How to be a Better Reader
Take a trip to your local elementary school, and you’ll likely see one subject touted more than the rest on bulletin boards, classroom doors and motivational posters: reading. Reading is crucial to the scholastic success of grade schoolers, and even more so to college students.
Obviously, you know how to read. But do you read well? Here are some things to consider to improve your reading skill, comprehension and speed.
1. Do you really need to read it?
If you’re reading for a class, consider whether you really need to read each of the assigned texts. Some professors will call readings (and textbooks) “required” when the material will be completely covered in class or irrelevant to your performance in class.
This is not to say that all required reading is optional, or that optional reading isn’t edifying. In order to do your best at anything, you have to prioritize. Understanding which readings to focus on and which to skim or pass over can help you to learn better.
2. Mind your setting
Noise levels, visual distractions, friends, other people in general and even lighting can affect how much attention you are able to focus on reading. Everybody studies differently, and you know best what works for you. Try to match the difficulty, importance and retention of your text to the setting you intend to read it in.
3. Choose the right reading format
Today you can get most texts in multiple formats. The format you choose should be based on personal preference as well as what you have to do with the material.
For example, some people dislike reading ebooks because they remember material better if it is on a physical page. Other times, ebooks trump paper copies because they can be picked up anytime—in line, on the subway or during otherwise wasted time.
If you prefer the low-tech option so you can underline, highlight and write in the margins, keep that in mind when buying your textbooks at the beginning of the year. On the flip side, if you’re going to use your textbook for research papers or essays, it might be worth it to have the digital version so you can copy and paste quotes into your assignments.
4. Read actively
A mistake that people often make when reading less-than-invigorating material is being too passive. This causes lower comprehension and recall of material later.
If you’re reading something that is important (see step 1), make an effort to actively engage the material. For a textbook, this might be as simple as mentally answering the reflective questions throughout the chapter. For a literary work, analyzing things like plot, setting and character development as you go will help you discuss the work later. Whatever you’re reading, make sure you understand it as you go instead of realizing that you’re confused after plowing through a hundred pages.
5. Read often
Social media makes it easy to be well-read in your field. Take a few minutes to follow some reputable sources on Twitter, Facebook or even Pinterest and read the articles that catch your eye. This is great fodder for class discussions and papers, but also helps familiarize you with terminology and give you practice assessing the usefulness of different research.
The ability to read well is taken for granted at the college level. If your skills aren’t up to par or you’re looking to be a more efficient student, try these tips.