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Eight Tips To Understand and Remember What You Read — Especially As You Read Nonfiction

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Despite Insta­gram, YouTube, Face­book, Twit­ter, and tele­vi­sion, (or per­haps pre­cise­ly because of all of them) tra­di­tion­al read­ing is still an impor­tant skill. Whether it is mag­a­zines, pro­fes­sion­al man­u­als or fas­ci­nat­ing books, peo­ple still need to read, now and in years ahead. And much of it is non­fic­tion mate­r­i­al, where it’s impor­tant to real­ly under­stand and then remem­ber what you are read­ing.

An unfor­tu­nate rea­son why many peo­ple don’t read much these days is that they don’t read well. Read­ing, for them, is slow, hard work and they don’t remem­ber as much as they should. They often have to read some­thing sev­er­al times before they under­stand and remem­ber what they read.

Why? You would think that every­one learns how to read well at school. Schools do try, but I work with mid­dle-school teach­ers and they tell me that many stu­dents are 2–3 years behind grade lev­el in read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy. Some of the blame can be placed on fads for teach­ing read­ing, such as phon­ics and “whole lan­guage,” which some­times are pro­mot­ed in shal­low ways that don’t respect the need for both approach­es. And much of the blame can be laid at the feet of par­ents who set poor exam­ples and, of course, on the young­sters who are too dis­tract­ed by social media and tele­vi­sion to learn how to read well.

Now the good news. For any­one who missed out on good read­ing skills, it is not too late to improve now. I sum­ma­rize below what I think it takes to read with good speed and com­pre­hen­sion. Read the rest of this entry »

How to improve memory skills and remember what you read: Beyond phonics and “whole language”

Horizontal Stacked BooksDespite the increas­ing visu­al media we are increas­ing­ly exposed to, read­ing is still an impor­tant skill. Whether it is school text­books, online news­pa­pers 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, Read the rest of this entry »

Update: Is Having a Brain a Medical Condition?

Time for Sharp­Brains’ August 2012 eNewslet­ter, fea­tur­ing in this occa­sion mul­ti­ple insight­ful per­spec­tives on how emerg­ing brain and cog­ni­tive sci­ence can be applied to  improve edu­ca­tion, clin­i­cal prac­tice, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and dai­ly liv­ing.

Fea­tured Per­spec­tives:

Research and News:

Have a nice Labor Day Week­end!

(Source of brain pic: Big­Stock­Pho­to)

In the Age of Google, Should Schools Teach Memorization Skills?

As school is about to resume, peo­ple are remind­ed of their strong opin­ions about how to fix schools: more fund­ing, bet­ter teach­ers, less gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence, more gov­ern­ment inter­fer­ence, etc. But the one obvi­ous, and nev­er-stat­ed prob­lem, is that stu­dents don’t remem­ber what they are taught. In spite of all the “teach­ing to the test” that par­ents and teach­ers com­plain about, stu­dents still don’t remem­ber the very things they were taught as answers to test ques­tions.

The rea­son they don’t remem­ber is that they are not taught how to mem­o­rize. Why is that? Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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