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Monday, February 27, 2012

15 Tips For Becoming a Better Reader

by Kishore Kumar  

NOTE FROM MICHELLE:  Do you have problems reading? Do you find it difficult,and even sometimes painful. If your answer is YES, here are some tips and strategies on how to become a better reader.   This article was written specifically with you in mind. I couldn't have said it better myself.   

Do you have a positive attitude towards reading?  
 Your attitude influences how well you perform any task When you believe you can do something, you are usually successful. Work to create a positive attitude about reading. Positive attitudes don’t just happen; they need to be built and maintained daily. Begin every reading session by repeating several times, “I can read this. I will read this. I will find it interesting” Most people who have difficulty reading have a negative attitude towards it.

Maybe they had bad experiences in school, or perhaps they think reading is boring and offers them nothing they need. They may even have a learning disability that makes reading extra hard.. Whatever the case, building a positive “Yes, I can!” attitude almost guarantees that reading will quickly become fun and “do-able”. Reading has never been more important to success in life than it is today. Only a few years ago, most Canadian jobs centered on natural resources like wood products, fishing, farming, and mining; today most available jobs relate to handling information, usually in written form. As information grows and more and more jobs are created around it, understanding what you read is an essential skill.

Do your lips move when you read silently?     
 If so, you are really doing oral reading rather than silent reading. When you read silently, your brain should absorb whole words (and groups of words) at a time. If your mouth and lips form words as you read, you are slowing yourself down. When you read too slowly, it is very difficult to get the full meaning because you often forget the beginning of the sentence before you get to the end of it. Make a real effort to stop moving your lips as you read. Moving your lips when you read silently is called “subvocalization”.
Do your vocal cords move when you read silently?    
 Place your hand lightly on your throat as you read silently. If you can feel a vibration, it means that you are using oral reading techniques to read silently. As a result, you are probably reading so slowly that it is hard for you to understand what you are reading. This is another kind of subvocalization.

Do you have a hard time seeing the letters on the page?    
If you have to hold the book close to your eyes or at arms length, you may need glasses or contacts. If you already wear glasses, perhaps you need a new prescription. Changes in eye sight happen so gradually that many people are unaware that they have poor vision. After all, they have nothing to compare it to.

Do you have trouble keeping your eyes on one line of text or moving from one line to the next?     
                  If you lose your place frequently when you read, it is a good idea to use a piece of paper, or ruler, placed under the line you are reading. As you finish one line, simply slide the “guide” down as you read. During your early years at school you may not have been allowed to do this, but as an adult, you can choose to use any strategy which makes your reading easier. Try this one to see if it works for you.
There are also several ways to use your hands or fingers that may improve your reading.. You may try using your index or second finger to lightly follow the line you are reading. When you get to the end of a line, sweep your hand quickly to the left to pick up the beginning of the next line. Some reading experts suggest a “dusting” motion with the hand when you are trying to increase your reading speed and comprehension. This quicker hand motion forces your eye and your brain to move across the page more rapidly than you can actually pronounce the words “in your mind’s ear”. As a result, it may help get rid of the subvocalization habit thatslows down reading speed and contributes to poor comprehension. When you are skimming or scanning a text, you may run your finger quickly down the middle of the page to help focus your concentration on what you are looking for.

Do you find your mind wandering when you read?
Even good readers often report that they “lose their concentration” and begin daydreaming. Actually, it’s impossible to “lose” your concentration unless you fall asleep. Your brain is always concentrating on something. When you daydream or look out the window, your brain is concentrating on something, just not on the written material you are supposed to be reading.

Try these suggestions to improve your concentration.

1.Create a purpose for reading. Know why you are reading and what you expect to get out
     of it before you start.

2. Be active when you read. Think of questions you want answered and then look for the
     answers. Disagree with the writer and look for “holes” in his/her arguments. Try to
     predict what will happen next in a novel or short story. Some experts suggest that the
     index finger method or dusting method helps keep you actively involved.

3. Read material that is at your reading level, or slightly above.

4. Read material that is interesting to you and that you have some background knowledge

5. Don’t readfor too long at one time. Break longer reading assignments into manageable
    parts (paragraphs, pages, sections, or chapters).

4. As much as possible, try to make reading a pleasant experience.

Now that you know that reading is more than moving along word by word, it’s time to look at some strategies that will help you understand what you read. Good readers know that it is important to “get ready to read” before they actually start reading.

1. Check your posture. 
 Sit in a comfortable chair with your back firmly, against the back of the chair. The book should be at about a 45E angle to your eyes. Don’t sprawl on the couch or read in bed unless you are trying to fall asleep.

