7 Tips for Connecting to Reading Material
We've all been there: you read a passage, put the book down, and can't remember a single thing you just read. Unfortunately, not all academic texts are as exciting and accessible as the newest Stephen King novel, but you still need to get through them in order to succeed in school. So what's a bleary-eyed, foggy-brained student to do? Try these seven tips for connecting with your reading material.
1. Think small
You don't have to read an entire chapter or journal article in one sitting. Instead, set moderate goals for reading material. Make sure to take advantage of all resources along the way, such as chapter introductions and summaries. If there are accompanying reading questions, take time to answer them - even before you do the reading. These questions provide a framework for what's to come.
2. Eyes up
Reading the same words over and over and over again can be discouraging and counter-productive - neither of which are components in an effective study routine. Rather than burying your head in a book, look up and away from the text every now and then. Ask yourself questions about the text, and respond in your own words. This not only tests what you're absorbing, but also helps reinforce basic ideas and concepts.
3. Understand, don't memorise
There are some times in life when memorising is necessary. Reading comprehension is not one of them. If you encounter words you don't understand, stop and look them up. While some definitions can be discerned from context, others cannot, and failure to understand them can obstruct your ability to comprehend a particular concept. In addition to the words themselves, pay attention to concepts and how they connect with each other.
4. Forge through
It's easy to get distracted and put down a book that's difficult or boring. Resist the temptation. Instead, set a goal to read through to the end of the passage or chapter. Some ideas will become clearer as you read. If you stop reading, however, it will be that much harder when you return to the text.
5. Think outside the box
While note-taking in words is helpful to reinforce ideas, it's not the only way. Many people find that using abstract representations, colors, and graphics can help them visualize concepts. Not everyone learns the same way. The key is in finding the methods that work best for you.
6. Take a break
Some advanced concepts are hard. But just because you don't understand them today doesn't mean you won't understand them tomorrow. When your brain becomes too tired or you start to panic, set the text aside. Return to it the next day and reread the material. Your brain may have done some heavy lifting while you were sleeping!
7. Seek help
Sometimes you need a little extra help. If you've tried these tips and are still struggling, talk with your teacher or an academic counsellor. Additionally, a tutor can teach you valuable tools to improve your reading comprehension, as well as help you through more challenging concepts.
While some texts can be frustrating, don't let yourself get psyched out. With a little patience and perseverance you can overcome the obstacles and learn to absorb complex reading materials in a meaningful way.