How to Read Effectively

Learning how to read effectively was something I remember my high school teacher emphasising often. He would go through each step in great detail and explain to us why it was essential in the reading process. As a high school student I never saw the merit in his ways, but somehow his words engraved themselves into my mind and still echo every time I pick up a book. So I am pleased to report that I did learn an essential life lesson at school.

Why is it important to learn how to read effectively? If you are going to prioritise time to read a book, make 100% sure that you digest every word and understand the message. The author had a purpose in putting pen to paper and you must get the message or simply flush valuable hours down the drain of emptiness.

How to read effectively

Before we get down to the nitty gritty, we need to understand the role of reader and writer. To do this I quote a passage from “Read and Grow Rich” by Burke Hedges.

I first came across this analogy in the classic best-seller, How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler and Charles van Doren, first published in 1940. Think of the writer as the pitcher and the reader as the catcher. The catcher’s job is just as active as the pitcher’s, although the activities are very different. As the catcher gets more active and more skilled, he becomes better at catching curveballs...changeups...knuckle-balls...foul balls.... even wild pitches. “Similarly”, Adler and Van Doren write,”the art of reading is the skill of catching every sort of communication as well as possible.

The simple steps that follow will help you learn how to catch the written word. By putting these simple techniques into practise you will learn how to read more effectively and improve your understanding.

The steps are as follows:

1.       Pre-Read the Book

2.       Read Actively  (Take Notes and Highlight Passages)

3.       Review Your Notes

“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” – John Locke

Step 1: Pre-Read the Book

Time is valuable. Before you dive right in and start reading each and every page, finding out on page 100 that you’re on a wild goose chase, make sure that the book you have selected  is the right one. Take a few minutes to see the BIG PICTURE and pre-read the book.

  • Start by reading the front and back cover.
  • Read through the testimonials.
  • Read the author’s biography.
  • Preview the first few pages. When was the book published? Has the author written any other books?  Who is it dedicated to?
  • Read the foreword.
  • Read the preface.
  • Read the introduction.
  • Glance through the table of contents.
  • Then read the first paragraph of each and every chapter.
  • Glance through the chapter outlines, sub- headings or summaries if available.

It may seem like a waste of valuable time, but the few extra minutes pre-reading will guarantee improved comprehension and understanding of the message.

Step 2: Read Actively

  • Take notes
  • Highlight passages
  • Write comments in the margins
  • Underline text
  • Circle key concepts
  • Note links and further recommended reading
  • Research further recommended reading
  • Review website links

Develop a system that is uniquely yours. Active reading not only helps you comprehend and understand the material better but makes it easier to find key passages in the future.

Step 3: Review Your Notes

Congratulations on adding another gem to your collection.

  • Keep track of your finished titles in Good Reads.
  • Before you place the book back onto your book shelf give it a quick review by reading through your notes, margins and highlighted sections. 
  • Take a few minutes to think about what you have read and the value it can add to your life.
  • Repeat the process a few weeks later.

As you review the book you will be reminded just how much useful material you have highlighted. The true value often only comes to light on the 4th or 5th review and sometimes even years later.

How to Read Effectively

  • Pre-Read
  • Read Actively
  • Review Your Notes

Return from how to read effectively to the homepage.

"A drop of ink may make a million think." -Lord Byron

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