Friday, 4 March 2011

Chess, Audiobooks and Reading Speed

I am a slow reader. Since I always have loved literature I realised this at an early stage but it was not until I read about learning strategies that I understood why this was the case. I am an auditive learner, which means I learn through my ears. I can easily remember things people have said, tunes, lines from films etc. The limitations of my reading speed turned out to stem from my use of subvocalised reading, i.e. I read aloud in my head. By transforming the words into sound impressions they became comprehensible for me.

This resulted in a low reading speed. Although I would register, remember and process everything I read, I was vulnerable to distractions and therefore needed to increase my reading speed. I divided this into two goals.
  1. At the comprehension level, I had to learn to comprehend sound impressions faster.
  2. At the registration level, I had to recieve the words faster.
The first goal could be achieved quite passively. By pitching up the speed of audiobooks and blocking out all other sensuous impressions I gradually increased my comprehension speed. The positive results I achieved using this method are the reason I keep using it to further improve in this area.

Audiobooks come in many forms

The second goal I approached in a somewhat unconventional manner. Based on a theory presented at the NKUL conference of 2010, I wanted to see if reading speed could be more of a mechanical phenomenon than one based in comprehension. If so, strengthening the muscles around the eyes, allowing them to move more quickly, would increase reading speed just like strengthening the muscles of an athlete would improve his efficiency.

Muscles around the eye.
Notice how they are able to move the oculus diagonally as well as up-down, left-right

Initially, I tried moving a pen ahead along each line of text but I soon found that I would automatically adapt the speed of the pen to that of the eyes. Abandoning this method, I changed tactics and started playing chess on the computer. I had previously seen great educational potential in games; first person shooters often improve the ability to make quick decisions while strategy games improves organisational and administrative skills. Chess is scientifically proven to be beneficial in all kinds of ways (see this collection of articles) and although its positive effect on reading speed has been noted by amongst others Drs. Albert Frank (1973) and Stuart Marguiles (1991), no clear link to mechanical eye movements was proven.

Initial layout of a chess game

Once I started playing the computer, I noticed how the potential trajectories of the pieces, especially the rook, bishop and queen, would have my eyes moving in way that would train the relevant muscles. Additionally, the original layout with the players at opposite ends would facilitate the same response, given the necessity of constantly assessing and reassessing your and your opponent's changing positions.

Trajectories of the rook, the bishop and the queen

After number of games, I noticed how my reading speed had increased. As these two methods seemed to give the desired effect, I still use it to improve further. The methods of course also have the added boon of being fun and entertaining as well as being beneficial in many other fields than just reading speed. This, of course make them efficient tools for education as well and I hope to be able to test them extensively at a later opportunity.
Sources as given

No comments:

Post a Comment