Know the 3Rs to Help You Improve Your Reading Comprehension
Reading is a highly mental activity, especially when you read to learn and not just enjoy yourself. People read for different reasons, but primarily to get new information and learn. For students who are pressed with time, it is important to learn how to read efficiently and understand the material at the same time. To achieve this, know the 3Rs to help you improve your reading comprehension.
Before getting into the 3Rs, understand what it means to survey a material. This is a pre-reading activity with plenty of benefits.
To survey is to look over the entire reading assignment in a brief but planned method before you actually begin reading for real. The goal is to get an overview or general idea of what the book or reading material is all about.
How you do a survey
- Read the title, know the author, check the date, and be familiar with any other background information, such as theme, genre, or focus, that you need to know based on your assignment or purpose for reading.
- Read the introduction, or the first two or three paragraphs. Academic papers usually have an abstract before the body of the reading. Abstracts are very helpful.
- Read all the headings and chapter titles to have an idea of the overall flow of thought, but do not stop to read about them.
- Take a look at the graphs, illustrations, infographics, pictures, or charts if there are any.
- Read the last paragraph so you get an idea how the entire reading will wrap up. (If this was a movie, watch the climax, or if this was a song, sing the chorus first for better appreciation.)
- Try to decipher the author’s style, how he or she develops ideas and arrange thoughts.
- Finally, try to write an overview of what you think the reading material is all about based on what you have surveyed. You might not get it right, but doing this will jumpstart your brain and prepare you to begin reading for real.
Now on to the 3Rs: Read, Recite, Review
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Read the entire essay, text carefully, or reading the assignment from start to finish. This is what it means to read for real. Use your heart and mind, not just your eyes. Keep your reading objective or purpose in mind as you go through the main ideas and important details. Take notes and stop only when you come across the following situations:
- You encounter a major idea from the text. Stop reading, write a summary of the idea or a quick personal reflection.
- You come across a tough English word. Write the word on your notes, check out its definition using a dictionary or your computer, and write down the definition beside the word. If you have time to spare, use the word in a sentence and say it to a friend.
- You find an idea intriguing. Write down a question based on the idea that piqued your interest. Hopefully, the reading material will answer your question in the succeeding chapters.
Doing these three things as you read will make you a critical reader. Also, writing little summaries on each main idea will make the material your own. You can personalize the content and inject your unique ideas and opinions. This will help you build an attitude that seeks out answers to issues or ambiguous ideas, not to mention you can also expand your English vocabulary.
If your reading assignment is a bit long and complex, read by sections, chapters, or main ideas, and summarize what you have read before taking a break. Stop to summarize, organize your notes, and do another survey (but this time going back to what you’ve already read) before proceeding to read again.
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Above we said read with your eyes, heart, and mind. Now, include your mouth. To recite when reading is not just to read out loud. Instead, verbalize the questions you’ve raised in your mind based on what you’ve read and then answer yourself out loud. Do this at the end of every section, chapter, main idea, or whichever stopping point you’ve decided on. After reading everything or at the end of the material, write down your general reflection and recite yourself. Reflect, write, and recite about the who, what, when, where, how, and why of what you just read.
Reciting or talking out loud allows you to hear yourself. This way, the information comes in and out of you, and in and out again, pervading your entire being. If you haven’t tried this before, you will be surprised how reciting can help you retain a good bunch of what you’ve just read.
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After reading and reciting, go through all that you have written, asked, answered, and reflected on. You don’t need to review or reread the entire material, just your own reflections and the summaries you’ve jotted down using your own words. If you are preparing for a major exam, it can be helpful to review with a friend or classmate. Ask your friend to listen to you as you explain to him or her what you learned from the reading material. Pretend that you are your friend’s teacher. If you are reviewing alone, make some note cards to help you test yourself.
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These are the 3Rs to help you read to learn. To add some spice, you can put a Q after them—Q for questions. Wonder about what you just read. Ask yourself questions that can help you grow as a person. Ask yourself questions that can help you improve your English. Ask yourself questions that can help you ace your exam. Write down these questions and answer them out loud, as though you are responding to a panel of judges. Give the 3Rs and a bonus Q a try and see how much you can learn from reading material.