Blogs from the Underground

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Are You A Speed Reader?

Did you know that the average reading speed for an adult is 300 words per minute? That’s almost 5 words per second!

So, if it only took you 4.8 seconds to read the sentence above – then it should only take you 2 hours and 33 minutes to read The Great Gatsby, according to, a site that gives you a rough estimate on how long it’d take to read any novel.

But, doesn’t that seem…insanely fast? That amount time spent reading, broken up over the course of a few days, or a week, seem more feasible, especially when How Long To Read This says Infinite Jest would only take 15 hours and 38 minutes to read! (When, this reader says it took them 3 months to get through the mammoth novel.)

How Long To Read This also provides a sample text you can read to give you an even more accurate idea of long it’d take. I took the sample they offered for The Great Gatsby: You read 113 words in 12 seconds and your average speed is 565 words per minute. It will take you 1 hour and 21 minutes to complete The Great Gatsby. — Wow! I’ve read The Great Gatsby in a single sitting before, but I’d estimate it took 3-4 hours, at least. When reading for speed, there’s a big part of comprehension that gets left behind, almost as if you’re missing out on the real story. At least, that’s how I feel when I’m reading fast. What’s the deal?

While reading for speed, do you comprehend or remember less?

While reading for speed, do you comprehend or remember less?

Some studies have claimed that any reading speeds over 500 WPM start to lower your reading comprehension, especially when reading dense texts. All in all, it looks like understanding what you’re reading comes down to your working memory, and that can depend on many other factors, some of which include physical stress, which can lower your reading comprehension. Here are some other tips for remembering what you’ve read, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction!

There are new technologies being developed to help us with speed reading, too. Take Spritz for example:

Spritz Speed Reading

gif via Imgur

Keeping your eyes relaxed, Spritz presents the ‘Optimal Recognition Point’ of each word, letting you read the words as they appear, rather than moving your eyes to read further along the page. By keeping your eyes in place and optimizing the placement of each word, you’ll read (and hopefully remember) that much more! I wouldn’t be convinced that it worked unless I hadn’t tried out the 1000+ WPM speed, which I was (surprisingly) able to keep up with. There’s a cool browser extension you can download here that will let you Spritz any article/web page/website you’re currently on.


Handwriting – writing by hand, has shown to improve brain function, at all ages.

It allows children to learn how to communicate with language, improves memory recall for high school and college students, and improves workmanship in adults with creative outlets like handwriting. Writing is an activity that allows the brain to function at a different level, and causes some interesting results.

In school-age children handwriting functions as a connector of fine motor skills and communication. Handwriting movement exercises have shown to have a powerful impact on a developing brain. One of the big reasons for this country’s rising illiteracy rates are due to neglecting intensive penmanship, something that has resulted in many studies. However, studies done in Europe decades ago regarding handwriting’s physiological and psychological link. They found handwriting has a singular capacity to train the brain. Almost 100 years ago Maria Montessori, the famed doctor and educator, knew that the hand is central in developing intellect. Studies have proved Montessori’s theory, yet the United States still continues to eliminate extensive handwriting in its’ school systems.

How much handwriting do you do?

How much handwriting do you do?

In the studies conducted they found the biggest asset handwriting gives us is its interactive capacity. Since the left brain controls the right hand, the inherent physiological influence in repetitively manipulating the fingers causes a major shift in dominance from the right brain to the left where the language capacities are located. The entire handwriting process trains the brain and incidentally includes impulse control, which is something that all children can stand to be trained in. The inherent interactive stimulation of handwriting and the resulting movement also encourages students to improve their focus, attention and organization skills.
Research done on the brain also shows that handwriting, handedness and fine motor control are all linked to grammatical and syntactical components of language. Since handwriting is an interactive sensory process, it literally ensures brain development. The students’ hands are training their brains how to communicate using language, putting thoughts into words.

High school and college students notoriously have the laborious job of note-taking. With the technological advances made students are more and more likely to take notes using a laptop, an easy and compact way of staying organized. However, a recent study conducted by Princeton University revealed the true difference between using pen and paper versus using an electronic device.

In the study, 65 college students were asked to watch various lectures and were provided with either pens and paper or a laptop for taking notes. The students were then tested on questions that involved either recalling facts or answering conceptual questions. Both groups answered equally well when the questions regarded recalling facts. But the pens and paper group did significantly better on the conceptual questions. The researchers concluded that the laptop users focused too hard on transcribing while the long hand group just listened for the most important information and then wrote it down. They also reported that the process of writing down the information by hand was a more effective method of note-taking when long-term memory was tested.

As adults, there are few opportunities to write, unless it is a hobby. The practice of writing was left behind at either high school or college, for the most part. But there are significant benefits to gain when writing is a daily activity. A particular foarm of writing called “expressive writing” grants its practitioners a long list of benefits: lowers stress levels, improves immune system function, lowers blood pressure, and improved working memory. A study was done by the San Francisco “State psychology department on 400 colleagues and employees. Those who had a creative outlet, like expressive writing, were found to be more helpful, creative, relaxed and in control when at work.

The results showed that it may benefit employers and organizations to encourage employees to consider creative outlets. For example, Google has a 20% rule, which means it allows employees to spend 20%of company time on side projects they are passionate about. Google found huge boosts for both the company and employees.

Adults, teens, and children can all benefit from writing. Research has clearly shown the multiple benefits writing provides people of all ages. Handwriting allows students to build communication and fine motor skills simultaneously. Writing long-hand is the most effective method for college students to retain information. Adults lower stress levels and boost their job performance when they participate in creative activities like writing. There are only benefits when you write, SO KEEP WRITING.


