For some, reading can transport them to a diverse world of characters, settings, and conflicts that keeps them up well past bedtime, clinging to every word on the page. Others can barely keep their eyes open or their thoughts focused on the page. Learning how to read a book and understand it is a critical learning skill.
What’s page-turning for you could be another’s nightmare. So what do you do when you have required readings? A book for English class, a scientific research project, or documenting wars in Social Studies. It’s easy when a teacher, parent, or sibling is there to guide you, but when the task is independent, it can feel worrisome and dreadful.
There are plenty of tips on the internet for confronting the unknown—but this article aims instead to instill lessons that can stay with you, ones that become part of your everyday routine. They can guide you in building a relationship with reading, especially if the thought of opening a book is terrifying.
The key to completing your own reading assignments is having the stamina to do it on your own. Think of reading as a timed sport, and you’re the sportsman. Stamina takes work, effort, and above all, consistency. Set a timer, keep track of your time, and challenge yourself to extend that time every week. The Art of Reading on your own is a long-term race, one that requires flexibility and adjustments. You have to constantly practice reading to improve—not only in your reading skills, but also in your adaptability and fluency in reading texts of all kinds, from engaging fiction novels to dense academic texts.
Change It Up
Add diverse genres to your bookshelf, or your browser bookmark. Read different genres and subgenres of fiction—from Young Adult to mystery and romance novels, literary fiction to fantasy and science fiction, the vast array of genres offers something for every reader, no matter your interest. Pick a library or bookstore website and browse their digital shelves, looking for covers that catch your eye or book blurbs that intrigue you. Don’t be afraid to explore: if you start a book in a new genre, you might find that you love it, or you might find that it’s not for you. That’s okay! There are many more genres to choose from.
Include one newspaper article a day into your reading time, to expose yourself to new topics, current events, and different analyses. By incorporating a range of nonfiction and fiction texts in your reading, you’ll be able to cross-reference multiple skills and apply them to your readings. A news story might have surprising relevance to the novel you’re reading, or you might see your new favorite author pen an Op-Ed in the newspaper.
Respond to Reading
A reading response doesn’t have to be a long five-paragraph essay. A reading response is just that—a response, or reaction. As you read, make small notes in the margins, or share your thoughts, reactions, reflections on the reading, whether in writing or to a friend or family member. How does a character or story make you feel? Do you agree or disagree with an idea or a character’s actions? Is the character’s nervousness going to cost him a scholarship? Can you relate to the reading of an article about the anxieties of taking tests? Instead of summarizing what you’ve read, write original questions, thoughts, and emotions you’re experiencing in the moment. Responding to your reading is an active skill, and you’ll find yourself becoming sharper and more attuned to your own reactions the more you vocalize your thinking.
Not every book or article you come across will be memorable or interesting enough to keep you hooked, but it is important to have a set of rituals on hand for when you do find a book that grabs you. Keep encouraging and pushing the boundaries of your relationship with reading. You never know what your consistent work may lead to.