1. DO THE READING
I shouldn’t even have to say this, but I do. You may be laughing, but it’s serious! It’s a little obvious when you don’t. Nothing is worse than being in class when you didn’t do the reading and no one is talking. It is terribly awkward; it’s worse than when I called my 3rd-grade teacher “mom.” You just have to sit there and pretend that you didn’t hear the question, or that suddenly your fingernail is incredibly interesting. To be completely honest, one of the main reasons that I do the readings is to avoid these awful situations. Also, once you fall behind, it’s so much harder to catch up.
2. Don’t read while lying down
If I am reading something that I have to put a lot of effort into, I cannot read lying down. It is hard to take notes (and do some of these other tips) if you’re lying down. Also, you will probably fall asleep, which isn’t helpful when reading. At all.
3. Take notes and keep them together
I like to make a character sheet to keep track of my thoughts on each character that I encounter. I think it’s also useful to do the same with themes that appear throughout the text; you can write down where they occur, making your life a lot easier. Dr. Nancy Comorau has also said that when reading a play, using index cards can be useful to help visualize who is in a scene, so place them on the table in front of you in order to represent who is “in” the current scene. The index cards are also a great place to write notes about characters.
4. Annotate the text
Annotating what you read will help you when you need to look back to the text and it can be a great way to check if you’re actively reading instead of just highlighting the entire page. Once you develop your own system, this becomes almost second nature. I like to draw a box around key terms or words I don’t know then briefly define them in the margin. I write questions, key concepts, or my thoughts in the margins. I use brackets on the side of the text to indicate an important passage. If you are renting or borrowing a book, you can still annotate! Pencils and sticky notes are beautiful things, as you can erase your marks or take the sticky notes out. I, however, have an awful habit of returning books without erasing my notes.
5. Have your phone or laptop handy
This sounds like the opposite of what you should do but hear me out. Whenever you come across something you don’t know, look it up! I’m no expert but I don’t think you can really comprehend your reading without doing this.
6. If you’re reading for class, talk to your classmates about the reading
This way you can check your understanding of what you read, bounce ideas off of each other, and ask questions.
7. Utilize alternatives to the literal text
If I feel I’m missing something, sometimes I use LitCharts to check myself after I read. Whenever I do this and I do miss something, I go back and either reread or try to find what I missed, which really helps me to understand the text more! Sometimes audiobooks can also be helpful; if I am having trouble concentrating on a given reading, listening to the audio can be helpful in gathering key points without having to wade through the mass amount of text within the reading.
8. Don’t read with a puppy in your lap
It’s rude to the pupper-dog; they deserve your undivided attention!