Speed-reading is as much about comprehension as it is technique.
For Bonnie James, president and co-founder of the Upper Arlington-based Advanced Reading Concepts, it may have taken a moment to comprehend what it meant when her name was announced last month at the Grandview Area Chamber of Commerce's Spring Cha-Ching event.
James had been selected as the chamber's 2013 Small Business Person of the Year.
"I was feeling excitement for the other people who had been given awards," James said. "I wasn't expecting anything, certainly not to win an award myself.
"I didn't even know I was nominated," she said. "My husband nominated me and didn't even tell me."
Receiving the award "felt like it was Christmas morning," said James, who has been a chamber member for more than 20 years.
James was an appropriate choice for the award, said chamber Executive Director Michelle Wilson.
"She is a powerhouse," Wilson said. "She and her husband support the chamber and its programs as much as they possibly can."
James is an asset to the community "and a hidden gem," she said. "Not many people locally realize the impact she's had on many, many lives for those in business as well as high school kids trying to improve their reading-comprehension skills."
Previously a first-grade teacher, James began to teach speed-reading by chance in 1973.
"I was a recently divorced mother who needed a job, and I saw an ad in the paper by a school that was looking for teachers," she said.
The school turned out to be the American Speed Reading Academy.
"They were ready to prepare teachers who didn't know their method, but knew how to motivate people and knew how to get results," James said. "They just wanted good teachers."
Later, the school went under after trying to expand too quickly, she said.
James co-founded Advanced Reading Concepts with instructors from Evelyn Woods Reading Dynamics.
"They had more-advanced comprehension techniques and we had better eye-control techniques," she said. "We put the best of both schools together to make a better product."
Speed-reading is about more than just how many words one can read in a minute, James said.
"It's really about how you use your brain and being able to better comprehend what you read," she said.
The goal is to train the reader's eyes to see more words at once and the brain to process the material's concepts rather than just the words themselves, James said.
"The most-rewarding part is that we're helping people advance to their next stage," whether they are a business person, a student or a busy parent who has limited time to read, she said.
Learning to speed-read doesn't mean one has to give up the joy of reading for pleasure, James said.
"I have people tell me, 'I really like to read. I like to savor a book.' Well, I ask them, do you like to savor the IRS instruction book?"
Speed-reading is like using a power tool that allows you to complete a job more quickly and efficiently, James said.
"But you can also use a regular tool just for the pleasure of doing the task," she said.
Other chamber award recipients are:
• Most Involved Member -- Melissa Howell, owner of Shear Impressions Hair Design.
• Community Service Award -- Mary Ludlum, Grandview Heights Public Library director.
• Meridian Award -- Hayley Head, who recently retired as the Tri-Village Mentor League's executive director.
The chamber's scholarship fund was renamed the Kidwell Scholarship Fund in honor of Pathways/Members First Credit Union President Greg Kidwell. Kidwell has served on the chamber board for more than 12 years, including stints as treasurer and president.
A new fund, the Khouzam Workforce Development Scholarship, was established in honor of Grandview Heights City Attorney Joelle Khouzam. Khouzam has served the chamber for more than 12 years as a board member and legal counsel.