Effective Reading

Reading is a very active skill. There are many different types of books and one may read a book for many different purposes. There are a variety of speeds one can use in reading a book, and one can read at varying levels as well. At a post-secondary level, the goal of reading is to be able to analyze the book: its content, purpose, perspectives, and conclusions. Analytical reading is a thorough and effective reading level that encompasses the ability to fully understand the author's intent, to process the given information and to respond intelligently from different perspectives.

Analytical reading is the ability to:

  • Classify the book according to type, genre, etc.
  • State the unity of the book in one sentence (the theme)
  • Outline the major parts of the book and show how they relate to each other
  • Find out what the author’s problems were and what s/he was trying to accomplish
  • Understand what the important terms are and how the author uses them
  • Be able to construct the arguments from the author’s point of view (even if you do not agree)
  • Find the author’s solution or conclusion
Remember: A book is not yours until you have written in it!! (but if it is not yours, then don't write in it!!)

In order to comprehend a book more and be able to interact it with it, you need to ask questions of the book as you read.


  • What is the book about as a whole?
  • What is being said in detail and how?
  • Is it true (in part or in whole)?
  • What is its significance for me now?


  • Highlight/underline important sentences
  • Comments in the margins re: text
  • Outline the main ideas in summary form on a separate sheet or a 3x5 card

The following are some steps to take as you read.

Pry Out Questions

1. Preview the book by looking for familiar concepts, facts, or ideas
2. Write a quick outline from surveying the table of contents
3. Invent questions you would want to ask the author; turn chapters and other headings into questions

Root Up Answers

1. Begin to read with the mindset of looking for the answers to your questions
2. Pay attention to your attention (how & when you mind wanders)
3. Schedule breaks
4. Read difficult material out loud
5. Be active in your reading by underlining and writing words or short comments
6. Use symbols in your book
7. Write down the answers to your questions

Recite, review, and review again

1. Talk to yourself about what you have just read
2. Re-read your highlights and recite as much as you can remember
3. Talk to others about what you have read
4. First review within 24 hours
5. Regular reviews towards exam time

Things that Hinder Reading

Regression: Eyes revert back to what has already been read
Fixation: Eyes stop too long or too often on the words

It is important to develop smooth reading ability:

  • Relax! The book is not a monster. Believe it or not, it really wants to tell you something.
  • Be prepared to work at your reading skill.
  • Practice the smooth reading techniques regularly, especially when learning them.
  • Your reading rate is flexible; your speed will vary according to the material you are reading. But, if you double your rate in one area, you will double it in other areas.

Here is a common question and concern:
Will I lose comprehension if I read faster?

The fear among students that comprehension will drop as speed goes up is quite common. On the contrary, however, most readers find that their comprehension goes up as they increase speed because they are concentrating much more on their reading than they ever did before. . . . New reading skills become a tool that will help you get the comprehension you want.
(From Johnson, Ben E. How to read better and enjoy it more. Harvest House Publishers, Irvine, CA.,1973)

Counselling Services offers help with academic issues such as reading. Please click here to schedule an appointment with a counsellor if you would like to talk to someone about improving your study skills.