This seems like quite a silly title, so you are probably thinking, ‘but I know how to read!’. The LGT Team also thought that until we found a book which made us realise that reading a book is a much more involved process than we assumed. The book was titled ‘How to Read a Book’, written by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. This book outlines the 3 stages of reading – beginning with elementary, then inspectional and finally synoptically reading.
Below is a summary of the most interesting points. LGT does however recommend that you go out there and read the book for yourself to ensure a more comprehensive understanding — this one is worth it. As English is a compulsory VCE subject, you will inevitably need to read a book to prepare for SACs and the exams. Hopefully the tips below will provide you with a better guide on how to read efficiently and maximise your understanding.
1. The first stage to inspectional reading is ‘Systematic Skimming or Pre-reading’.
It is important before you start reading a book, to gather a general idea of what you are about to read. Possible ways to skim or pre-read include:
a) simply looking at the title page or preface; or
b) study the table of contents; or
c) read the blurb; or
d) turn the pages, dipping in here and there, reading a paragraph or two.
Just gather a general idea of the book you are about to tackle, this will help set the scene and leave you with some initial impressions of what the authors work is based on, its themes, symbols or pivotal points.
2. The second stage to inspectional reading is ‘Superficial Reading
Most top-scoring VCE English students will advise you to read your assigned English texts more than once. Superficial reading is the foundation for a deeper understanding. Superficial reading is the act of reading a difficult book through once without ever stopping to look up things you don’t understand right away, or highlighting what you may believe has significance. This process allows you to grasp at the general idea of the book — the storyline, conflict, characters and themes. Once you have understood the book’s progression you will be able to efficiently read it again and make your annotations for a detailed study.
Other General tips:
- To increase your concentration/reading rate, use a finger or pen to trace the words as you read. This will allow you to focus at a more consistent rate by drawing your mind to the relevant place on the page.
- To become an active reader you must be alert while progressing through your book. Techniques which ensure this state of focus include internally asking yourself questions while you read — “What is the book about generally?” or “How does this character wwwelopment impact the themes?”
While you might be aware of these general ideas, a more structured approach to reading books in your VCE years will allow you to become a more efficient and active reader. Our next blogpost will build on the foundations we went through here!