You’re not alone.
Reading requires an active brain, and it’s not always easy to get there. Endless distractions, confusing sentences and syntax, noise–you name it, people who read have struggled with it.
But you can make it out of the struggle. You can be a reader if you want to be. It is one of the most powerful forms of independent education and an important aspect of human development. Reading can open your eyes to new cultures, ideas, and ways of life. Reading regularly can make you smarter, happier, and healthier.
But reading does take time, no matter how good you get at it. Still, you can make that time relaxing and enjoyable. So let’s transcend the reading frustration and get you to where you want to be.
Here are my recommendations for how to become an efficient reader.
1. Take notes as you read
I know, I know, I hear you. Reading is supposed to be relaxing, not homework.
But be patient. That part is coming.
Whether it’s for class, for work, or just for yourself, taking good notes when reading can actually go a long way in helping you remember what happened in the book and what’s important. You’ll start to recognize that you’re writing down the details that matter, and in that process, actually learning the details that matter–whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.
Take in all the information you possibly can. Write down the details of what happened, when it happened, and what was said. Write it all down, however you do it. Whether that means using a pen and paper, a digital notebook, or your phone. Then, before your next class or the next time you pick the book up, revisit your notes.
Taking the time to summarize key ideas can help you build on your knowledge, making for a richer learning experience. And I’m confident that you’ll be able to retain more when you’ve taken the time to take good notes.
And then, after a few books like this, maybe you won’t need to take notes anymore. Maybe you can just curl up next to the fire, enjoy yourself, and comprehend the important parts of what happened. But the only way you’ll get better is if you work at it–and those notes can go a long way in helping you get there.
#2. Schedule Time to Read
Even if it doesn’t feel like it now, reading can be one of the best ways to de-stress and unwind. Once you get into the groove of reading regularly–and really, all it takes to be a reader is to read–you’ll start to notice that you are spending less time away from stressful emails and more time in the pages of a book that could help you learn, escape, and think.
But reading can be hard to fit in your schedule. That’s why it’s important to put it in your schedule in advance.
Reading is good for you. It can have a positive effect on your mind and your mental health. But, like exercise, it could feel low on your priority list.
Once you start thinking of reading as less of a task and more of a way to unwind and unplug, you may start to notice the available minutes to read are piling up.
So, yes, you can schedule the time in stringently--“from 8 PM to 8:20 PM, I will read my book”–or just put in your schedule that you want to do it for twenty minutes. Then, throughout the day, when you feel tempted to pick that phone up, pick your book up instead. You’ll be glad you put it into your daily routine.
3. Monitor your comprehension
Reading comprehension refers to the ability to understand various words, phrases, and ideas in what you are reading.
A lot goes into exercising your comprehension skills, but the most important element is practice.
Practicing your comprehension skills daily will help make you a better reader. But how do you do it?
Well, as you read, just make sure you actually understand what’s going on. If you don’t, find the cause of the confusion in each sentence. Is it a word you don’t understand? A phrase? Look it up. Context clues are great and all, but nothing helps comprehension the way actual definitions do.
Note-taking is helpful in monitoring comprehension too. It’s easy as a beginning reader to just want to get the pages done (especially if you have a limited amount of time to do it), but if you don’t understand what you’ve read, you may as well have not read it at all.
4. Find your own reading strategy & style–and stick to it.
Every one reads differently. Their schedules are different, their preferences are different, their formats are different–it doesn’t matter. As long as you put the time in to read, you are a reader.
But remember: good readers don’t just read; they read actively. They decode for understanding, not to just get to the next page.
So don’t let book jerks get to you. Find the strategy that works best for you. Take notes, set yourself up in the most comfortable spot in the house, put wordless jazz on in the background, set a timer. Go paperback, eBook, audio–it doesn’t matter. Just choose to make reading a habit and start doing it.
If your goal is to improve your ability to read—and succeed academically—you will need to use a reading strategy that works best for you. Then you can focus on consuming the content you need when you need it–not how to get it done.