Common Reading Problems and Solutions
Not reading as fast as you’d like? Don’t worry—there are plenty of techniques and exercises that could help you improve your skills. A few ways to increase your reading speed may include the following.
- Techniques that could improve reading speed
- Previewing the material — Quickly previewing, or scanning, a text before you read it in full could be a great way to speed up the reading process. To preview, quickly move your eyes over the text from beginning to end. Look for chapter titles, subheads, bullets, and anything else that stands out on the page. After previewing a text, you could have a general understanding of what it’s about, which might help you read faster and get more out of the reading experience.
- Skimming — When you’re short on time, skimming could help you absorb information you need from a text without reading every word. To skim, move your eyes horizontally and vertically down the page, looking for key phrases and ideas. One strategy is to read the topic sentence of each paragraph before deciding whether to read further or jump to the next paragraph. Knowing what questions you hope to answer might also help you skim quickly until you find the information you’re looking for.
- Active reading — Active reading is the practice of thinking about and processing a text at the same time as you read. While you might think it would slow you down, active reading strategies such as asking pre-reading questions, taking notes in the margins, and summarizing what you have read may help you extract information from a text more efficiently. For instance, if you’ve jotted down the key points of a chapter, you could revisit them quickly if those points are referenced again in a later chapter.
- Practical exercises that could improve reading speed — In addition to the exercises described in the above article, try these other activities that might help you improve your speed-reading skills:
- Practice reading at 10x your normal speed. If you average 200 words a minute, aim for 2,000 words per minute. (You may want to increase your speed incrementally.) Over time, your brain could get used to reading at a faster pace.
- Count to 9 in your head while you read — this could help you learn to avoid subvocalizing (sounding out words). Subvocalizing slows down your reading speed, so breaking this habit could help you read faster.
- Read more often. Make it a habit to read every day for at least 15 minutes. The more you read, the more you could expand your vocabulary and improve your concentration.
I have difficulty understanding text—how could I improve my comprehension?
Using active reading strategies could help you improve reading comprehension and get more out of what you’re reading. Try some of the following active reading strategies and practice exercises:
- Strategies for improving comprehension
- Asking questions — Asking questions before, during, and after reading could help you better engage with the text and improve your understanding. For instance, you could ask what the main topic of each chapter is, what the author is trying to communicate, or what you think is going to happen next.
- Summarizing — Jotting down a short summary of what you’ve read is a great way to work on identifying the key points of a text. With practice, you could get better at extracting the most important information quickly and accurately.
- Visualizing — As you read, practice picturing what the text is trying to communicate. In addition, try calling on your other senses to help you imagine what’s happening. This strategy may be especially helpful when reading fiction or poetry and could make the experience more enjoyable by bringing scenes and images to life.
- Ways to practice comprehension skills
- Have a “conversation” with the text by jotting notes and questions in the margins as you read.
- Have a friend quiz you about what you just read.
- After reading a text, try teaching a friend what you learned.
- Create an outline, graphic organizer, or concept map to organize information from the text.
How could I better retain and recall what I read?
Improving your reading skills isn’t just about reading faster—it could also be about remembering and applying what you’ve read. Whether you’re studying for a test or learning foundational knowledge that you plan to build on later, the following methods and techniques could help you retain more information:
- Methods that could improve memory and recall
- Active recall — This method is a way of testing and reinforcing what you learn. To practice active recall after reading, ask yourself questions about the text. Training your brain to retrieve information could help you improve your memory and get more out of what you read.
- Spaced repetition — Remembering information is usually easier if you review it often. Spaced repetition is a method of using a schedule to review information at set intervals. These intervals vary in length, so find what works for you. For example, after reading something, you could practice recalling the information every 24 to 36 hours until you’re confident you know the material.
- Elaborative interrogation — Asking questions after reading could help you engage with the subject, connect what you already know with what you just learned, and ultimately you could retain more. Elaborative interrogation is a fancy name for this method. To practice elaborative interrogation, ask “why” and “how” questions after reading, and use what you’ve just read to answer these questions.
- Techniques for practicing retention and recall
- Repeat information aloud to help reinforce recall.
- Use visual cues, such as graphs or photos, to remind you of what you’ve read.
- Discuss what you’ve read with a friend.
- Make associations between what you’ve read and real-life examples.
- Use mnemonics, such as rhymes or acronyms, to remember information.
