“I’ve read this paragraph five times and I still don’t know what it’s about!” Does that sound familiar?
Reading looks like a passive act, but if you want to have a good understanding of the words that pass before your eyes you might like to try active reading.
There are several ways to do this. The first thing to be sure of is that your brain is fed and watered, if it has it’s basic needs covered it can do it’s job better. So sip some water before you settle down with your reading matter if you need to.
How to remember what you read:
Step 1: Get Curious
Ask your self questions. Why are you reading this? What do you want to know/learn from these words?
If you can’t invoke some active interest, you will drudge through the pages ahead of you like you’re wading through treacle and… remember nothing.
Photo by: Tom@HK FLCKR (CC)
Step 2: Look for Sign Posts
Once you have your questions set up and you’re feeling curious, look for sign posts as you read. They may be sub-headings that point to what you’re looking for, or with practice, you will find that certain words jump out from the page and wave at you. “Here’s the info you want!”
Step 3: Keep it Moving
To help your eyes scan the text quickly and smoothly, run your index finger under the lines as you read. Back skipping when reading is a common problem, that is you read half a line and then your eyes go back to the beginning again. Using your finger to point the way keeps things moving and uses less mental energy than letting your eyes wander across the page without a guide.
Though it might seem like a regression to your childhood reading habits at first, following your finger when your read can speed your reading up considerably , stop back skipping and free your mind to understand what you’re reading.
Step 4: Eyes Up
Try and sit in a comfortable but alert posture. Sometimes the brain can switch off when we look down to read. If your reading is situated at eye level, or slightly above eye level, you will feel more awake.
Step 5: Map it
Mind Mapping is the single most effective tool I’ve ever used for recalling what I’ve read. I’ve used mind mapping for remembering the key points of books, articles, study papers, religious texts. You name it, I’ve mapped it.
Anything I know well from reading comes from active reading using the steps above, and the rest of what I’ve read, is either a vague memory or forgotten.
Photos by: Lost in Scotland Flickr Photo (CC)