For students, reading is the very heart of study, especially when older students are researching a topic. Although reading quickly comes more naturally to some people, enhancing reading skills enables students to use their time more efficiently. Therefore, those students that find reading high volumes of academic reading challenging may need a few ideas to enhance their reading skills. So, here goes….
Smart readers are able to find what they are looking for very quickly within a book. Students should try to browse through books in order to look for the required information. They should get used to using the contents pages at the front of the books as well as the index pages at the end of books.
Students should look for topics and keywords that match the research topic/ question. Smart readers read the introductions and summaries in addition to the learning intentions and outcomes at the start of chapters so that they can check if the chapter ahead is relevant to their area of study.
Smart readers try to use sticky notes where useful material has been found. They note down the page number that they want to refer back to with brief annotations and explore these later. There are also great sticky translucent page markers available that can be stuck over/ beside text to highlight important sections without damaging the text. This is particularly useful if students have a library book that can’t be annotated.
Always have a pen and some paper ready when reading actively. It is good practice to get in the habit of taking notes and marking key information. On a separate large piece of paper try to map out the main ideas of a topic, which can be done in any style that suits the reader and the topic being studied. Students should reread the text if they didn’t concentrate the first time round.
Students should also ask themselves if they agree with the author and whether they agree or disagree with what they are reading. Thinking critically about reading is another important skill for students to develop which can be read about in another post on my website.
A slow reader can always improve their reading speed with practise. This can be done by tracing a finger quickly, yet steadily down the page, just ahead of the lines being read. Other students support speed reading by relatively quickly moving a pen, pencil or their finger under each sentence whilst they move through the text. Scanning sections of text for important information, such as searching for keywords and ideas, is important when reading efficiently.
Reading the first sentence of each paragraph to get a sense of the whole paragraph is also a good skill to develop. The first sentence is known as the ‘topic sentence’. Reading this sentence alone could help break the habit of reading passages of text slowly, and taking in and digesting every single word.
Some readers read words out loud in their head as they read. This means that they can only read as quickly as they can speak, which will slow a reader down. It is a good idea to drop this habit and focus more specifically on the meaning of the sentences that are being read, which will increase the speed at which information can be read.
Varying reading speeds
When unsure if the text ahead is going to be useful in helping achieve a goal readers should scan the content for keywords quickly. Students should try to begin by scanning each section quickly for new information and then slowing down when important points have been found.
Reading difficult, challenging pieces of writing needs to be done more slowly in order for the brain to comprehend the information, otherwise students will need to keep re-reading sentences that were not initially understood. Therefore, reading should be made more manageable by breaking it down into piecemeal chunks that are less overwhelming.
It is important to concentrate when reading, so ensure that there is a quiet space available with no distractions. Taking short, regular breaks is also important to stay alert and to allow the brain to continue to digest and think carefully about the material.
If a student is struggling with reading some people, including many dyslexic readers, find it easier to read information through a coloured filter. This is known to reduce the effects of words seeming to jump around the page. Some students also find reading information on coloured paper easier. Talking with teachers and support staff will be very beneficial in helping find and put in place solutions to make reading easier.
There are several methods to help students find reading more interesting, effective, memorable, and to save time and take on board more information. It is important that students start their reading with focus, so they know what they are searching for within a piece of text. This helps them remain focused and reach their goal more quickly and effectively. Some examples of reading purpose include: refreshing the memory of something that was previously studied, getting an overview, writing a summary or finding answers to specific questions. Different reading strategies include:
- Getting an overview
- Selective reading
Highlighting important information
Highlighting important keywords and phrases and/ or underlining key information in a piece of handwriting is known as selective handwriting. Colour coding can be used to distinguish between different things that stand out in the text e.g. opinions, different key points or roles in a drama. Annotating pieces of writing by adding extra ideas, agreements/ disagreements or links to extra information elsewhere is also helpful when reading for assignments and revision. This also ensures the reader remains active and engaged with the text and continues to think critically about what is being read.
Effective reading is a skill that always develops with practise. It may feel like a mountain to climb at the beginning, but with time and dedication all readers will eventually become more effective and efficient in their use of different reading strategies. Support is always there at school if students need a little more help and always remember to get a regular eyesight check-up with a qualified optician if it feels like your eyes are being strained.
I hope that this article has got you thinking about reading skills, if so it would be awesome if you could leave a comment in the box below. Thank you! 🙂