Reading actively or being an active reader are phrases that are commonly encountered in the academic sphere. Here, we’re going to cover active reading in general, not just for the purposes of academia, though the process can be useful in schooling. But what do they mean? In short, it comes down to how much a reader interacts with a text and how much they absorb what they have read. At Tudor Tutoring, we’ve put together a process that we’ve found works for most people to become more active readers.
Firstly, we should mention that there are many misconceptions about active reading, which we’ve covered in a separate blog post. We suggest starting with those here.
We’d recommend starting slowly as the first step. Do not expect to become an active reader in a short time. This is not a skill that is very easy to pick up; it’ll take some time and effort. As the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so too, a lot of important concepts, ideas and skills take time and effort to master. In terms of starting slowly, we recommend starting with reading something you are comfortable with, whether a magazine, novel or blog. By starting where you are comfortable, it will give you the confidence to move into other texts where you might not be as knowledgeable.
Once you have selected a genre/media (Print Media, e.g. books, newspapers or magazines, Internet) you are comfortable with, read it through, if it is short. If it is a book, you can skip this step. Reading it through gives you an understanding about the main ideas, or what the text is trying to say, and this can help with the next steps.
Now, we’d suggest that you start interacting with the text. What we mean by this is, you should start connecting the text to your experiences and asking questions of the text and seeing whether you can remember or find the answers. For example, if you are reading a text about woodworking, you can connect this to a time when you tried to create something. Common questions we suggest asking are: “Why did he/she/they do that?”, “What does this tell me about…?”, “Does this change anything in my life?” and so on. Generally, just reading the title will get you to think of questions and, hopefully, reading the text will give you answers to some of them. Sometimes, you may have to look elsewhere for questions that you have not had answered in the original text. This is an excellent sign that you are starting to read actively.
Once you feel comfortable with the media you have selected, step outside of the topic you are at ease reading and select something different. For example, if you like to read fashion magazines, consider reading a gardening magazine, or if you prefer celebrity gossip blog posts, consider reading a history blog. Within a similar medium, you can generally ask the same questions of the text.
DID YOU KNOW?
A qualified tutor can be an excellent resource to help ease the transition for you or your child to becoming an active reader.
Next, find we’d suggest branching out into a different writing style than the one you have used so far. That is, if you have been reading magazines, choose books or blog posts and vice-versa. Different styles of writing, like different genres, will require different questions to be asked. For example, asking “Can I use this in my life?” makes sense while reading a gardening magazine, but may make very little sense when reading a celebrity gossip blog. The different questions that you ask will develop the “active reader” part of your brain to allow you to do this effortlessly (with enough practice).
Now, the question remains, if you follow these steps, does that mean that you are an active reader? The answer is yes and no. Becoming an active reader is something that takes a lot of time to master and do subconsciously. While it will require a lot of focus and thought in the beginning, once your mind gets used to the exercise, it will become more routine and a skill you can use with any text.