When learning a skill–be it baseball, conversational Spanish, or guitar–you know that practice is the key to mastering it. (By mastering we mean becoming excellent, not perfect. As Michael J. Fox once said, “I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for, perfection is God’s business.”) In his new book Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning, Gary Marcus, a cognitive psychologist at New York University, sets out to learn to play the guitar at the advanced age of 38. What Gary stresses in his book is that deliberate practice is the key. “Playing for fun and repeating what you already know is not necessarily the same as efficiently reaching a new level.”
What is important is a “constant sense of evaluation, of focusing on one’s weaknesses.” Whether it’s your batting swing, your Spanish pronunciation, or your guitar chords, practicing them wrong is doing more harm than good. This is true for reading as well. To get better and better requires letting go of old habits and doing the hard work to form new habits; then practicing them to become and stay an excellent reader, while letting go of the idea of being a “perfect” reader.
I’ve heard parents complain about their children and their ability to read: “I make him read every night for an hour, and he still is a terrible reader.” Chances are the parents were never taught to read correctly. They were taught just to pronounce words by pointing at each individual word making sure “they got it” (were perfect) before moving on. This misinformation they passed on to their child. So the child practices reading incorrectly every day and gets further entrenched in bad reading habits–and this practice is boring, even tortuous–and eventually he will hate to read . What the child–and the grown up version of that child–needs is instruction on how to read correctly and then deliberate practice.
If you’ve already taken the Advanced Reading Concepts speedreading course, you know that mastering speedreading does not end when the course does. It is essential that you continue to do your eyecharts and to practice the techniques you’ve learned, particularly those that are most difficult. It is through diligent, deliberate practice that you will be a master speedreader. If you’re a graduate and would like some help with your speedreading practice, consider purchasing our WIIFM Stick™, a little flash drive that reviews everything covered in our course.