The idea that you either read for pleasure or for learning is misleading. It is, of course, possible to do both. Still, you shouldn’t necessarily approach academic reading the same way you approach a beach read. In order to read and comprehend a book or article for school, you need to be much more intentional and strategic.
Understand Genres and Themes
In most reading tests, the student is asked to read a passage and predict what might happen next. Prediction is a common reading comprehension strategy. The purpose of this strategy is to make sure you’re able to infer information from the clues in the text.
Here’s a passage to clarify this point:
Clara gripped the handle of the heavy glass pitcher and lifted it from the refrigerator shelf. She didn’t understand why her mother thought she was too young to pour her own juice. As she backed away carefully, the rubber seal of the refrigerator door caught the lip of the glass pitcher, which caused the slippery handle to slip from her hand. As she watch the pitcher crash into a thousand pieces, she saw the figure of her mother appear in the kitchen doorway.
What do you think will happen next? We could infer that Clara’s mother reacts angrily, or we might guess that the mother bursts into laughter. Either answer would be sufficient since we have so little information to go on.
But if I told you that this passage was an excerpt from a thriller, that fact might impact your answer. Similarly, if I told you this passage came from a comedy, you’d make a very different prediction.
It is important to know something about the type of text you’re reading, whether it is a nonfiction or a work of fiction. Understanding the genre of a book helps you make predictions about the action—which helps you comprehend the action.
Read With Tools
Any time you read for the sake of learning, you should be reading actively. To do this, you’ll need some extra tools. For example, you can use a pencil to make annotations in the margins of your text without doing any permanent damage to the book. Another good tool for active reading is a pack of sticky notes. Use your notes to jot down thoughts, impressions, predictions, and questions as you read.
A highlighter, on the other hand, is usually not as effective. Highlighting is a relatively passive act when compared to note-taking even though it may seem like you are engaging with the text by highlighting it. However, highlighting during a first read can be a good way to mark passages that you want to revisit. But if a passage impresses you enough to highlight it, you should always indicate why it impresses you, whether on the first or second read.
Develop New Vocabulary
It’s a no-brainer that you should take the time to look up new and unfamiliar words as you read. But it’s important to make a log book of those new words, and revisit them long after you’ve finished reading that book.
The more we study a subject, the more it sinks in. Be sure to keep a log book of new words and visit it often.
Analyze the Title (and Subtitles)
The title is often the last thing to be adjusted once a writer has finished writing. Therefore, it may be a good idea to consider the title as a final step after reading.
A writer will labor hard and long on an article or book, and often the writer uses many of the same strategies that a good reader uses. Writers edit the text and identify themes, make predictions, and annotate.
Many writers are surprised by the twists and turns that come from the creative process.
Once a text is completed, the writer may reflect on the true message or purpose as a final step and come up with a new title. This means you can use the title as a clue to help you understand the message or purpose of your text, after you’ve had some time to soak it all in.
Culled from Thought Co