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Ways to Improve Reading Retention

Updated on August 31, 2012
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.


Reading is easy. It's just remembering what you read that is so hard. Don't feel bad if that is what is happening to you. Lots of people have trouble retaining what they have read. It's common. Why? There are hundreds of reasons including a difficult subject and just too much going on in our lives. But you don't have to just accept it. You can improve your reading retention.

Go Slow

To really remember what you read, you can't read fast. Slow is the key. The slower you read, the better your brain will be able to remember it. Slow reading allows the brain to process the information.

Think of it like this.

You're driving down the road you've never been down at about twenty-five miles per hour. You have the time to take in the scenery and landmarks to get back home. Now, take that same trip going seventy miles an hour. Do you have time to catch as much? Can you see every street sign?

You retain more when you go slow.


Repeating things really helps. I was once told that if you repeat someone's name you just med three (3) times that you'll remember it better. Sometimes that does work for me.

When I tell my children to get something while we are shopping, I have them repeat back to me what I said. That reinforces to them the conversation. They won't get to the wrong aisle and wonder what they were to get. They'll remember repeating it to me.

When you have to remember the last five vice-presidents, say their names out loud several times. Even if you are just reading it from a piece of paper, repeat it over and over. This information sinks in without you even knowing it.


Take Notes

Taking notes is another way of repeating to yourself what is said. Let's say you are listening to a politician give his speech. You will not remember everything he said much less remember it correctly. That is why a reporter takes notes.

Don't write word for word. Write down main points. Abbreviate in a manner that you will be able to understand later. Notes are great ways to reinforce what you hear.

The same works for reading. As you are reading, highlight in the book if you can. Take notes in the book or in a notebook. Reading it is one thing. Writing down the highlights of what you read helps to remember what you read.


Eliminate Distractions

When I'm trying to read for school and remember the big points, the television in the background drives me insane. I have to read sections over and over again to get the point the writer is trying to make. The sound of the kids playing is just as bad.

You have to eliminate the distractions.

Granted you cannot exactly eliminate the kids or the television no matter how tempting. But you can eliminate its effect on you. Turn off the TV. Move to another room. Put in earplugs. Find a place that is conducive to studying and allows you to focus on what you are reading so you can remember it.


When you have finished reading, scan back over the material. You could do it as soon as you have read the material, but do it again later, too. Review what you read a few hours later or the next day. Don't read the whole thing again. Read your notes. Read the headings. Scan it. Review it.


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    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 5 years ago

      great advice here! I used to actually panic a little if i read something - and didn't immediately understand it! I've adopted a lot of your methodologies without even knowing it! I adore reading(and am pretty good at but tend to be a little OCD - meaning - if i pick up a book - it's almost impossible to put it down! I'll fore go eating, chores, sleeping,