If you are looking for an exciting, eccentric new children’s book author Audrey Wood is an exceptional option. Wood has over 30 children’s books published, the most notable being The Napping House. Among others are: Silly Sally, The Red Racer, and The Bunyans. Wood’s husband, Don Wood, illustrates with beautiful, colorful graphics that help young readers interpret the story. Born in Florida, Wood developed a creative mind due to her exposure to the circus and being read to every night.

Wood’s engaging stories opens the door for readers’ imaginations and stimulates the flow of creativity. Her books also allow children to learn very basic types of literary devices, one of those being pathetic fallacy, a type of personification of human emotions that are attributed to aspects of the story’s natural world, such as the weather. An example of Wood’s use of this literary device is in the book The Napping House. In the story the weather reflects the thoughts and feelings of the characters. While the people and animals are asleep the weather is dark and gloomy, as the story continues the weather continues to change, bring in the dawn. When the characters awaken dawn has broken, and it is a beautiful day for the happy members in the napping house.

Children's Author Audrey Wood

One of the many available titles of Children’s Author Audrey Wood

Similarly in Quick as a Cricket, Wood introduces the use of physical metaphors/similes, the most commonly used metaphors/similes for those in early childhood. For example: “I’m as quick as a cricket.” Her additional use of gently rhyming text and the self-affirming message at the ending: “Put it all together and you’ve got me,” creates an excellent piece of children’ls literature that people of all ages can enjoy.

Audrey Wood’s most recent activities include the publishment of the new companion to The Napping House: The Full Moon at the Napping House. For more information visit Wood’s personal website: or her blog!

eReaders vs Paper Books

E-readers and tablets are becoming more popular as such technologies improve.

E-readers, and the ebooks that populate them currently make up 15-20% of all U.S. trade book sales. But research suggests that reading on paper still boasts unique advantages. Since the 1980s researchers in many fields, including psychology, computer engineering, and library and information science, have investigated and researched the differences between reading on-screen and on paper. Over a hundred studies have been published and the findings have been intriguing.

Before 1992 studies found that reading was slower, less accurate and resulted in lower overall comprehension when text was on the screen compared to text on paper. After the early 90s, however, studies have come to inconsistent conclusions. Almost half of the studies found few significant differences in reading speed and comprehension, a contradiction to earlier studies. Recent studies have found that even though most participants prefer paper, their attitude has improved as the e-reading technology has advanced. Evidence shows that on-screen reading still does not recreate the tactile experiences of reading on paper. A touch screen device is less tangible than paper. When reading a paper book the reader can feel the paper and ink. People expect books to weigh, smell and look differently. An e-reader stays the same no matter the reading matrial.

Would you visit a Library to check out an e-Reader?

Would you visit a Library to check out an e-Reader?

A few recent studies suggest that reading comprehension is impaired on-screen due to the inability to navigate through the text. In a book, a reader can flip to a page rather than scrolling through a never-ending line of text. People also report that they just simply enjoy physically flipping through a book or using a chemical highlighter to physically mark text, a whim that scientists say, show the need of physical control. New, emerging studies are emphasizing that along with screens possibly using more attention to read than paper, people may not necessarily bring as much mental effort at a subconscious level due to the attitude that on-screen reading is less work and less serious than reading on paper.

Currently, engineers, designers and use-interface experts are working hard to make reading on e-readers and tablets as close to reading on paper as possible. On the Kindle, e-ink looks close to chemical ink and the layout of the screen looks like a paperback page. The Apple iBooks attempt to simulate the overall aesthetic of paperbooks (Ex: semi-realistic page turning). Even with these advances, studies say that when it comes to intensively reading long pieces of plain text, paper and ink may still have the advantage. But text is not the only way to read. Todays digital natives, people who have been interacting with digital technologies from a very early age, still interact with a mix of paper and on-screen text proving that using one kind of technology does not preclude them from understanding another.

e-Reader stats via ‘The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens

Wheel of Time image courtesy of [Original story by]

Thursday, April 28, was an exciting day for Wheel of Time & Robert Jordan fans.

The late Robert Jordan’s fantasy series, Wheel of Time, has been, thus far, forgotten in the rush to procure TV and film properties of the fantasy and sci-fi literary genre. An excellent example is the highly popular Game of Thrones TV series. However, in an announcement late Thursday, Harriet McDougal, wife of the late Jordan, stated that a major studio has acquired the legal rights to the fantasy epic.

This is welcomed news to Wheel of Time fans. There was a moment of excitement last year when Red Eagle Entertainment created a pilot episode called, “Winter Dragon.” Unfortunately, Red Eagle Entertainment did not have any legal rights to produce the pilot. Fans can be comforted to know that it was McDougal herself who announced the end to the legal situation and the procurement of the rights to the series. It is unknown who the major studio is, but to be sure they are following all appropriate legal procedures to ensure full, legal TV rights to production.

While there are many excited fans who have been waiting patiently, there are also many who are concerned that the proposed TV series could possibly corrupt the story line and tone of the Wheel of Time series. One such fan, RaySea, commented:

“Part of me is filled with the fanboyish glee one would expect, but another part of me is concerned. Part of what made the books great, in my opinion anyway, was how deeply we were immersed in the characters’ minds. Beyond just the occasional thoughts in italics dialogue, the narrative itself was shaped by the focus character’s perspective…”

Aside from these concerns, fans should be comforted to know that the Jordan Estate has approved this venture, and to remain patient while the legalities are taken care of.