Avid reader or not, there are times when we read material of interest with an eagerness to learn, yet end up closing the book or exiting a browser with little recollection of the overall message, let alone key takeaways.
It can be relaxing to open a book and mindlessly read, but when it comes to educational reading, it’s important to consciously work to remember what you are reading. Does that mean viciously studying and trying to understand every other word in front of you? No, that’s probably unnecessary. However, taking a little extra time while you read to ensure you understand the content being communicated, or quickly researching the definition of a word you’re not familiar with can help improve reading comprehension and your ability to master the material.
Find a quiet place to read with minimal internal and external distractions – whether that’s in your car or in a room away from family. Turn off the TV and music.
Skim before you read the text word-for-word. If you’re running short on time, becoming a skilled speed-reader will give your subconscious a chance to absorb the main ideas of the text.
Visualize the situations or concepts you are reading about as you go along and draw pictures or diagrams of what the material is depicting.
Keep a notepad nearby and physically take notes. Write down what you remember about each paragraph if you need to, or just focus on each chapter. Any detail that pops out at you, record it in your notes.
- Underline or highlight key words or definitions you want to remember
- Afterwards, organize your notes into three sections – primary concepts, secondary concepts, and supporting details.
If you’re an auditory learner, read the material out loud multiple times and record yourself so you can re-listen to the material you want to remember rather than re-reading written notes later.
Associate the material you are reading with an experience or something else you already know. We learn quicker and remember more when we have a personal connection.
Teach the concepts you have just read to a family member or friend. If you can’t explain it, go back and reread, and possibly take more notes and make mental connections.
Instead of watching TV or playing on your phone, grab a challenging book and highlight the words you don’t understand so you can look them up later. Research has shown that becoming a fluent reader requires that you’re able to recognize most of the words on a page “by sight”.
The last paragraph of a chapter usually provides the most important take away, so pay extra attention to it to help you remember the overall lesson.
Once you have finished reading, take a little time to write down what you have learned. Internalizing the information will help you retain it. A review can also help you identify the concepts you still do not fully comprehend so you know what to study further.
Literacy can improve attention span and contribute to your ability to communicate and act efficiently, while improving your intellect. You’ll likely find yourself reading material you have no interest in many times throughout your life, so the ability to scan text could be a really useful skill to have. There really is no loss in becoming a more effective reader and putting forth the effort to improve reading comprehension.