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Reading Myths

Some of the following are merely “urban legends” of the study world.  You won’t even have seven years of bad luck if you break them.

Reading once is enough.

Sorry.  You won’t get off that easily.  Skimming first (very rapidly) to determine the main idea will help you to identify the more important parts of the book.  Then you should read, paying more attention to the important sections, and less to the others.  When you review your notes and the chapter itself, you are in essence reading again.  This makes a minimum of three times!

Some students feel inadequate if they have to read a chapter more than once.  Granted, there may be students who have had more experience with a certain topic, and their background or motivation is higher.  For these students, going through the textbook one time may be enough.  For most, reading once is definitely not enough.  You don’t, however, want to force yourself to read the same thing over, and over again.  If you know the right techniques, you can reduce the number of times you read a chapter and get more out of it.  Good reading is selective reading—read a paragraph, make sure you understand the meaning, and move on.  Spend more time learning new ideas instead of simply processing text.

I can’t skip passages.

Scholars believe that this attitude developed from days when the Bible was the main book read.  You read, reread, and thoroughly digested every word.  However, we are living in a different period, and are reading different types of media.  You make decisions daily on what you want to spend time reading, and what you need to skip—newspaper articles, emails, sections you aren’t covering in class, etc.  Again, you need to decide what is important, and what you can skip.  Don’t waste your time.

I have to read every word.

Why?  Most of them are meaningless.  If you spend time digesting every “the,” “and,” and “of,” you will only bog yourself down and waste time.  Instead of wasting time conceptualizing these irrelevant words, concentrate on the ones that count!

If I read too quickly, my comprehension will drop.

Research shows that there is a very small connection between comprehension and reading speed (contrary to the opinion of my second grade reading teacher).  You can read quickly and understand just as easily as you can read slowly and not understand!  Comprehension only depends on how well you are able to pick out the important information—not on your reading speed.  If you learn the right techniques, your speed and comprehension will improve.

My eyes won’t let me read quickly.

Then get your eyes checked.  If you have trouble focusing, you’ll have trouble reading.  Otherwise, talk to someone in Learning Support Services to help you become a better reader.

Reading is the same as studying.

If it were only true!  If you read text without reading for meaning or comprehension, it won’t do you any good.  There are many ways to study—reading is just one of them.  If you rely on reading alone, you may be in trouble by the end of the semester.

For more information on textbook reading or other study skills, make an appointment with someone in Learning Support Services.