Saturday, October 13, 2012

Increase Reading Comprehension by Pre-Reading

Reading a book
Reading a book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Celia Webb

Understanding what you read is critical to extracting the information you need.

And while factors like having a large vocabulary contribute to understanding what the author intended, another technique can help you comprehend more of the information more thoroughly. That technique is pre-reading.

You do not have to be a "good" reader to benefit from this approach. Here's how to increase your reading comprehension for any book.

First, decide what you need to know from the book. Are you reading this book to glean information for your job or for a class in school? Does it contain the information you need? Are you reading it because you want to learn how to do something? Does it explain the processes in sufficient detail? Are you reading this book for pleasure? Knowing what your goal is will help you determine how you will read it.

Next, look at the book's structure and preview these elements. Most books have jackets or covers which point out some of the features of the book. Look over the title page, preface, introduction, or foreword, chapter headings, chapter subheadings, and index.

These elements will give you a sense of the subject matter and how it will be presented. If the book includes illustrations, diagrams, charts, graphs, quizzes, practice questions, or a glossary, scan them quickly to get a sense of the information transmitted and clarity of presentation.

Now, map out the information you have gathered. You can do this on paper or in your mind, but take a moment to specify the main idea of the book and its supporting arguments or sections. Your map might be in outline form using the contents listing as a start or you might construct a memory tree with the basic idea as the trunk and the subsidiary ideas as branches.

Then, quickly read the last paragraph of each chapter as these will be chapter summaries. This will give you the big picture of what the book contains and allow you to assess whether or not this book will meet your reading goal.

Finally, read through the book at a very high rate of speed. Do not let yourself slow down to absorb details. Run your finger at a rapid pace across the lines of text to make yourself move through the material quickly.

Your reason for reading through the entire tome at this high rate of speed is to grasp the basic idea and main points. When you push yourself through the material very quickly, you will see the big picture and appreciate the organization the author has used to explain his thesis.

Once you have finished these steps, you will know whether this book requires any more of your time to pull out the information you need. You may now have everything you wish to learn from this book. Or, you may find there are specific sections which you need to look at more closely.

In either case, you will increase your comprehension by understanding the main idea of the book and its major subsections. Mapping these points in your mind and fleshing out the map with details will give you a better way of remembering and understanding the book's topic. You will have increased your reading comprehension by examining the "big picture" of the book.

Celia Webb, President of Pilinut Press, Inc., publishers of advanced readers for children and ESL students. Check out for more free articles on developing reading-related skills, word games and puzzles, and activity sheets for the company's entertaining and educational books.

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