Magazine article Training & Development

Reading between the Lines

Magazine article Training & Development

Reading between the Lines

Article excerpt

Many managers spend a large part of the workday reading. Efficient readers can process and retain more knowledge, so better reading skills can go a long way toward making managers more effective in their jobs.

The workplace, the work environment, and the technology that managers deal with are growing more complex, and that complexity is reflected in the higher level of reading proficiency required of many managers and other employees.

Meanwhile, the United States faces a workforce crisis, with 27 million functionally illiterate adults, by many estimates. That adds fuel to the fire for improving reading skills. Managers who are aware of what it means to display efficient business reading skills may be able to help lead the country to a higher rate of literacy.

A manager can increase her or his own business reading efficiency through a combination of three approaches:

* improving reading skills

* choosing efficient reading styles

* using a plan or set of criteria for improvement.

Those three approaches are interrelated. For example, a reading-improvement plan should be based on a clear understanding of the elements of better reading skills and the array of available reading styles.

This column focuses on techniques or increasing the reading skills of managers and other employees. But the basic model for improvement that is presented here can also be used to help attack the illiteracy problem in the U.S. workforce.

In the sections below, Garrett J. Endres and Brian H. Kleiner give an overview of the reading-improvement process.

Three Elements of

Regarding Skill

Reading skills are assessed in three areas. If all three areas are improved, the result is greater reading efficiency. The three areas are as follows:

* Speed is the rate at which a reader goes through the material. It can be measured in words per minute.

* Reading accuracy is a measurement of how well the content of the message is perceived.

* Comprehension is closely related to speed and accuracy. It is It measure of how well the intended message is understood.

A more detailed discussion of each of the three areas follows. Reading speed is the most easily measured skill. To measure a trainee's reading speed, time the reading of a book, an article, or a paragraph. Then divide the number of words read by the amount of time it took to read them, to arrive at an average reading speed in words per minute. A typical reader can accurately read between 200 and 400 words per minute.

A measurement of reading speed does not reflect a reader's accuracy or comprehension, but an increase in reading speed can increase overall reading efficiency.

Several techniques can help increase reading speed, including moving the eyes more quickly and avoiding vocalization and subvocalization.

Reading is a series of eye movements, not one continuous movement. During the reading process, the eyes move small distances at short intervals, stopping between intervals. A trainee can increase reading speed by moving the eyes more quickly from one stop to the next and by taking in more information at each stop.

Vocalization is the movement of the lips to "mouth" words as they are read. Vocalization slows reading, because the capabilities of the face muscles limit the reader to about 125 words per minute. Subvocalization takes place when the reader consciously repeats the words in his or her mind while reading them. This adds to the time required to transfer the information to the brain.

With conscious effort, a reader can increase eye speed and intake information while decreasing vocalization and subvocalization. Those efforts can increase reading speed, which in turn will contribute to overall reading efficiency. Accuracy is another important element of reading efficiency. Reading accuracy is the degree to which a reader has perceived the content of the message being read. …

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