How can you improve your reading?
Many people have trouble with reading. Reading well takes time, patience, and practice! The most important thing to figure out is the purpose of your reading: looking at instructions to build furniture and studying a textbook are not the same thing! Once you’ve figured out your purpose, you can choose to focus on intensive reading techniques that stress things like vocabulary and speed, or instead on extensive techniques that will help you engage with the meaning of a text in a deeper way.
Method 1: Pre Reading
- Make sure you understand the type of text you have. Ask yourself: What type of work am I reading? Is it information-based, like a newspaper, textbook, or manual? Or is it more creative/artistic, like a novel or short story? This matters
- Decide on the purpose of your reading. The reason why you’re reading has an impact on how you read. For instance, reading a novel for a class can be different than reading a novel for pleasure, since you’ll be expected to understand and remember the text rather than just enjoy the experience of reading it. Ask yourself: What am I reading for?
- Scan your reading before you begin. Whatever the purpose of your reading is, taking a few minutes to look the piece over is very helpful. Check and see how the work is structured and presented.
Method 2: Reading Intensively
- Read intensively if you want to practice the fundamentals and learn vocabulary. Intensive reading is focused more on individual details of what you’re reading. If you want to practice pronunciation, study grammar, or learn vocabulary, you’ll want to read more slowly and focus more on individual words and sentences
- Look for just the gist of a text’s meaning. For intensive reading, it’s not always important to worry about what something means in a deep way. Just trying to get a general sense of what the reading is about. As you read, you’ll focus more on details like spelling, pronunciation, and the rhythm of sentences.
- Don’t get too caught up in parts you don’t fully understand. If you can summarize the main point of what you’re reading, then you’re doing ok.
- Read out loud. This can improve your reading skills because it makes you be involved with the text in two ways: with your eyes, as you look at the words, and with your ears, as you listen to them. Reading out loud is also key if you’re trying to practice pronunciation.
- Try to guess the meaning of any new words. When you come to a word you don’t know, try not to reach for the dictionary right away. Instead, try to guess the meaning of the word based on the other words around it (the context).
- Write down new words you want to learn. If you come to any words that you can’t figure out, write them down and look up their meaning in a good dictionary. That way, you can study the words later, too
- Read as often as you can. The more you read, the easier it becomes. Practising for at least 15 to 30 minutes a day, every day, will make a big difference
Method 3: Reading Extensively
- Try extensive reading if you’re looking for understanding. Extensive reading works when you’re trying to determine the meaning of what you’re reading. This technique focuses on the overall picture. It’s best for things like studying a textbook, reading a newspaper article for information, or reading a book for school.
- Take notes on your reading. If you want to read to understand something on a deeper level, like studying a textbook, it helps to read more actively. Keep a notebook out and make notes on important things you notice as you read
- Annotate your reading. If you’re able to write in or mark up whatever it is you’re reading, this can also help increase your understanding. For instance, you can underline or highlight important passages. You could also try things like circling key terms and writing notes in the margins.
- Review what you’re reading by summarizing it. Every so often, stop and write a few sentences in your notes to summarize what you’ve read so far. Putting the main ideas into your own words and writing them out is a way of checking that you understand what you’re reading. Going back over the material also helps you remember what you’ve read
- Identify key words and concepts. When you encounter a word or concept that seems essential to a text’s meaning, make a note of it. If you are reading a textbook, these might even be set apart in bold print, or in a separate vocabulary section. You can write the words or concepts down to study them later, or even make a set of flashcards.
Method 4: Staying Focused and Motivated
- Read with a friend. Getting through a text can be easier and more fun when you’re not doing it alone. For instance, you can try reading the same section of a text as your partner, then talking about it to make sure you both understood the main ideas.
- Choose the right reading environment. If you really want to concentrate on your reading, step away from television, music, phones, computers, and chatty people. These distractions make it hard to focus, dragging out reading and causing frustration.
- Use a pointer while reading if you have trouble focusing on the page. Take a bookmark, ruler, or small piece of paper and set it on the page you want to read. Slide it down so you can only read one line of text, then move it down to read the next line, and so on. Doing this can make reading feel more manageable.
- Read something you’re interested in, if you have a choice. It’s no surprise that you’ll be more motivated to read a text that you genuinely care about. If you’re given the chance to select books or other things to read for yourself, seek out topics you are interested in.
- Track your progress. Keep records, like a list of books or articles you’ve gone through, and how many minutes you read each day. Seeing how much you’ve accomplished over time can encourage you to keep making progress.