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UNC to offer free speed reading class

Class will be free to UNC students

A reading speed of 200 or 300 words per minute might seem like a lot.

That is unless it’s compared to the typical number of pages college students have to read — and retain — in a night of regular reading for class.

But help is on the way in the form of a new, free class that could teach students to double or even triple their reading speed.

The “Reading for Retention” course offered by UNC’s Learning Center and the Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling aims to make a 600 words-per-minute pace possible for any student.

Registration opened Tuesday for the five-week class taught by Mary Willingham, the assistant director of the success and counseling center.

“A lot of people don’t come to college with reading fluency to read this many pages per week and to be able to comprehend it and take these tests,” she said. “It doesn’t help if you have to read hundreds and hundreds of pages per reading.”

Instruction in the class will include strategies to read faster and increase comprehension, while using computer software to allow the students to track their progress.

N.C. State University also has a speed-reading course, but it costs $299. UNC’s course is free to students thanks to a private donation.

Christina Perry, a program coordinator at the Learning Center, stressed the importance of a classroom setting for the course.

“Like a lot of skills that students develop, when you practice and when you’re in the group environment, you can learn from each other,” she said.

Sophomore Nicolette Ash, who is majoring in library science and linguistics, said she’s interested in the speed-reading course, especially to tackle her assigned readings.

“I have to read like six to seven scholarly articles every week and they all vary from 20 to 60 pages, and if I could read faster than I do now that would be very useful and helpful,” she said.

Frank Kessler, an academic skills counselor and reading coordinator at the Learning Center, said the programs aren’t usually “one-size fits all,” although this one could entice more students into further studies.

“It’s a good way to boost your reading up very quickly, but ultimately if someone wants to do long-term reading, students transition into a reading program,” he said. “The hope is to get the word out, let students know, and they can utilize the resources the way they want.”

“Reading for Retention” will be offered in four courses, with 20 people per course. Willingham said she hopes to keep opening more courses as needed, helping make hundreds of pages of reading each week more manageable.

“I can’t really sell it by saying you’re going to double your speed, but I do believe everyone will be a better reader when they’re done,” she said.

“It will allow you to use your time better and manage time better, and lower anxiety over reading lots of material.”

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