Evelyn Nielsen Wood (January 8, 1909 – August 26, 1995) was an American educator and businessperson, widely known for coining the phrase speed reading and for creating a system to increase a reader’s speed (over the average reading rate of 250 to 300 words a minute) by a factor of two to five times, while increasing retention. The system was taught in seminars as Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Dynamics, a business Wood co-founded with her husband, Doug Wood, which ultimately had over 150 outlets in the United States.
In her studies, Wood was capable of reading 6,000 words a minute, often sharing the traits of reading down the page rather than left to right, reading groups of words or complete thoughts rather than single words, avoiding involuntary rereading of material and applying their efficiency to varied material. After discovering that faster readers were also more effective readers, she began developing her programs, ultimately developing a methodology of using a finger or pointer to trace lines of text while eliminating sub-vocalizing (reading under one’s breath or aloud in one’s head).
Her book Reading Skills was published in 1959 and she and her husband subsequently started the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics business. Classes were heavily advertised on television in the 1960s and ’70s; Steve Allen was one of the highest-profile celebrity endorsers. Until the late 1990s her classes were taught on college campuses in the United States.
Among those whose reading habits Wood studied was US President John F. Kennedy, an avid reader.Subsequently White House staff members in the Kennedy, Ford, and Carter administrations took the course.
One of Wood’s speed reading students appeared on the CBS television program I’ve Got a Secret, claiming she could read the 689 page novel Gone With the Wind in less than one hour.
Author’s books on Amazon.com