Claims of Real Life Speed Readers

According to some speed reading advocates, the World Championship Speed Reading Competition stresses reading comprehension as critical, and that the top contestants typically read around 1000 to 2000 words per minute with approximately 50% comprehension. The 10,000 WPM claimants have yet to reach this level.

Much controversy is raised over this point. This is mainly because a reading comprehension level of 50% is deemed a failure by normal reading teachers, the public at large, and reading experts. Speed reading advocates claim that it is a great success and even state that it is a demonstration of good comprehension.

There are savants such as Kim Peek who are known to read at truly stunning speeds with some comprehension and complete memory. Peek is known to have memorized approximately 9,600 books. Nobody knows exactly how he does it, except that his corpus callosum has been missing since birth. However, his comprehension level does not match his ability to input and recall texts.

John Stuart Mill once claimed that he could read faster than he could turn pages. He may have been referring to simple skimming or scanning, although he is often used by speed reading proponents as an example of a natural speed reader, and to imply that they can teach a pupil to have the same abilities as J.S. Mill.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy was a proponent of speed reading and encouraged his staff to take lessons.

President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, both avid readers, enrolled in a speed-reading course (which their daughter Amy Carter attended briefly) at the White House , along with several staff members.

A critical-skeptical discussion about the speed reading stories appeared in Slate (magazine). Among others, the article raises doubts about the origin of the John F. Kennedy's allegedly amazing reading speed. Ronald Carver, a professor of education research and psychology, claims that the fastest college graduate readers can only read at most twice as fast as the slowest counterparts, namely about 600 words per minute.