Improve Your Reading—You Can Do It!
ADMITTEDLY, there is no magic formula for better reading. However, if you can read, then you can read better! We cannot hope to read better without reading regularly. At least half an hour a day should be set aside for this purpose—more if possible.
The Need to Be Selective
Be selective in what you read. Choose material that contains words familiar to you and subjects that are not technical. Then, progressively select material that will develop your vocabulary.
Be selective in another sense, too, for not all literature is upbuilding or refreshing to the mind. A wise man once said: “To the making of many books there is no end, and much devotion to them is wearisome to the flesh.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12) Publications abound today and many provide wholesome reading. Select those that will benefit you the most morally and spiritually. In the Bible book of Proverbs, chapter 13, verse 20, it states: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” This principle applies as much to selecting what one reads as to being selective with the company one keeps.
A Change in Reading Habits
Obviously, we cannot read at birth. Like many other things in life, reading is a skill that is developed. Can a person become a good pianist without practicing on a piano? Or can anyone become a good tennis player without playing a lot of tennis? If a person develops bad habits early in his career as a pianist or tennis player, he must correct them or remain handicapped by them.
This is true of reading. If, at an early age, a student develops bad reading habits, he handicaps himself. As a result, he must struggle through life, wrestling with the printed page with very limited reading skills. As he gets older, it becomes more difficult to break bad reading habits. But this can be done—if a person is willing to make the effort! Let’s consider some of these habits.
The primary physical aspect of reading involves eye movement. Each time you read a line of print, your eyes make a series of stops, or fixations. These fixations are important because it is only when they occur that the eye really sees what is there. During these intervals, the visual impression is transmitted to the brain for “decoding.” The brain, not the eye, does the reading. Your eyes are an extension of your brain.
A slow reader stops at almost every word. This disjoints the messages sent to the brain, and reading becomes a chore because the eyes are overworked and little of what is read is remembered. In contrast, efficient readers have smooth and rhythmic eye movements as they progress over a page of print. They learn to reduce the number of visual stops, or fixations, per line. By reading phrases or word groupings, they are able to move more rapidly over a page of print and increase their comprehension.
This brings up the matter of regression. To regress means to go back and reread material already read. Most regressions are habitual. Of course, there are times when a particular thought may be obscure. To go back and reread what was said may then be essential. However, most regressions are not really necessary and merely slow down the reader. Whenever possible, avoid regressing.
Another habit that many authorities believe hinders good reading development is vocalization. That is when the reader moves his lips, actually saying every word to himself. Similarly, some people say the words to themselves silently, “hearing” them in the mind. This is known as subvocalization. Vocalizing or subvocalizing limits the number of words we can read per minute because, in effect, we are reading only about as fast as we speak. The average person may speak about 125 words per minute, while records show that an average reading speed is 230-250 words per minute.
Since there are many things we will want to read over faster than we can do while vocalizing, it would be good not to make vocalizing a general practice. Make yourself read faster than you could possibly vocalize or subvocalize. Make an effort to read word groupings. And remember, vocalization or subvocalization is generally not an aid to comprehension.
However, as with regression, there are times when vocalization may be appropriate. If one wants to meditate deeply on certain material, or to commit it to memory, then it could be helpful not only to repeat words over and over again but also to vocalize to some extent. Generally this is done “in an undertone,” or aloud.
Interestingly, Joshua, a leader of the ancient nation of Israel, was commanded: “This book of the law [of God] should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night.” Why? “In order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.” (Joshua 1:8) Reading the “book of the law” in an undertone (vocalizing) would be helpful in committing it to memory as well as meditating carefully on all the thoughts expressed there. Thus, the Law would be before Joshua constantly to remind him how he should conduct himself as a servant of God. Similarly, faithful Christians today appreciate the wisdom of “remembering” God’s Word and meditating on it, and they therefore read it regularly.—Psalm 103:17, 18; compare Proverbs 4:5.
Developing Better Comprehension
In his book Diagnostic and Remedial Teaching, Glenn Myers Blair stated: “The primary goal of all reading improvement programs is to develop power of comprehension on the part of pupils. Other matters are of secondary importance.” Basically, comprehending what you read means getting the sense of it, understanding it. This is what makes reading valuable and worth while.
Robert Krych, educator and lecturer at City College of New York, recommended: “To aid comprehension, at all times endeavor to read with a purpose. Decide in advance what you want from the material you select to read. On one occasion you may wish to read in order to obtain specific facts. At other times, your reading may be simply for pleasure and recreation. Whatever is the case, adjust the rate of reading to the purpose and difficulty of the material to be read. Become critical when reading. Ask yourself: Why did the writer say this? What was his objective? Isolate the main point or thought of the paragraph. Ask, In what way does it affect me, the reader?” Yes, make it your habit to read with a purpose and you will find reading to be a pleasure.
Reading Well Brings Many Benefits
Good reading habits are essential, whether you are a student, a professional person, a housewife, or an office or factory worker. Many doors are open to those who read well.
A student who is a good reader becomes more proficient in his work and doubtless will learn more in school. He can minimize time spent in reading and rereading assignments.
Similarly, a businessman or professional person with good reading ability will be able to cope successfully with lengthy reports and the like. In turn, this will allow more time for personal contacts with patients, clients, or customers. Improved reading skills will enable him to engage in more extensive reading, and this will assist him to become better acquainted with the work, studies, and experiments carried on by others.
With the increased knowledge acquired through improved reading skill, family heads can often improve their job skills and ability to care for responsibility. The ability to read directions, regulations, and similar instructions will, in many parts of the world, assist in caring better for things in the home. Reading skill is also a help when it comes to managing the family’s finances.
Housewives who acquire greater knowledge through reading will be better able to care for the family with regard to proper nutrition, hygiene, prevention of sickness, or those who become ill. Mothers who are good readers may have success in teaching their children to read before they enter school.—See Awake! of May 22, 1968, pages 20-2.
More important, one who reads well can acquire knowledge that will lead to life beyond even this present system of things. Bible prophecies pertaining to the conclusion of the present system of things are now being fulfilled. It is vital for all who would entertain the hope of enjoying everlasting life on a paradise earth to acquire a knowledge of our Creator and his purposes. Jesus stated at John 17:3: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”
Without a doubt, then, a door leading to a world of knowledge and excitement is open to anyone who is willing to enter. The key is reading. Yes, read well and that door is always open to you!
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Be selective with your reading material