2. Check the lighting.
You’ve probably heard that reading in poor light will ruin your eyes. New research shows that’s probably not true, but reading under good light makes the process a lot easier. Use diffuse lighting. This means light should fall on the page from several sources. Find a place to read where you don’t get a glare off the pages and try not to have any shadows on the page.  This is important when reading for information or for school. If you are reading for pleasure, you don’t have to finish reading a book you find boring or too difficult. When reading for your own personal pleasure, never force yourself to read anything that you find boring. Try the first 15 or 20 pages of a novel. If it doesn’t catch your interest and you are bored, stop reading immediately. Don’t feel guilty for not having finished a book. If you don’t like it, put it down and find another. The world is full of wonderful books. Often you have to start several books before you find one that is entertaining to you.

3. Make a commitment to your reading.
 Remember the “Yes, I can” attitude. Make a promise to yourself that you will complete the reading4 (even in several stages) and that you will come away with an understanding of what you have read. If it helps to focus your concentration, repeat the phrases, “I can read this; I will read this; I will find this interesting5.”

4. Reduce the distractions.

Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for a while. (If you’re a parent, the bathroom may be your only safe haven). Try to organize your life so that when you read, the phone won’t ring and kids/family won’t need your immediate attention. Turn off the TV and/or radio. If you must listen to background music to drown out other sounds, make sure that it is easy listening music that won’t demand your attention.

5. Decide on a purpose for reading.  
 People read for entertainment, for fulfilment, and for information. Before you even open the book or look at the article ask yourself these questions:
  • How important is the material I am about to read?
  • What do I need or want to remember after reading?
  • Do I need just the main points, or do I need some key ideas too?
  • Does anyone expect me to report on what I’ve read?
  • Do I need specific details for a major test or project?
  • I need just some general ideas for a brief quiz or meeting?
 6. Relax your book.    
You may know about relaxing yourself, but did you know you can relax a book? This helps keep the pages from flipping over by themselves and keep the pressure off your thumb as you try to hold a new book open as you read.

Here's how to relax a book:  
1. Place the spine on a flat surface.
2. Open just the front and back covers of the book.
3. Run your thumbs and fingers up and down the pages as close to the binding as possible.
4. Take a few pages, front and back, and repeat the process.
5. Continue until you have reached the centre of the book.
6. Ruffle the pages several times to make sure they are supple.
7. Do not start at the centre and work out. This may crack the spine and greatly reduce the
   life of the book. This is especially important with paperbacks and cheaply bound books
   which rely on glue to hold the pages together.

 5 Read what you enjoy.  When reading for your own personal pleasure, never force yourself to read anything that you find boring. Try the first 15 or 20 pages of a novel. If it doesn’t catch your interest and you are bored, stop reading immediately. Don’t feel guilty for not having finished a book. If you don’t like it, put it down and find another. The world is full of wonderful books. Often you have to start several books before you find one that is entertaining to you.


Try the strategies suggested by the SQ3R6 described in the module on Learning Strategies) as you move through the three stages in the reading process.

1. Pre-reading - Survey and Question
2. Reading - Read (according to your purpose)
3. Post-reading - Recite and Review


If you give your brain a chance to get organized and “get on the right track” before you start, it will do most of the work for you, automatically. You will have a better chance of understanding if you preview what you are about to read before you read in depth.

Reading can be compared to taking a trip. You need to know where you are going and how to get there, before you set out so you won’t get lost along the way. The author has already made the trip, and his/her writing provides a map, so you can both travel the same roads and end up in the same place. As you travel or read, it saves time and energy if you first look at the map and get a general idea of the “pathways” you will travel. Doing this will keep you from making a wrong turn, getting confused, or having to backtrack.

The starting place on your reading trip is what you already know about the subject. Your destination is an understanding of the ideas the writer has presented. Along the way, you will probably change highways a couple of times and pass through several major cities.

Previewing the text will give you a head start on understanding what you are about to read.
Reading is the food for brain, cultivate the habit of reading and feed your brain.
I wish you all success.

Let me know what you think. Write a comment below.  I really appreciate any feedback. (Michelle)

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  1. Great Suggestion!!! the more you read the better you read..it is going to be part of my plans.


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Suad,
    I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I think the advice is terrific, and I love getting comments. It makes me feel like someone out there is reading this. You never really whether people are reading, or getting anything out of the posts unless you get some response.


  4. Hi Michelle - I'm planning to get my UI/LA students to read this for homework and write a response journal about what strategies they are already doing and what strategies they'd like to focus on for the rest of term. Thanks for all of your hard work with this!

  5. Hi Sara,
    I'm so glad you can use it. I think a response journal on this is a terrific idea. I might try it myself next term.

    Two other posts my students also enjoyed were about setting SMART goals. Several of them have actually created their own SMART goal plans.

    Thanks a lot for writing. I absolutely getting feedback from anyone out there.



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