blur like a zombie for three minutes.
That's it? What did I get out of this? Maybe I should have taken the Hungarian version of the course.
The next day, Scheele and Bissonette asked if I remembered seeing the word "canary" in the dictionary. I didn't. Then Scheele asked me to close my eyes, imagining that I was looking at the dictionary and to tell him precisely where I saw the word "canary."
"Near the top of the page," I told him.
Not good enough, he said. Scheele wanted to know which page (left or right), which column and how many words down the page.
I closed my eyes, told him that "canary" was on the right-hand page, left column and five or six words down the page. "Five or six?" he asked. "Concentrate. Tell me exactly." Masking my smirk, I told him there were six words above "canary."
We opened the dictionary and found "canary" on the left column of the right-hand page with six words above it.
Picture perfect again
Dumb luck, I thought. Two other words were also exactly where I envisioned them. Naw. It can't be, I thought.
A week and three tapes later I met with Savvas. I brought a 272-page book, the autobiography of baseball Hall of Famer Buck Leonard, who toiled in the Negro Leagues long before Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color line.
Savvas, who teaches classes of 20, asked me if I knew much about Leonard. I didn't. She then asked why I might be interested in the book. We talked about the changes in society, racial pressures and baseball. Than she asked me to prepare, by relaxing.
Same breathing. Same counting. Same tangerine. This time, I couldn't find that "blip" page, but no matter. I spent six minutes "previewing" the book, looking at the first and last pages, chapter titles and boldfaced words. Then, after a brief pause I began to flip pages—about one per second—for six minutes.
I absorbed absolutely nothing, I was convinced. But Savvas knew otherwise. She asked me to write down the information I hoped to gain from the book. After a 20 minute break, I opened the book again and, for the next six minutes, thumbed through the pages, rapidly reading any words or passages that attracted my attention.
A few minutes later, we did the exercise again. After spending a total of 23 minutes with the book, I knew where Leonard grew up, how his father died when Leonard was 11, that Leonard shoveled trash at a railroad for nine years, that he was thirty when he married, that his teams won nine straight pennants, that he later played in Mexico. I knew the names of his teammates, the towns they played in, that his wife earned $46 per week as a teacher in North Carolina.
But I didn't know his wife's name.
"That's all right," Savvas said. "You only spent 23 minutes with this book. Can you imagine if you had spent a full hour?"
I became hooked. I went home to listen to more tapes. I tried to relax. I looked for "blip" pages that didn't exist. I resisted flipping through the phone directory.
I can't PhotoRead 25,000 words per minute yet, and I don't know if I ever will. Flipping through pages gets easier, but activating the stored information is still hit or miss. But Scheele seems certain of it.
"Don't try too much," he said. "Just keep practicing and relax. Trust your brain."
Trust my brain?
Time for another imaginary tangerine.