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Marcia Biederman

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Titles by Marcia Biederman

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By Marcia Biederman
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Published Sep 2019

The best-known educator of the 20th century was a scammer in cashmere. "The most famous reading teacher in the world," as television hosts introduced her, Evelyn Wood had little classroom experience, no degrees in reading instruction, and a background that included cooperation with the Third Reich. Nevertheless, a nation spooked by Sputnik and panicked by paperwork eagerly embraced her promises of a speed-reading revolution. Journalists, lawmakers, and two US presidents lent credibility to Wood's claims of turbocharging reading speeds. A royal-born Wood grad said she'd polished off Moby Dick in three hours; a senator swore he finished one book per lunchtime. Fudging test results and squelching critics, Wood maintained her popularity even as science proved that her system taught only skimming, with disastrous effects on comprehension. As apps and online courses attempt to spark a speed-reading revival, this engaging look at Wood's rise from missionary to marketer exposes the pitfalls of wishful thinking.