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How To Properly Read A Book For Longer Retention

Updated on March 6, 2016

The world has greatly transitioned from the age of paper & ink towards the internet and mobile devices. Despite this, traditional reading (e.g. of books, magazines etc) is still a very important skill. Although many people still read, it is not as much as they used to and this is due to lack of proper reading skills. It is very important to learn how to read properly and retain the information for long.

Why do we fail to retain what we have read?

  • Pessimism - many people do not retain what they read because they underestimate their ability to retain information.
  • Understanding - It is very easy to forget what you have read if you don’t take time to comprehend or if you don’t understand it.
  • Failure to review - many people tend to forget what they have read if they do not go through it again.
  • Lack of attention and effort - If you are passively reading and not attentive enough it will be more difficult for you to retain what you are reading.
  • Interference - Failure to retain information for long is greatly contributed by environmental distractions, stress and even anxiety.

The above are just but a few reasons as to why many people do not retain what they have read. The following tips on how to properly read a book for long retention will be of great help to anyone who wants to read, understand and remember what they have read even after a long time.

1) Know your purpose, concentrate and be attentive

Every time you read a book, you should ask yourself the question ‘why am I reading this?’ Think about how that purpose is being fulfilled during the actual reading and this will help you to stay on task and focus all your attention on the relevant points of the text. This will also help you save time & effort because you are more attentive to the relevant points.

It is very easy to identify the purpose of your reading and it will serve as a guide as you read.

Remembering a concept that you just read for the first time may not be easy unless you deeply concentrate on it. It is more effective when you concentrate on one concept or point at a time and make sure that you are very alert while reading.

It is also very important that you identify the times when your mind is really focused & able to concentrate and then do your reading during those times.

Another way in which you can improve your concentration is by developing interest in what you are reading. Reading uninteresting subjects may be boring and this makes it difficult to concentrate. If what you are reading is not that interesting, personalize it or at least look for a way to motivate yourself into reading it.

Try to understand that concept and you will realize that once you have understood, your interest in it will greatly increase and so will your ability to retain it.

2) Skim first

This is also another important tip that will help you retain what you are reading. When you are skimming, you put more emphasis on pictures, headings, tables, graphs as well as the key paragraphs.

Skimming will help:

  • Prime your memory therefore making it easier for you to remember when you read it again
  • Orient your thinking and this will help you know where the important points are in the entire document/book
  • Create an overall sense of the book/document making it much easier to remember certain points.

3) Highlighting and note taking

Using a highlighter, make sure that you mark a few important points while you are reading and this will serve as the basis for mental pictures & reminder cues. You can also add some key words in the margins but do not overdo it but avoid highlighting the wrong/unimportant points because this will lead to confusion.

Any highlighted text should be rehearsed in the context of why it should be remembered, how it fits the purpose (of your reading), as well as how it fits the important content preceding it.
When you highlight the important texts and take notes after you first read, rehearsing & memorizing will be much easier. This helps tremendously with memory and retention.

4) Think in pictures

Pictures are easier to remember than words and can also capture the essence of many words. You should make mental images of the meaning of the highlighted text and this is very useful in memorizing.

Once you have highlighted some important keywords (e.g. headings, subheadings), think of a mental image associated with that keyword. Thinking hard of what you are reading and creating mental images of it is of great help in ensuring that you retain that content.

5) Confidence

You have to be very confident when reading new concepts if you want to retain it. Even if you struggle at first, be optimistic and incase you need help, do not hesitate to ask. Make sure that you are relaxed & comfortable enough and that you are not in a rush. Note that, if you are in a rush to finish reading, you will not be attentive enough and what you read will not be retained in your memory for long.

6) Organization

As you process the information you are reading, try to be very organized otherwise you will experience information overload which is not good. If the text you are going through is large, you can subdivide it into smaller, more manageable sections and try to understand each section/part.

As you progress with your reading, you will be able to link one section with the other and have a better understanding of the whole book. This will greatly help you retain the information for long.

7) Recitation and review

Once you have finished reading a chapter of the book, take a few minutes to re-summarize it. By doing so, you will also be testing your understanding of the subject. Try to review immediately you finish and this will greatly help improve your memory and your ability to retain for long.

It is also important that you re-read once you finish reading for the first time. When reading for the second time, you will have known what to focus on and where to pay more attention to and you will spend more time on those areas. This will help you absorb more information and therefore retain it for a long time.

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Do you have any other tips and tricks for longer retention?

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    • profile image

      Abdul 2 years ago


      Actually, this is a good way to express our experience

      and also gives ability to write and think how to

      write good articles....Everyone must write articles

      : D. Good job, cheers... Thanks.