Reading Strategies:

Ideas & Links


If your problem is __ then try __.

A Good Start
What is a good reading environment?

Want More?
These links should help.




I can't remember what I read.
There are a couple of things you can do to fix this problem. One, you can simply talk to someone about what you have just read, like your mom or dad or your teacher. If you and a friend are reading the same book, talk to her about it. If there really is no one to talk with, talk out loud to yourself, Just talk about who the characters were, what they were doing, what problems they were having, etc. You can even talk about what might happen next.

In addition to talking about the book, you could write a short paragraph about what you just read. This is a good thing to do after each chapter. You can summarize the main plot, write about what's happening with the characters, and tell what you think will happen next. You can also write down questions that you have. This way, when you read on, your questions are still there, waiting to be answered.

Not being able to remember what you read could be connected to the next problem, too, so read on.

When I read, I find myself thinking about other things; then I have to read what I read all over again, sometimes twice.
Believe it or not, when this happens, you are reading too slowly. Most people think they have to slow down to understand what they read. But lots of times, we are reading too slowing for our brains. Our amazing brains can comprehend language at about 600 words per minute. Most of us speak and read much, much slower that that. So, sometimes, our brain gets bored when we're dawdling around in a chapter, and it starts thinking of other things to keep it occupied.

The key to fixing this problem is to be aware of it. The minute you find yourself thinking of something other than what you're reading, shake that out of your head (unless it's really important). Then, knowing that you've been reading too slowly, speed up. If you miss a word here or there, you will still understand the whole. In fact, you can sometimes leave out little words entirely (like a, an, the, etc.) and still "get it." If you're thinking, "I can't read faster," it's because you haven't tried. You can do it. It takes practice, but most of all, it takes a conscious effort to try to change old reading habits.

When there's important stuff on your mind, attend to it. If you need to make a note to remember to do something later, write it down, Then it won't nag at you. If you need to attend to your needs or someone else's first, then do it. We can't concentrate on anything when we are emotionally preoccupied with something important. A good book deserves our attention.


A Good Start

What is a good reading environment?
Despite what many students believe, a noisy, busy environment does not help one concentrate. It takes effort for the brain to filter out distractions, such as a radio or a television, and focus on one activity. While the brain is wired to process multi stimuli at once, it's not a good idea to intentionally distract it. Consider that the brain remembers what is attached to good emotions. Put yourself in a positive frame of mind before reading. If a student goes into a reading experience saying to him or herself, "I hate reading," or "This book is so dumb," he/she won't remember a thing and that will reinforce the negative feeling about the experience.

A good environment

  1. Is quiet (or soft music without words in the background).
  2. Is physically comfortable. For example, holding a book above you while lying down will tire your arms. Also, the eyes can't see in curves, so hold the book at an angle parallel to your line of vision.
  3. Has good light. Your eyes will get tired trying to focus in light that is too dim. On the other hand, florescent lights can produce a harsh glare that makes reading difficult. Some have found that shading a page from this glare with an index card (or similar) makes reading less of a strain on the eyes.
  4. Is not too warm or too cold. Any physical distraction can make a poor reading environment. For example, if you are hungry, thirsty, have to go to the bathroom, too tired, or sick, reading can be tough.

Creating a good emotional environment
Students who have traditionally had trouble reading for whatever reason, have to take a metacognitive look at the process of reading. It's important to ask these questions:

  1. Is reading important? Why? How will improving my reading skills help me outside of this class?
  2. What past experiences have made me feel that I am a bad reader? In what ways can I change how I feel about those experiences? (In other words, if you had a bad experience in 5th grade, can you recognize that you are older now and that experience is in the past? Is it possible to look at this and other new reading experiences with an open mind, free of past negative feeling?)
  3. What's in this book that I've chosen that I'm interested in? How does this book relate to me or to my life? What can I get out of this book?
  4. If I get in trouble with reading this book, what options do I have for getting help?
  5. How will I recognize if I need help understanding this book? What are the kinds of problems I am having? (Writing them down will help you understand what's not going right for you).
  6. Do I have the patience to let myself be a slow reader and to realize that it's not so bad to read slowly?
  7. Do I realize that the more I read, the more I will improve my reading skills? Do I have the commitment I need to improve my reading skills and the courage to ask for help when I need it?

After page one, then what?
The hardest part of getting into a book is getting into it. In the first several chapters, we are getting to know the characters, understanding the main conflicts, and getting used to the author's style. We have to give this some time. Unless we've read books by the same author before, it will usually take us three to four chapters to feel really comfortable with a book and to be hooked into it.

Too many people give up too early, or allow themselves to become frustrated too early. Even adults do this. It's important to maintain an open mind while in those first chapters. After that, the novel will probably have sucked us in and we'll become part of the characters and the setting. If not, maybe it was not a very good book after all, or maybe we just didn't connect. That happens sometimes.


Metacognition is when the individual thinks about thinking. It's when a person understands how his or her own thinking, reading, and writing processes are functioning. In this case, a metacognitive reader understands when the process is going well or not so well, and desires  to make changes in the process in order to improve it.


Want More?

"Four Reading Strategies for High School Students." Kathie Steele, Chugiak High School (Alaska)
This site is for high school students and gives you some organizational and graphical strategies for making meaning out of what you read. Spend some time here and see what you can learn. It's very well done.

Article by Anthony Daley, Wesleyan University
(from the American Political Science Association web site)
There's a lot of reading here, and it's mostly geared toward college students, but you can scroll to the part that relates to you and get some good advice.
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