Academic reading is not easy. Part of learning to use reading strategies is to try out new and different ways of reading. Even teachers read, think, write, reread, puzzle over ideas. No one gets it the first time. Successful students learn how to read effectively and remember what they read. You need to learn ways to leap into reading, keep going, finish up, summarize, and connect the new information to other knowledge you have acquired.
Below is a list of reading strategies to try. Keep in mind that any three strategies may be enough to make you a better reader. Experiment with different methods and see what works for you. The goal is to develop a reading system that will help you in the long term, not just for this class, but for life.
1. Read sitting up, with a good light, at a desk or table.
2. Keep background noise to a minimum. Loud rock and roll music will not make you a better reader.
3. The same goes for screaming siblings, people talking, television or radio. Give yourself a quiet environment so that you can concentrate on the text.
4. Always read with paper and pen within reach.
5. Before beginning to read, think about the purpose for the reading. Why has the teacher made this assignment? What are you supposed to get out of it? Jot down your thoughts.
6. Survey the reading. Look at the title of the piece, the subheadings. What is in dark print or stands out? Are there illustrations or graphs?
7. Before you begin reading, be sure to have questions in mind. This sets the purpose for reading the text.
8. Read the introduction and conclusion, then go back and read the whole assignment. Or read the first line in every paragraph to get an idea of how the ideas progress, then go back and read from the beginning.
9. Scan the entire reading, then focus on the most interesting or relevant parts to read in detail.
10. Pay attention to when you can skim and when you need to understand every word.
11. Write as you read. Take notes and “talk back” to the text. Write down what interests or bores you. Speculate as to why.
12. If you get stuck in the reading, think and write about where you got stuck. Contemplate why that particular place was difficult and how you might break through the block.
13. Record and explore your confusion. Confusion is important because it's the first stage in understanding.
14. When the going gets difficult, and you don't understand the reading, slow down and reread sections.
15. Break long assignments into segments. Read 10 pages, then do something else. Later, read the next 10 pages and so on.
16. Read prefaces and summaries to learn important details about the book. Look at the table of contents for information about the structure and movement of ideas. Use the index to look up specific names, places, ideas.
17. Translate difficult material into your own words. Create an alternative text.
18. Answer the questions at the end of the chapter.
19. Answer these questions in your own words: What's the author talking about? What does the author want me to get out of this?
20. Read the entire piece, then write a one paragraph or one sentence summary.
21. Transcribe your notes in the book or handwritten notes into more formal notes on the computer. Turn your first notes into a list of ideas or a short essay.
22. Review the ideas in the text after you finish reading. Ask yourself questions to determine what you got out of the reading.
23. Mark up the text, bring it to class, and ask questions about what you don't understand.
24. Consult another source. What does another author have to say on the same topic?
25. Think about the text in three ways:
1. Consider the text itself, the basic information right there on the page. (This is the level of most high school readers and many college students.)
2. Next think about what is between the lines, the conclusions and inferences the author means you to draw from the text.
3. Finally, go beyond thinking about the text. What creative, new, and different thoughts occur as you combine your knowledge and experiences with the ideas in the reading?