Tue, Jul 15, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Advanced reading program franchise up for grabs

By Bill Heaney  /  STAFF REPORTER

The franchise to set up training centers for a program that aims to increase average reading and comprehension rates by at least a factor of three is up for grabs in Taiwan.

"This is a program that is suitable for anyone -- students, businesspeople, those who read for pleasure," Stan Rodgers, developer of the Advanced Reading and Study Skills program, said yesterday.

Rodgers was in town to talk to potential licensees. He said there is a great need in Taiwan, a world-class technology hub, to be able to read and comprehend large amounts of material in English.

Speed-reading programs such as the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics have been around for 50 years, but mention speed reading to Rodgers and he instantly bristles.

"This is not a speed-reading course," he said. "This is an advanced reading-skills course that allows people to increase their reading speed and comprehension levels."

Octogenarian Rodgers has been developing the program for 30 years. Franchises are up and running in 23 countries.

By learning to group, or "chunk," words and phrases, readers can make dramatic improvements in how much they read, and how much they understand, leading to an increase in what Rodgers calls the "effective reading rate."

Wolfgang Schmitz holds the franchise to the program in Germany.

"I was skeptical at first ... but I tried the course and was convinced. It has a logical and systematic approach. You get rid of the bad habits you learned as a child, and everyone improves," he said.

A course Schmitz launched at the Free University showed an improvement in reading skills by a factor of 3.4 on average, an academic study showed.

Likit Khemapanon set up the Improved Reading Center in Bangkok three years ago.

"I compare it to swimming skills," he said. "Most people know how to dog-paddle, but don't know how to swim like [they do in] the Olympics. Dr. Stan Rodgers' advanced reading skills course is like swimming for the Olympics."

The course may find eager students in Taipei once training centers open up.

"I read a lot of material in English and would certainly be interested in a course that improves my reading skills," said Dennis Peng (彭文正), an associate professor at the Graduate Institute of Journalism at National Taiwan University.

Peng is considering a local alternative to Rodgers' course, the Digital Learning System (數位學習教育), developed by actor-turned-businessman Chen Chun-sheng (陳俊生).

But the advanced reading-skills course may also find it hard to break into the lucrative student market.

Universities and schools place reading skills under a broader study-skills umbrella, which is covered by existing programs.

"If a student came to us looking for an advanced reading-skills program, we would recommend the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) program," said Tim Conway, head of the British Council's Education Center in Taipei. "Part of IELTS is academic reading, including skimming and scanning and a particular approach to reading."

Joan Wang (王建琇), director of the Canadian Education Center in Taipei, said, "We recommend academic programs at Canadian universities that allow students to prepare for at least a year before entering a Canadian university. The programs are quite appealing to Taiwanese students who graduate from high school with not bad reading skills, but poor speaking and essay-writing skills."

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