How to Read Better

Over the last year we have lived through our keyboards, reading and writing more than ever before. Worldwide, 45% of people are spending longer on social media than this time last year. Not only are people searching for information on the pandemic, they’re also using the written word to connect with others during this physically restricted time.

Books have also experienced a surge in popularity too, and book sales are up 35%. Small wonder when we all know the escapism that reading can bring. In fact, a survey by the Book Trust found that 76% of adult readers believed reading improved their lives and made them happier.

Much has been made of the link between success and reading too. For example, Tom Corley’s study of self-made millionaires found that 88% of respondents read for at least 30 minutes a day.

Fast or slow?

Bill Gates reads 50 books a year, and according to speed reading coach Jim Kwik, it shouldn’t be too hard for mere mortals to catch up. Kwik calculated that the average person reads 200 words per minute, which means it should take 320 minutes, or a week of reading just 45 minutes each day, to finish a book. (You can find out about Kwik’s free speed reading masterclass here).

But there are others who say that the benefits of reading are only to be found when slowing down. Professor and author of Slow Reading in a Hurried Age, David Mikics says real reading is slow reading. He likens the internet to a ‘glorified fidget spinner’, where skimming and rushing causes us to miss out on the benefits and pleasures of deep, thoughtful reading.

Back to school

But how, exactly, do you read deeply? Most of the experts’ advice goes back to the things you did as a school pupil; including removing your phone from easy reach!

It’s a huge distraction that ruins the flow and focus that deep reading requires.

If might feel like desecration, but highlighting sections and making notes in the margins of books (like you did for GCSE English!), will really help you absorb the work. Backtrack over trickier sections that don’t immediately make sense.

For particularly difficult passages, reading aloud can vastly increase comprehension. And on this note, it might be worth giving audiobooks a try. If you love words, but not in the written format, audiobooks are a great way to absorb the work of your favourite authors. Even more so when the authors read their own work. 

Read for fun

If the issue that’s stopping you becoming a better reader is less technical, and more motivational, then change the way you think about reading. Prioritise enjoyment and only pick up the books you think you’re going to love. (Re-reading is fine too!).

What books do you want to read, regardless of how improving, or not, they actually are? Make a list. The satisfaction of working your way through it is immense, and it also means you’re more likely to remember the stories in years to come. If you’re not enjoying a book, simply stop reading it. Apparently only one-third of readers always finish a book, and there’s very little pleasure to be gained by forcing yourself to plough on through.

Reading should be one of life’s greatest pleasures. Nurture your love for it and you’ll have a lifelong hobby that brings joy, escapism, and hopefully much success!