Touchtone Reading

Brian picThis is a remarkably technological age. What at first was radical innovation turns obsolete, even labor intensive, getting replaced by easier efficiency. Some remember the wait time with rotary dial phones for the dial to return all the way back before dialing the next digit. The touchtone phone sure brought relief from that monotony.

Reading also has its technology, and a secret one at that—available since the printing press began spitting out books hundreds of years ago. Before mentioning the secret, consider this illustration: suppose an instructor announces the intent to walk over to a podium across the room. Off the instructor goes, taking two steps forward, then one step back until getting there.steps

That might seem amusing or eccentric and elicit the thought, “Why get there so inefficiently?” Yes, that is an inefficient way to go from point A to point B, yet in life, the learning process is commended simply for progress being made, albeit two steps forward and one step back. Emphasis rests on continuation without quitting; getting to point B in any way possible is its own reward at first.

Then the learner works on avoiding the back-steps in order to become efficient. The parallel to reading is not necessarily evident, however. Readers who read only with their eyes may not be aware of regression, which means reading a cluster of words, then proceeding to the next cluster of words. The problem is that the second cluster unknowingly includes a word or more from the previous cluster. This is two steps forward, one step back.

googlyeyepointerWhen someone points this out, the truth becomes evident by putting several fingers on the page and forcing the eyes to keep pace with them. Immediately, the uncomfortable sensation of eye twitching confirms regression’s attempt revert to the old way. At age 22, I had been reading two steps forward, one step back all the way to a bachelor’s degree, in English at that, having wondered why reading was so labor intensive (but never seeking out an answer).

Therefore, the first element of reading is eliminating regression, which means physical alteration of the reading technique. However, if the feel of pages on the fingertips is unpleasant, the capped end of a pen works well as a reading wand. Inefficient eye motion disappears. It will feel strange at first, but new ease, plus awareness of sentence rhythms, will provide the impetus to keep reading by touch.

(Editor’s note: Brian mentions rotary phones. If you want to feel really old, check out this video:


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