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8 Tips To Remember What You Read

Horizontal Stacked BooksDespite television, cell phones, and Twitter, traditional reading is still an important skill. Whether it is school textbooks, magazines, or regular books, people still read, though not as much as they used to. One reason that many people don’t read much is that they don’t read well. For them, it is slow, hard work and they don’t remember as much as they should. Students, for example,may have to read something several times before they understand and remember what they read.

Why? You would think that schools teach kids how to read well. Schools do try. I work with middle-school teachers and they tell me that many students are 2-3 years behind grade level in reading proficiency. No doubt, television, cell phones, and the Web are major contributors to this problem, which will apparently get worse if we don’t emphasize and improve reading instruction.

Some of the blame can be placed on the fads in reading teaching, such as phonics and “whole language,” which sometimes are promoted by zealots who don’t respect the need for both approaches. Much of the blame for poor reading skills can be laid at the feet of parents who set poor examples and, of course, on the youngsters who are too lazy to learn how to read well.

For all those who missed out on good reading skills, it is not too late. I summarize below what I think it takes to read with good speed and comprehension.

  1. Read with a purpose.
  2. Skim first.
  3. Get the reading mechanics right.
  4. Be judicious in highlighting and note taking.
  5. Think in pictures.
  6. Rehearse as you go along.
  7. Stay within your attention span and work to increase that span.
  8. Rehearse again soon.

1) Know Your Purpose

Everyone should have a purpose for their reading and think about how that purpose is being fulfilled during the actual reading. The advantage for remembering is that checking continuously for how the purpose is being fulfilled helps the reader to stay on task, to focus on the more relevant parts of the text, and to rehearse continuously as one reads. This also saves time and effort because relevant items are most attended.

Identifying the purpose should be easy if you freely choose what to read. Just ask yourself, “Why am I reading this?” If it is to be entertained or pass the time, then there is not much problem. But myriad other reasons could apply, such as:

  • to understand a certain group of people, such as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.
  • to crystallize your political position, such as why a given government policy should be opposed.
  • to develop an informed plan or proposal.
  • to satisfy a requirement of an academic course or other assigned reading.

Many of us have readings assigned to us, as in a school environment. Or the boss may hand us a manual and say Read the rest of this entry »

What You Can do to Improve Memory (and Why It Deteriorates in Old Age)

After about age 50, most people begin to experience a decline in memory capability. Why is that? One obvious answer is that the small arteries of the brain begin to clog up, often as a result of a lifetime of eating the wrong things and a lack of exercise. If that lifetime has been stressful, many neurons may have been killed by stress hormones. Given theImprove Memory Bill Klemm most recent scientific literature, reviewed in my book Thank You, Brain, For All You Remember. What You Forgot Was My Fault, dead neurons can’t be replaced, except in the hippocampus, which is fortunate for memory because the hippocampus is essential for making certain kinds of memories permanent. Another cause is incipient Alzheimer’s disease; autopsies show that many people have the lesions of the disease but have never shown symptoms, presumably because a lifetime of exceptional mental activity has built up a “cognitive reserve.

So is there anything you can do about it besides exercise like crazy, eat healthy foods that you don’t like all that much, pop your statin pills, and take up yoga?

Yes. In short: focus, focus, focus.

Changing thinking styles can help. Research shows that Read the rest of this entry »

Try Thinking and Learning Without Working Memory

 

 

Imagine dialing a phone number by having to look up each digit one at a time in the phone book. Normally, you look up the number and remember all seven digits long enough to get it dialed. Even with one digit at a time, you would have to remember each digit long enough to get it dialed. What if your brain could not even do that! We call this kind of remembering, “working memory,” because that is what the brain works with. Working memory is critical to everyday living.

Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Fitness Update: Use It and Improve It

Here you are have the bi-monthly update with our 10 most Popular blog posts. (Also, remember that you can subscribe to receive our RSS feed, or to our newsletter, at the top of this page, if you want to receive this digest by email).Crossword Puzzles Brain fitness

In this edition of our newsletter we bring a few articles and recent news pieces that shed light on what “Use It or Lose It” means, and why we can start going beyond that to say “Use It and Improve It.”

The Neuron, The Brain, and Thinking Smarter

Read the rest of this entry »

New Neurons: Good News, Bad News

Over the last year we have gladly seen an avalanche of news on adult neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons in adult brains), following recent research reports. Further, we have seen how the news that physical exercise can enhance neurogenesis is becoming common knowledge among many health systems we work with.

Now, the obvious question that doesn’t always get asked is, “What good are new neurons if they don’t survive?”. And that’s where learning, enrichment, mental exercise, are critical.

We are glad to introduce a new Expert Contributor, Dr. Bill Klemm, a professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, who summarizes much research on how new neurons are born-and what they need to live long happy lives.

– Alvaro

New Neurons: Good News, Bad News

— By Dr. Bill Klemm

In the last few years, researchers have discovered that new nerve cells (neurons) are born, presumably from residual stem cells that exist even in adults. That should be good news for all of us as we get older and fear mental decline. The bad news is that these new neurons die, unless our minds are active enough.

Read the rest of this entry »

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