Choosing Materials to Read
Some common types of reading material you may encounter in your graduate courses include:
- Fiction — Do you enjoy getting lost in a good novel or short story? Fiction is prose that describes imaginary events and people. Some examples include science fiction, romance, fantasy, and thrillers. While fiction isn’t factually true, it helps us explore emotional truths and practice empathy.
- Nonfiction — Nonfiction is prose based on facts and real-life people and events, rather than the imagination. This genre includes everything from history books and biographies to news articles and how-to guides.
- Textbooks — A textbook is a work of nonfiction that compiles important information about an area of study. It is often used as a standard work for teaching students about a subject.
What are some criteria for choosing materials?
Whether you’re doing research for a class or just want to read for pleasure, selecting texts that may fit your needs could help you get the most out of your reading experience. Consider the following criteria for choosing reading materials:
- Interest — Choose a topic that gets you excited to start reading. If you’re reading for class and don’t get to choose your topic, try to find works by authors whose writing style you like. If a book is interesting and engaging, you might end up learning more.
- Level of difficulty — Determine whether the text in question is written for readers of your skill level. Students in graduate school often find themselves encountering more difficult texts. This advanced level of difficulty is the result of the complex ideas being communicated. So, being willing to dive into harder materials may be necessary for your research and study.
- Relevance to your goals — Understanding the purpose of your reading materials is key to finding the right texts. For instance, if you are researching a particular topic, you may want to start with a reference book, such as an encyclopedia, to get background information on your topic. If you need more specific information to answer your research question, doing keyword searches in article databases could help you pull relevant materials.
Do you have any tips for selecting materials?
Some tips for selecting reading materials include:
- Start with easy materials. As you ramp up your reading habits, start with materials that are easy to understand. That’s especially true if you’re trying to become a better speed reader—an easier text could be a good starting point and help you build your confidence.
- Gradually increase the difficulty level. As you become a more confident reader, try challenging yourself with harder books. The more time you spend reading, the more your comprehension skills and vocabulary could improve, potentially preparing you for tougher reading material.
- Balance reading material with different genres and topics. To make reading more interesting, mix it up! If you’re reading a lot of textbooks for your classes, try immersing yourself in a novel for pleasure. If there’s a topic you want to learn more about, take the time to explore it.
Building a Reading Habit
Setting reading goals could help keep you accountable to yourself and inspire you to read more than you thought possible. Plus, you could expand your literary horizons and have the opportunity to learn a lot along the way. Consider some of the following goals to help you build a strong reading habit:
- Read a certain number of books per month.
- Read a certain number of books by the end of the year.
- Read outside of your comfort zone.
- Try a new genre each month of the year.
- Commit to reading for a certain amount of time each day.
- Read when you’d otherwise be watching TV or going on social media.
- Join a book club and plan to read every selection.
How do I make a reading schedule?
If you struggle to find time for reading, making a schedule could help you commit to enjoying a good book more regularly. Here’s how to create a reading schedule…
- Know your reading goals. Maybe you want to improve your reading skills in time for graduate school, catch up on your growing list of must-read books, or simply read more often. Whatever your goals, use them as a basis for what you hope to achieve by making a reading schedule.
- Plan your reading activities. Your plan should include how often you would like to commit to reading each day and when. For instance, you might set aside 30 minutes of quiet reading time every morning before you start your day.
- Create your schedule. You could use an app or set a daily calendar reminder. You could even make a colorful calendar and hang it in a highly visible place—anything to keep your reading schedule at the top of your mind!
- Follow your schedule. The hardest part of creating a reading schedule is sticking to it. Give yourself time to build your new reading habit. If you find that your schedule stops working for your life and other commitments, you could adjust it later.
How could I increase my motivation to read?
Some ways to make reading more fun and increase your motivation might include:
- Earning Rewards. Reward yourself when you meet your reading goals. Decide on ways to celebrate reaching each milestone—whether it’s a small gift to yourself, your favorite meal out, or an activity you love. You may even be able to find adult reading challenges with prizes to help motivate you—look online or check with your local library.
- Tracking Progress. Use a goal-setting app to track your reading progress. You could also use websites like Goodreads or LibraryThing to share each title you complete. Tracking your goal publicly and sharing your success with friends could help hold you accountable and make reading more enjoyable.
- Joining a Reading Group. Joining a reading group or book club may provide the perfect reason to read more regularly. Groups typically set deadlines for completing each title, which offers built-in motivation. Plus, encouragement from fellow book enthusiasts could help you stay on track to meet your reading goals.
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