Academics, Education

How to read a textbook?


You might be wondering what is unique about reading a textbook and why an article about textbook reading. I agree picking up a textbook and going through the pages is not a big deal, however they start feeling bored after an hour or so. Reading a book becomes laborious if you are reading it with a closed mind.  You may tend to space out while you read, and eventually forget a lot of what you had just read.

Being a student textbook reading habit is really vital and it adds a lot to your knowledge. Here are the few tips that can make reading an amazing experience.

1. Comprehension is the key !!

First and the foremost thing that one has to take care is : “Do not focus on speed”.  Reading and comprehending a couple of pages is more important than finishing 10 pages without having any context of it.  Reading a book with a pre-specified target of finishing a set of pages in a given amount of time is a grave mistake. What is the use of  reading a textbook without any idea of the content and the subject. One should focus on the comprehension of the text and  increase in the reading speed is just a derivative. You will notice a significant change in the eye span and speed .

2. Read to think!!

Never read a book to collect just facts and information.  Understanding the constructs inside the book is the cornerstone,  hence critical thinking is  the essence of an effective reading. So the question arises is how to understand the context and theories given in the book?

Work breakdown structure ( WBS ) is often used by managers at higher level. One can use this concept in reading as well. As the name suggests it is the fragmentation of the work into smaller pieces for a better understanding. If you are can get your fundamental right, erecting a building would not be difficult.

Let us take an example to understand the meaning of critical thinking. If you are reading a chapter in mathematics and mugging the equations and formula without thinking , its all useless. You won’t be able to recall the concept a day after or two. We know Sin^2 (X) + Cos^2 (X) =1 , where X is the angle is radians. This is a basic identity from trigonometric that students learn at high school level. So what is the best way to remember it? The best way is to make a triangle on the left hand side with sides marked as base, perpendicular and hypotenuse.  Now write the equation on the right side of the paper and put the value of sinx and cosx in the identity and you will see it holds true. This way you can understand what trigonometry is all about.

3.  Only read , understand but do not write

Taking notes while reading is a common thing that we see. Many people advocate about taking notes for a better understanding of the chapter, however it is not the case.  Our mind is good enough to retain things for a short term and that is what we do while taking notes. We just pick the content present in the short term memory and convert it into our notes. We won’t be able to recall the same equation or formula that we wrote an hour earlier.

Many people follow this practice of taking notes at the time of reading and thinking. Many students who has this habit of taking notes at the time of reading  score less as compared to the students who just read and understand. Hence the best way to understand a subject and retain it for a longer period of time is to write notes on a paper after finishing the chapter. By inculcating this habit one would be able to revise the chapter easily. If you are not able to recall any concept, just go back and read it again.

4. Use Distraction free mode of study

Distractions are all around you in the form of internet, television and people.  Hence, do not look around and keep your focus on reading and analysis of the content.  Moreover, brain gains focus after some time and its not an instant process.  If you take frequent breaks , you won’t be able to stay focused and performance starts to degrade. So taking frequent breaks is very bad, even if the break duration is very small. Ideal study session duration is 40 to 50 minutes, with 10 to 15 minutes breaks in between.

5. Recollect the facts at the end of the reading

As soon as you complete the reading , you should go for a short recall. Keep your eyes closed and brain open to rewind the facts, formulas, theories you  have read.  Since, you have finished reading a moment back, it is easy to take the snapshot of the things you have read.  Brain tend to retain the images and snapshots of the things we see and same holds true in the case of reading .  Start highlighting important points in the reading, which you can come back to for a quick review. At the end of the wrap up one should go though the notes to recollect important theories and concepts.

This  article is intended to motivate students for reading. Just follow the basic fundamental of reading and it will be fun to read. You might have seen people engaged in reading for hours and the only reason behind it the habit of reading. They have developed it after many years of focus and concentration. They have books as one of the best mates and this can be true for you as well. Thanks for the time.

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