“A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others.” – Abraham Lincoln.
Newspapers, magazines, websites, blogs, e-mails, messages, reports, books – there is no dearth of reading material in today’s world. Try as much you can but you will be confronted with the written word staring in your face, forcing you to read. Reading skills are an important asset, but how do you develop them when reading a book for a couple of minutes is your best lullaby? Take heart. Reading, like every other skill, can be perfected with patience and regular practise.
Reading skills are crucial at every level of our personal and professional life. They help us get through our daily quota of emails or motivate us through path-breaking books. It has become imperative to be able to read and understand written matter to get through our work. The printed word is no longer our only window to the world. Online reading through blogs and other websites have become important mediums of reading as well.
Reading, apart from helping us gain information and knowledge, is a great way to build word power. It is always a good idea to mark the difficult words and look them up in the dictionary after your reading session. Proficiency in reading skills can help you score well in most competitive exams since this is one of the skills put to test. Reading is truly a skill when you learn to apply prior experience to enrich your current experience. Regular reading habits will strengthen your reading skills, helping you to compare and differentiate between good and bad writing.
If reading is not your favourite activity, you need not begin by reading something as intimidating as the socio-economic and political history behind the disintegration of the USSR. You can set goals beginning with familiar subjects and then make your way ahead.
Before you begin, it is important to understand what being skilled in reading exactly means. It means being able to read quickly, without taking too much time and yet comprehend what you have read. The purpose is defeated if you read very fast at the cost of comprehension. However, technical manuals or your course books might require you to slow down your speed of reading, which is essential to achieve comprehension and retention. Generally, you can track your progress by the ease with which you can glide through written material and the extent of comprehension.
Start with a subject or book that interests you. How about the magical saga of the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling or an inspiring story like The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho? Pick up the biography of someone who inspires you or read the history of an era that intrigues you. The tug of your interest will pull you through, making reading enjoyable. Gradually, you will want to move on to something at a higher level and explore subjects that you initially found too boring. The variety will come in handy if you are preparing for entrance exams. As you graduate from reading simple books to comprehending any subject with ease, you will see the progress in your reading skill.
As you read through a broad spectrum of subjects, you will also realise that different topics need different techniques of reading. The purpose of reading also helps determine the technique you need to apply. You might just scan the newspaper to absorb the day’s top stories, or read to find specific information in a reading comprehension passage to answer a question in an exam. You can also combine techniques to get through a long, technical manual.
Here are a few techniques that can help you deal appropriately with your reading matter.
Scanning: Scanning means quick reading that is done to understand what the text is about, without aiming for deeper understanding. Looking at the beginnings and ends of paragraphs will help you comprehend the scope of the material. This will help you decide where to focus your attention when you read with more concentration. You might scan the preface or the introductory chapter of a book which talks about how to get the most out of the book or a summary of how the chapters progress in the book.
Skimming: This is useful when you want to locate specific information. This technique involves moving your eyes across the page to register keywords and phrases to understand what is happening. This helps you determine if a document is useful and worthy of in-depth reading or not. For instance, going through a newspaper column or trying to decide which book to borrow from the library.
Active reading: Active reading involves highlighting, underlining, etc. for a detailed understanding of what you read. In this case, you are actively involved with the text. This technique will work well when you go through your course books.
To make your reading more effective, try to keep these points in mind.
Know the purpose of reading: It is important to know whether you are reading for pleasure, to gain knowledge or to pass an exam based on the reading material. It will also help you employ the right reading technique.
Ask questions: In order to make the most of what you have read, ask questions. What has the text conveyed so far? Is there anything that you would like to understand better before moving on? Can you predict what will come next? Where is the author going from here? This keeps you involved with the text, facilitating better comprehension.
Make notes – It is a good habit to use a pencil to tick beside the line or lines that seem important to you. Alternatively, you can also jot down points in a notebook. This ensures that you are attentive during the reading process. It also helps capture important points as ready reckoners for future use.
Summarise at the end: This is the ultimate test of your comprehension. Try to summarise what you read in a sentence or two, to capitulate and remember the material you read.
If the idea of poring over books doesn’t appeal to you, you can still read up on any topic online. Browse websites, google topics, subscribe to blogs or download books – the possibilities in cyberspace are endless. Though it is harder to read on a computer screen and the experience is quite different from reading a book, you can get your daily dose of reading online.
The sprawling worldwide web ensures that it isn’t too difficult to get lost while making your way through its meandering pathways. It is vital to maintain some discipline while reading online. The first rule to follow is to stick to the topic you are reading. We usually tend to click on links within pages and soon we have more tabs opened that we have the time or inclination to read. Most of the time, it is difficult to trace our journey back to the page we started from.
Don’t open too many tabs at the same time. This ensures quality online time. For instance, don’t try to check your email, chat on social networking sites, open blogs you read and gtalk with a friend all at the same time. This will only distract your attention instead of letting you focus on important things.
Also, resist the temptation to log on to social networking sites multiple times in a day. Such sites are meant to help you network and stay in touch, so don’t let them usurp most of your productive time. Don’t make them easily accessible by the click of your mouse through convenient bookmarks. Limit the time in which you will check your email or moderate comments on your blog. Try and check your emails twice a day for 5 minutes each which leaves you with ample uninterrupted time for more beneficial reading online.
Developing reading habits for life needs some effort and perseverance. Start today with the following simple steps into the wonderful world of reading:
Set time out: Take quite time out every day to do your reading. It could be any time of the day. If you are too busy during the day, try to have an early dinner and snuggle in bed with your books for an hour before you go to sleep.
Read the Table of Contents: Skim through the book you intend to read to get an idea about its content. You will get a sense of what the book is all about and whether you want to read the book.
Read a few pages everyday: When you start reading a book, make sure that you read a few pages in a single session before you put it down. Reading a page or so will not sufficiently involve you in the book and you are less likely to come back to it. Ensure that you read a little chunk each time to build interest in the book. You are likely to come back to it to know what happens next.
Check sub-vocalisation: It is important to stop reading each word aloud in your mind. This hampers your reading speed and makes you a slow reader. Make conscious effort to visually sweep through the sentence without waiting to let it echo in your mind.
Try a variety of topics: You find the Harry Potter series great fun and are hooked on to it. That’s a great start, but it is also important for you to move on and explore other genres of writing. Your reading skills will be sharpened in the real sense only when you expose yourself to a heterogeneous reading experience.
Diving headlong into the world of reading can do wonders you never thought were possible. Make friends with books and you will prefer their company all the time. Travel to exotic locations while in your bed or feel the high your role model felt while starting his first venture. Such is the world of reading.
Here’s a suggested activity. Go to a book store or your local library. Browse through books and find one that interests you. When you start to read, finish at least 20 pages before you put it away for later. This will ensure that you are sufficiently engaged in the book and will come back to it.