Reading navigates us through virgin territory we would not otherwise explore. “Reading makes us more interesting to be around,” says another fellow. Have you ever wondered why the boredom factor in social gatherings is so great? After you’ve run through the weather, the kids, the job, and your recent surgery, what else is there? Being a reader adds oil to the friction in conversation. Here are some words of wisdom from the mouth of C. Neil Strait, a famous American author: “The hours spent in reading are investments in tomorrow. For reading sends us into the future with a great reservoir of knowledge from which we can draw at various times.”
But you can be a good reader — if you want to. Allow me to give you some ideas:
First of all, maintain a healthful routine. This simply means that to read at your best, you should be in good physical condition. Most of us read only when we are confined in the hospital or when we are stranded in an island.
One good thing to remember: Do not strain your eyes by reading in poor light or for excessively long periods. If you have not had an eye examination for some time, you should have one now. And if you are abnormally and frequently tired, arrange to have a physical condition.
When reading, avoid unnecessary distractions. Some people I know have trained themselves to read in noisy surroundings. Most persons, however, find it easier to read in a quiet atmosphere, away from disturbing sights and sounds. Quiet music on the radio usually will not interfere – in fact, it is rather an asset than a liability – but most other programs are likely to reduce reading efficiency.
Have a clean objective for your reading. Why do you read? And why do you read that kind of book? When you turn the printed page, you should have in mind a clear purpose for reading. Just saying the words silently while your mind is elsewhere, or when you have no goal for your reading, is a waste of time.
Ask questions while you’re reading; reach out for the answers. Reading is an active process, not a passive one. When you read a short story or a novel, for instance, try to ask yourself: “What will happen next? What will May do; now that June has left her?” When you read a description of a scene, read in order to visualize it in your mind, to fill in the missing details. Make the printed page your servant; do not let it be your master.
Your aim in reading will determine how you read. In some instances, as with an easy story, you will read rapidly, perhaps skipping passages that are not too relevant. At other times, as with a history book, you will read slowly, with careful attention to every detail presented or otherwise you will overlook some necessary information.
Finally, get the habit of reading widely. You can improve your reading ability only by reading profusely. Get the habit of reading a great deal. You may wish to start with a facile material – with the daily newspaper, a popular magazine like Reader’s Digest, or a book of easy short stories.
As you acquire fluency and pleasure in reading, try something complex. Pick an encyclopedia article dealing with a subject that really fascinates you – hunting or fishing, electronics and computers, motion pictures, arts and sciences, or some similar topics.
Try also to scan the pages of a novel that calls for more than customary effort to read – like “Gone With The Wind,” “The Good Earth,” or some other that your friends highly recommend. Have patience with the book; do not give up after the first few pages. Stay with it for several chapters until you know definitely whether or not you like it. Probably you will find yourself enjoying it.
When you read, don’t just read but think as well. Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge it is thinking that makes what we read ours.