Language and literacy are among mankind’s greatest inventions. Evolving and even dying over the course of human history, languages are a reflection of our cultural and societal attitudes. Today, surrounded by social media, television, movies, billboards, and, of course, books, the ability to read and write is crucial to forming an identity and expressing one’s feelings. Most humans acquire language in early childhood and speak fluently when they are about three years old, but our continued relationship with language gives shape and meaning to our lives. Here are 5 ways to become a better reader.
Take it slow.
Many readers feel that they read too slowly, especially compared with others, but the truth is that the faster you read, the less likely you are to comprehend fully what you’re reading. The best readers are flexible—slowing down when needed, especially if weighty concepts or unknown words are grouped closely together—and always have a dictionary at hand. If you get to the end of a paragraph and realize you haven’t absorbed any of the information, do not hesitate to re-read the passage. Reading is a lifelong process: learning to read closely and slowly will help you become faster over time without missing anything.
When humans first began reading written words, it was unusual to read in silence. Though generally inappropriate for commuters or for late-night adventurers, reading out loud is one of the best ways to improve your reading ability. You may feel silly reading to your cat (or to no one at all), but once you get into the rhythm of the author’s voice, you will begin to read more accurately and with better vocal expression. Try listening to the author reading their own work—you’ll be surprised to find how clearly it comes through on the page.
Can you remember the first piece of writing that transported you to another world? One of the most powerful moments in a young, fluent reader’s life is learning to enter into the lives of imagined heroes and heroines. Subtleties of language and perspective become potent clues to deeper underlying meanings, and are easy to miss for even the most seasoned readers. As you read, let the language inform your pace, give pause to important gestures and dialogue, and allow striking ideas to simmer. In no time, you’ll be appreciating novels like fine wine.
Writing and reading go hand-in-hand: how and what you read affects how and what you write, and the best readers often make the best writers. But while much can be learned from close, repeated readings, there are many secretive pleasures to language that can only be experienced through the practice of writing. This is why certain authors are labeled “writer’s writers”; another level of meaning and intense appreciation exists for those who create rather than simply observe. Try writing every day for a month; you will never read the same again.
Tell your friends.
All of literature is essentially communication from an individual’s inner voice to an audience. Though Franz Kafka’s dying wish was that all of his works—written in obscurity, often late at night, and mostly unpublished—be burned, aren’t we glad his friend, Max Brod, didn’t listen? There is something magical about sharing books with friends or a book club. It’s a good way to see the world from someone else’s eyes and, in the process, critically examine your own reaction to what you’re reading.
Do you have any other helpful tips for becoming a good reader? Please leave a comment in the box below!