College Level Reading Strategies

Reading is important in today’s job market, and a good is dependent on your ability to critically ready, and acquire new complex information.

Welcome to the TLC’s College Reading Strategies Online Workshop.

Reading is important in today’s job market. The type of job you secure, will be based on how well you can read and apply new information; how well you can learn.

Reading is a skill learned late in human history. It is not as old as music or drawing skills. There is no single area in the brain devoted to reading, instead parts of the brain designed for other tasks are used to read. Reading does not come naturally, though learning does. Reading requires skills that have to be learned, and college level reading requires additional skills. In college, you are expected to read and understand what you read. But what exactly is reading? Reading is learning, it’s intentional, an active process, a task that requires focus and attention, it’s contextual, it’s two-way communication between and author and reader, it’s understanding and interpreting, thinking and reflecting, and making connections between previous experiences and learning.

Critical reading is a complex thinking technique that involves discovering and taking apart an author’s meaning, evaluating the author’s meanings based on established standards, and incorporating the meaning into the ideas you already know. Critical reading, as required for textbooks and other college reading material is more complicated than for reading done for pleasure, which is why college reading is more difficult and takes more time than pleasure reading. Critical readers employ strategies including identifying the authors’ ideas even when they’re not stated directly, recognizing patterns, questioning, prioritizing ideas, and identifying and evaluating arguments as well as creating new arguments.

Reading is an active process. Neuropsychologist Adele Diamond offers a good analogy for active reading; ‘To read well, you need to be the driver of the process.’ Who remembers a path to a destination better, the driver, or the passengers? The driver of course. The driver is actively engaged in the activity and is acutely aware of what is going on around him. He remembers details like what streets to turn on and what the speed limits are, and he keeps in mind his main idea; the final destination. The passengers, on the other hand, could pay attention to the road, but they could also text their friends, listen to music, and even take a nap. The passengers are involved in the driving experience, but for the most part, they are along for the ride; passively seeing what is around them. The driver is actively involved, purposefully making choices about what to do, where do go, and what information to concentrate on. To read well, you need to be active in your reading experience. Like a driver of a car, an active reader is purposely engaged in the reading process. An active reader focuses attention on the words on the page just like the driver keeps eyes on the road. An active reader constantly monitors comprehension. If he becomes passive in his reading, he may read each word but not carefully monitor his understanding. Like the passenger of a car, he may shift his focus from one thing to another. He may daydream. He may even fall asleep. Active reading is always better than passive reading. Active reading requires that you purposely do something with the reading material to help you remember it.

In order to be an active reader, you need to adopt a reading method like PSR, which stands for Preview, Study-Read, and Review. The key to PSR is purposeful, direct questioning before, during, and after reading, creating effective questions about your reading material and then answering them helps you confirm that you have correctly identified main ideas and details. What you should ask yourself depends on when in the reading process you are asking the questions.

You learn best when you can connect new information to the information you already know. The previewing step in reading is critical because it starts that process.

There are three steps in the previewing stage. Step one, skim the reading. Skimming means reading through quickly, skipping details, and focusing on the title of the chapter and, when available, the introduction, main headings, sub-headings, and summary. Step two, develop questions, and predict answers. Re-read the title headings, and whenever available, the sub-headings, and chapter summary, and develop questions about them using these six words; who, what, when, where, why, and how? Although, many of the questions that you create may be basic, they will help you pay closer attention as you read. Step three is recalling prior knowledge. Now that you have a framework for what you think the reading will be about, consider what else you know about the topic. Search your memory for every experience and every piece of information, or knowledge, you have stored about that topic. New information is best remembered when purposefully connected to information you already know about a subject. While you are learning this technique, you may want to write out what you already know to help you focus, then you and your brain will be prepared to study and read successfully.

Now that you have setup a framework of what you are about to read, you are ready to study-read. Study reading is a careful reading of an assignment during which you ask and answer questions as you read. Begin with the questions you created in the previewing stage and refine them as you delve deeper into the details of the reading. Start reading at the first heading, or the sub-heading, and ask the questions you developed during the preview stage. Read one complete section of a chapter at a time. Either read from heading to heading or for more challenging material, from paragraph to paragraph. Then, pause to ask and answer your previewing questions. Do not read chapters from beginning to end without pausing for questions and answers. Textbook chapters contain too much information to remember everything all at one time. Monitor your understanding of what you have read in one section before moving on to the next. Take notes on what you read to prepare for the review stage so you will not have to re-read the entire chapter, but only what is essential. As you read each section, be sure to identify the main idea and think about your prior knowledge. This is called cross-referencing. You cross-reference new information by determining what is similar or different between new information and your prior knowledge. If the new and prior knowledge are the same, you reinforce what you already stored in your memory. If the new and prior knowledge are different, you know that you need to continue to question, reflect, and investigate until you figure out what is correct.

Review at the end of your entire reading assignment. Begin by confirming the main ideas presented, and then organize the new information in a meaningful way. For example, if you know that the author uses a comparison/contrast pattern, create a chart that shows how things are similar and different. If you know that the author uses listing or process, create a visual that shows a list or the steps to that process.