As data come at us ever faster and more furiously, something besides our attention span is decreasing: the speed at which we read. “We get much more of our information in an audio-visual manner,” says Paul Nowak, the instructor for Iris Speed Reading courses. “We are no longer restricted to books, newspapers and magazines as the sole providers of information and entertainment.”

But many of us still have to plow through textbooks and manuals for work or school. What if you could turn yourself into a literary Dale Earnhardt Jr. and ingest info both quicker and better? That ability is what Nowak aims to bestow (no helmets required).

The Basics
Nowak (who claims he can read between 600 and 900 words per minute, depending on the content) breaks down the one-day, five-hour class into speed, comprehension and retention.

What you’ll learn
Nowak’s wards are taught a three-step “preview, overview and read” approach to fully understand a piece while zooming through it. In the first step, students preview a two-page article, trying to hit 1,000 words per minute. After the drills, reading feels “like driving a car on a highway and you get off in a school zone … really slow.”
Next, they review the article by reading particular paragraphs and sentences that focus on the overall theme, blocking out the rest. Finally, students read the whole piece, aiming to finish in 6.5 minutes.

“This is traveling with a map,” Nowak says. “Most students make it, if not very close. It would take the average reader 15 to 20 minutes.” After the class, he e-mails links to online tools that help maintain reading speed.

What’s the deal?
Iris’ next two Speed Reading classes are offered Oct. 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Fairfax at Embassy Row. Early online registration costs $199 ($299 otherwise). Register at

Written by Express contributor Robyn Mincher
Photos by Kristoffer Tripplaar