Reading is one of the core language skills that we all develop over time. It takes focus, undivided attention, practice, and last but not least, patience to develop strong reading skills. Although it takes time to improve reading skills, it is not impossible. All it takes is determination and commitment to do what it takes to improve your reading skills.
In this post, I am sharing ten tested and proven ways to improve your reading skills. Also, as a bonus, you will get a list of books to help you improve your reading skills in the shortest possible time.
So without further ado, here you go:
01. Know what you are reading
Before you even read, you select and choose the book you are reading. Right? What if you like science fiction and I ask you to pick a biography of Einstein and make sure you understand it well? In my teaching practice, I have come across thousands of students with underdeveloped reading skills because of two reasons:
- They are asked to read the books they don’t like or haven’t explored the genre to decide whether they like it or not.
- They have not developed a habit of reading books. Like it or not, to improve your reading skills, you must develop the habit of reading. Be it a newspaper, a blog, a storybook, whatever it is…You can only improve your reading skills if you develop a habit of reading.
02. Know your purpose of reading
Before reading, if you know the purpose of your reading you are most likely to use your reading time efficiently and make the most out of it. For example, if you are reading a novel, annotating or highlighting the text may help you. If you are reading a product manual, you need to know the exact meaning of the steps given so that you can understand and follow them. In any case, you need to pay attention to the unfamiliar words, sentences, and their meaning.
03. Use skimming and scanning techniques
To get the gist of the text, skim the text. Look at the headings and subheadings to know the overall meaning of the text. Paying attention to the stylistic features such as font size, font style, pictures, graphics, captions, and other text features helps you determine the overall meaning of the text. It also helps in understanding the genre and purpose of the text.
Scanning, on the other hand, helps you look for the exact information for specific purposes. It helps you to read for meaning and develop your understanding of the text. To get detailed information, read the text closely and with special focus. Scanning helps you understand the text in detail and locate the information needed within the text.
Both these techniques help to improve your reading skills.
04. Read aloud
Reading aloud is a great way to improve your reading skills. When you read the text aloud, you listen to it. This way you not only read but also listen to the text being read aloud. This helps you understand the text better as you engage more than one sense. It also keeps you focused and improves your reading speed and fluency.
05. Annotate and highlight
I always encourage my students to use pencils/ pens or highlighters to underline and mark difficult or interesting words, sentences, and paragraphs. This skill saves you time and energy and helps you understand the text better. Underlining, encircling, and highlighting reflects active engagement with the text you read. It helps in improving your comprehension of the text you read. You can use different signs to mark at different points to refer to later on. For example, you can write a question mark in the margins next to the paragraph which makes you question the characters’ actions in the story. Other symbols that you can use are: an exclamation mark to indicate the interesting part of the text, a heart symbol to mark the part of the text that you like the most, or an asterisk to denote the most interesting words.
The benefits of undertaking such a tedious task of annotating and highlighting text are many. It does take time, but it saves you time especially when you are preparing for exams. It helps retain the information you gain and it further helps when you refer to the annotated text for summary writing, answering questions, or writing essays.
06. Be persistent
When you choose a book to read, start by reading its blurb (found at the back of the book). This gives you an idea about its content. Although I do not recommend my students to switch books, it is okay if you read the first half of the book and feel that it doesn’t appeal to you. You can certainly pick another one. Remember, you should aim to finish a book.
What we read helps us create images in our minds as we read. This is particularly specific to descriptions and stories. Visualizing is an active reading skill that helps us understand the text better.
When you read a text, try to summarize key paragraphs (using one sentence summaries i.e. summarizing the key points in a sentence). This is extremely helpful in improving text comprehension. You can use these key sentence summaries to write an overall summary of the text, which will strengthen your overall understanding of the text.
Yes, question! When you are reading a text, think about asking yourself questions about the text. Don’t just depend on your teacher to assign you a comprehension question set, a quiz, or a test. When you question what you read, you engage in meaningful thinking about the text you are reading. This helps you improve your reading skills. For example, you may be reading Holes by Louis Sachar about Stanley’s hardships and might ask yourself, “Why are the boys digging holes?”
10. Guess the meaning
One of the most important reading skills is using context clues to guess the meaning of difficult words. Suppose you do not know the meaning of the word ‘nuzzled’ while reading 1984 by George Orwell. You can read the sentence and try to figure out the meaning of the word ‘nuzzled’ by looking at the way it has been used in the sentence, the words around it, or the part of speech it is.
Let’s read the sentence: Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.
Although you may not know the exact meaning of the word nuzzled, you may still figure out it is an action word – Winston nuzzling his chin into his breast to escape the wind. You may think that Winston is hiding his chin or thrusting his chin. It is fine even if you do not know the exact meaning, but by using the sentence as a clue to the words’ meanings, you are improving your reading comprehension skills and vocabulary.
Best Books to Improve Your Reading Skills
Now, I am going to share with you a list of the best books to improve your reading skills. With regular practice, I am sure you will see better results.
- How to Improve Reading Comprehension Quickly: By Knowing Your Personal Reading Comprehension Style
- 35 Reading Passages for Comprehension: Main Ideas & Summarizing
- Proven Speed Reading Techniques: Read More Than 300 Pages in 01 Hour. A Guide for Beginners on How to Read Faster With Comprehension
- High School Reading Comprehension
- Painless Reading Comprehension (Barron’s Painless)
- The Reading Strategies Book
Frequently Asked Questions
In this post I have tried to answer these frequently asked questions related to improving reading comprehension skills:
- How can I make my comprehension of reading stronger? You can improve your reading comprehension skills by following the ‘Ten Ways To Improve Your Reading Skills’ I have shared in this post. Be persistent, use annotating and highlighting as a way to improve your reading comprehension as you read. Question, visualize, and summarize the text you read.
- How can I improve my English reading skills? As shared above, use skimming techniques to get the overall idea of the text and scanning to understand the text deeply. Choose a book that you like and use the 10 ways I have shared in this post to improve your reading skills.
- How does one improve reading comprehension in literature? This article ‘Ten Ways To Improve Your Reading Skills’ will also be helpful in improving reading comprehension when you are reading literature. You can benefit from questioning, visualizing, summarizing, annotating and highlighting, and guessing the meaning of unfamiliar words as you read.
I hope you found this helpful and I would like to hear from you. Leave your questions in the comments below and let me know how these ‘Ten Ways to Improve Your Reading Skills’ have helped you improve your reading skills.