Reading is like any other activity; the more you know what you want to get out of it, the more benefit you’ll derive. Too often, though, we simply crack open a book and turn to page one without a thought about the process. That can lead to missed information; confusion about characters, plot, or informational details; and a sense that reading is more effort than it’s worth.
So, before you open a novel or magazine or textbook, it’s helpful to establish some goals for your reading time.
First, ask yourself why you’re reading this. It may be to spend some time getting away from your hectic day, learning about a new technique for rebuilding your car’s engine, or, in the case of a textbook, absorbing information that you need to build a body of knowledge in a subject. If you know you aren’t necessarily going to enjoy what you’re reading (e.g. a boring school topic), you can set your reason as needing to pass your next exam — it’s a powerful motive.
Your reason is your purpose in reading. It establishes what you want to get out of your session and sets an overall goal that can include more sessions.
Second, establish a plan for accomplishing the task. For a light novel, you may want to sit out on a hammock in the sunshine with a cup of tea and just “absorb.” If you’re learning a new process, you may want to take notes about the information, rephrase it in your own words, or draw yourself a diagram with each new point that’s discussed.
If you’re studying for a class, you may want to grab a highlighter for key ideas; take notes about what’s on the page, rephrasing in your own words so they’ll stick with you more easily; and play to your dominant learning style(s) [to learn more about learning styles, see our blogs on study skills here].
If you have no purpose in reading, you can’t have a plan to accomplish it. And if the written material is so trivial, why are you wasting time reading it in the first place? Better to put it down and move on to something that’s more interesting and/or makes you happier.
Reading is an active process, one that, by definition, involves the reader’s input. The more active you are with your reading habits — the more purposeful your reading — the more you’ll get out of the experience every time you come to it.