Guide to Effective Reading

One of the common dilemmas for students and avid readers is how to read a book and remember the details. A lot of times, people read a single page and yet forget what it was about as soon as they flip to the next. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading a self-help book, a cook book, a new novel, or your calculus textbook; this problem applies to both fiction and non-fiction books.

A lot of study guides have been made to help readers retain more information and apply it easily. However, each person is different and one study guide might not work for the rest of the population. Here are some general guides for you to remember and apply. Try them out to find out which one works for you, then keep on applying it until you’ve gotten the hang of it.

Note Topic Sentences

These topic sentences summarize the entire paragraph, making them key points for information. These are usually located in the beginning or the last sentence of the paragraph. Find the topic sentence first and then commit that into memory before you read onto the rest of the section. You can anticipate the kind of information it will present, making retention easier.

In the case wherein a topic sentence is located in the last part, it serves as a summary for the paragraph’s content. Check the last sentence to make sure if it’s the topic sentence or not. If it is, take note as always, since it provides key information and will also show if the material’s importance. Lastly, it will also serve as the bridge for the next paragraph.

Skim Reading

Once you’ve taken note of the topic sentence, you can just read through the paragraph fast. You don’t need to read every word carefully or dwell on a single idea. Skim over the sentences and phrases, taking note of key words. Since you already have an understanding of the paragraph’s topic, your mind will automatically fill in the gaps.

A serious drawback for this technique is the speed. You can read texts very fast, but because of this speed, it’ll be very easy to miss specific information. For example, if you’re reading a math textbook or a history text, you can easily understand the process, but it’ll be hard to remember the equations, the process, the names and dates of people involved. This technique can be effectively utilized in texts which require comprehension rather than memorization.

Mark Key Thoughts

For academic texts, take note of important ideas or key notes in the margins or in your notebook. Remember that a textbook is used for studying, not as a display. It’s okay to sully it a bit with marks or notes. It’s just a bit anyway and you’re not going to copy the entire paragraph into the margin. If it bothers you that much, you can even use a pencil or post-it notes.

On the other hand, for self-help books, you can make use of a notebook or a mind map. This is an organized way to take note of relevant ideas or specific information without copying the entire book. You can organize your mind map by chapters or by the concept presented. This will make reviews very systematic and customized, making self-study effective.

Read in a Proper Posture

This article is about effective reading, so why is there proper posture here? This is because a good posture will help you stay awake and read longer. Sitting in a slouched position will tax your body in terms of breathing, and can cause unnecessary muscle strain. After a few hours of this torture, your body is bound to give up. Even if your mind is still sharp as a tack, your body will demand sleep and thus cut your study time.

Read on a chair instead of the bed. You’ll be able to cover more pages since you won’t be distracted with sleep or naps. Unless your goal is to sleep in bed, then don’t read while lying down.

Don’t Read Aloud

This is actually a bit of a downer since many people read aloud whether vocally or just in their mind. When we were young, we were told to read out loud and make sure to enunciate every single letter, then every word. We carry this habit within ourselves as we grow older. We may not say it out loud, but in the inner monologue or our mind.

The problem with reading aloud is it considerably slows us down and we tend to focus on the single word instead of the idea. Your eyes are capable of reading sentences and words much faster than your inner voice can read them aloud. It might take a while to shut off your inner voice, but meditation has helped a lot of people just for this purpose.

Obviously, this technique takes a great deal of practice. You can read literature which you like or you’ve read before to make things easier. As you develop your speed and lessen your inner monologue, move on to more difficult or newer books to master this technique.

Choose Sections Wisely

A lot of times, we encounter a section of a book we already know or that we are familiar with (especially in academic books). In this case, it’s better to skip it rather than spend a few minutes or hours trying to recall things that you already know. You’ll end up wasting your time and also confusing yourself. Focus on the important or new sections and devote your time on that. If you really must, you can read these familiar sections when you’re reviewing the entire book or lesson.

This method also applies to self-help books and the like. For an avid reader, some articles are very familiar or the author might have recycled some previous content. Like with academic books, skip this part and move on to the next. You’ll know after you finished the book if you really needed that chapter or your basic knowledge was enough.

Relate New Information to Yourself

Connect new data to something you’re familiar with. This makes things a lot simpler and you’ll be able to retain this information longer. It’s acceptable when you’re unable to recall all the information immediately. This doesn’t mean that the information isn’t stored in your brain; it’s simply stored in your subconscious memory. Take for example, when you’re talking with someone and they say a familiar word or phrase. Suddenly you remember something many years ago or a chore you were supposed to do. Data isn’t completely lost even if you can’t remember it – it’s just stored deep down.

Whether you’re studying for school or just browsing a self-help book, this guide to effective reading will surely benefit you. As we mentioned, some tips can work for others while the rest may need a bit of tweaking or experimenting with the aforementioned techniques. Once you do find a technique that works for you, keep on practicing it or experimenting until it becomes very familiar.