How To Read More and Better
Tim Challies wrote an article on how to “read more and better”. His advice was useful, but in order to make it more useful to a student audience, I decided to take some (a lot!) of his thoughts and ideas and rewrite them for my own students. So, here they are!
Read. If you want to get better at running, you practice running. If you want to get better at playing the piano, practice playing the piano. The same goes for reading: if you want to get better at reading, you need to spend as much time as you can spare reading short stories, novels, magazine articles, poems, or anything else. The more you read, the easier it becomes, which allows you to read even more. Usain Bolt didn’t get better at sprinting by sitting at home and drinking coffee all day; he ran, and ran, and ran, and ran. The same goes for you and reading!
Read widely. If you like science fiction and only read science fiction, it can get tiresome after a while. Mix it up! Instead of reading a fourth book on the colonisation of Mars, try a western, or a work of non-fiction, or a book of poetry. When you mix it up, you give yourself a break from your favourite genre, and you might fall in love with a different genre!
Read deliberately. You need to make sure that you choose your books carefully. Going to the library and grabbing a random book off the shelf is usually a recipe for disaster. Try to divide up your reading into different categories, like “Good for school”, “Entertaining”, “History”, “I Need to Laugh”, and so on, then pick books from different categories each time you pick up a new book. Ask for suggestions from people you respect, or ask the librarian if he/she can recommend a book. Tell them what you read last and whether you liked it or not, and hopefully they’ll be able to give you a suggestion on what to read next.
Read interactively. The best way to get information or enjoyment from your reading is to work hard at it. Read with a pen in hand and annotate: write down questions, underline, wonder why the author said this or wrote it in that way. Question, question, question! Then, go back over what you’re reading and see if you can answer these questions. If you read with the intention of getting something out of the book, you’ll find that you’ll actually get something out of the book! Cool, eh?
Read heavy books. We’re not talking about how much it weighs if you put it onto a scale, but how dense or difficult the book is. Books like The Metamorphosis, though short, are “heavier” than longer books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It’s important to struggle with books once in a while: in order to become stronger, you need to lift weights that are heavy. It’s tiring, and you’ll get sore, but your body adapts and becomes stronger. The same goes for reading: reading heavy books in small doses will help you improve and become a better reader.
Read light books. On the other hand, it’s important to read light books on a regular basis as well. Personally, I get exhausted after reading one or two heavy books, and I find I need to read a few lighter books or else I become angry, frustrated, and annoyed with reading. This is especially true of poetry: poems are hard and thought-provoking, so it’s important to read light fiction in between reading individual poems.
Read new books. When I say “new”, I don’t mean “new to you” but books that have been recently published. What books are your friends reading? Teachers? Parents? What were the bestselling books of last year? Reading new books will help you to pick up on contemporary resources (“allusions”) that are made in recent films and television shows, and will also allow you to connect with people who are also reading these books.
Read old books. It’s also important to read older books. C.S. Lewis once said that he finds it important to read one old book for every new book he reads. Just because a book is old, it doesn’t mean that it’s worthless; sometimes you’ll find new ideas and new perspectives from books that are a hundred years old! Yes, vocabulary and concepts in older books may be challenging, but that’s okay. It’s good to be challenged sometimes.
Read what your heroes read. We all have heroes in our lives, people we wish we could become. Find out what they’re reading and read those books, too! It helps you to understand more about your hero, and it also helps to put you into a similar mental framework as your hero. If you think like your hero, then you’ll be more like your hero—and that can only be a good thing.
If you’d like to read the original article, you can find it here: http://www.challies.com/articles/read-more-read-better