Reading books and textbooks is a great way to expand your knowledge, improve your cognitive skills, and grow professionally. However, the ability to read books faster and retain more information is a particular skill that can be especially helpful to students and other learners who want to benefit from reading. Here are some top tips on how to read books effectively:
Set a goal and choose carefully
Before you start, formulate a clear goal of why you're reading the book and what you want to achieve from it, or a learning plan, and start with the core and recommended reading in the subject or area you’re interested in. For example, you can ask AI chatbots like Chat-GPT or ChatSonic for book recommendations or search for book lists on platforms like Quora and Goodreads.
Create a reading schedule
Creating a reading schedule can help you establish a reading routine and make it a habit. Set aside a specific time of the day for reading and stick to it. For example, you can include it in your morning routine when you’re most alert. You can start with just 15-20 minutes a day and gradually increase the time as you get more comfortable.
Read with purpose
Set a purpose for each chapter or section and scan key information like the title, abstract, introduction, conclusion, headings, subheadings, bolded words or table of contents to evaluate whether this particular part of the book will help you to answer your assignment question, or get useful information on your topic of interest. Reading time is precious, and it isn’t worth it to waste it on the less relevant or redundant parts of the book.
There’s also a reading strategy called skim-reading allowing one to move through the text quickly focusing only on the main points and the overall message rather than details.
Make the habit of noting things down
For example, after reading a section or chapter of a book, reflect on them, writing a summary in your own words. While taking notes, also make sure to separate your own voice and ideas from the author’s. Ask yourself how you’re feeling about the text, how it resonates with you on a personal and professional level, what you have learned and, what’s most important, how it can be applied in practice. If possible, put the book down and take your time to apply your new knowledge.
Reading for long periods of time can be tiring and make it difficult to retain information. Take short breaks every 30-45 minutes to rest your eyes and recharge your brain. Use this time to stretch, walk around, or do a quick meditation.
Ask meaningful questions
Research shows that actually engaging with the text and asking better, more complex questions that can only be answered by integrating information from at least two different sentences help students improve their learning and retain information better. As you read, ask yourself questions about the content and try to answer them.