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Effective Reading Skills and Strategies to Increase Efficiency

Reading Skills and Strategies
There are certain reading skills and strategies that we all must be familiar with at some point in our lives. It helps to further the efficiency of reading and take in information much better than what we would otherwise be able to do.
Uttara Manohar
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.

― Dr. Seuss
Reading is one great habit that can truly change your life forever. Reading can entertain you and amuse you, but most of all it will enrich you with knowledge, and experiences narrated. Reading purely for leisure is fun (as we all know), but there exist certain reading skills and strategies, which if mastered at an early stage can help us be better and comprehensive readers.
Although the term 'reading strategies' might sound mechanical and dry for the ears of a creative book-lover, these strategies can enhance your grasping power and help you get the most out of any book or any text that you lay your eyes on. These skills might not necessarily be learned as rigid theories or rules, but if understood well once, can definitely enhance the reading process and increase the quality as well as quantity of output that you get from reading. Not only can these strategies be taught to children right from school, but they can also be used by any person of any age to help improve their reading process.
Speed Reading
Speed-reading is actually a combination of various reading methods. The aim of speed-reading is basically to increase the reading speed without compromising on the understanding or retention. Some of the strategies used in speed reading are:
  • Identifying words without focusing on each letter
  • Not sounding out all words
  • Not sub-vocalizing some phrases
  • Spending less time on some phrases than others
  • Skimming through small sections
Speed reading is thus actually not precisely defined by specific guidelines and rules but is actually just a process that increases the speed of reading without compromising on the retention of the content.
Scanning through the text is a reading strategy that can be used if you are particularly looking at the text through a set perspective in mind. You can only scan for portions that interest you. For the highlights or important points you can skim through the summary or the preface of the book or the beginning and the end chapters.
Active Reading
There are times when you just cannot afford to skim through or scan through the text but need to get an in-depth understanding of what you're reading and hence you need to make sure you're actively involved with the same. There are four important points that you need to keep in mind during active reading. These are as follows:
Identify the most important parts of the text according to your own understanding and highlight or underline them using a pencil or a marker while you are reading. You can even use different colors to highlight diverse aspects of the text.
Make a Note of Key Words:
Jot down the headings as you read and the detail, using one or two keywords for each point.
Before you start reading, prepare for the same by writing down all the questions you want the material to answer. This helps you to read accordingly and ensures that you get the answers to all your questions and don't get distracted while reading.
After you've read one complete section of the text, summarize that portion in your own words. Later, go through the text again to check how accurate your summary was and modify or upgrade it in case you've left out any details.
This is an interesting reading technique suggested by Mortimer Adler in his book 'How to Read a Book'. The reading technique is mainly used for the non-fiction genre and elaborates how a written piece can be read in three passes. These are:
  • Studying the structure of the work
  • Studying the logical propositions made and organized into chains of inference
  • Evaluation of the merits of the arguments and conclusions.
This reading method advocates suspended judgment of the work or its arguments until they are fully understood.
Survey-Question-Read-Recite-Review (SQ3R)
This method facilitates a very deep understanding of the matter that is being read. In fact, the system aims to facilitate an understanding so clear that the reader should be able to teach whatever he has learned during the process of reading. Instructors who are preparing to teach a material without having to refer to notes during the lecture, generally use this reading method. The process involves five different steps, which are as follows:
Survey involves getting a quick idea of what the whole writing piece is about. For example, if it is a book, maybe the introduction or the summary on the back will suffice.
Remember that you are not just reading the words or looking at the words, but are actually trying to decipher the underlying meaning. Create questions in your mind and look for the answers while you are reading the text. In case you are reading a piece for research, it is always advisable that you write these questions and their answers in brief.
Read selectively if you are looking for specifics. Learn to find out the portions of the text that are important to you and move over.
Try and answer the questions in your own words, using only the key words or listings that are required to sum up the complete idea.
Review or summarize the entire text in your mind and rest assured that you will never have to memorize it or learn it by heart.
Other Pointers
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when you start reading:
  • Identify your aim while reading. Be clear about what you want from the text.
  • Jot down important points, quotes, or lines that you might find useful later. Notes taken while reading can come in handy while studying the subject later.
  • Even if you are reading fiction, do try to stretch your understanding about the writer's writing style with regards to elements like language, emotion, and vocabulary. This will actually make the reading process more enjoyable for you.
  • Every piece of text read gives you some information and enriches your knowledge in some way. Always read with concentration. Reading for the sake of it will not yield any fruitful outcome.
The next time around you're reading something either as enjoyment or as a study text, ensure that you keep these strategies in mind. This will help in retaining information and increasing knowledge rather than just reading as an impassive reader with nothing to gain.