How to Read and Remember
1, 2. Why is it important for us to remember what we read?
1 For those who read just as a pastime, for their own entertainment, remembering what they read is of little importance. But for someone who is studying for a profession, it is vital to remember what he reads in his textbooks. Passing an examination and entering upon the chosen occupation depend on it. The Christian minister, however, has a greater need to remember what he reads, whether reading casually or seriously. His objective is to draw closer to Jehovah and to improve his ministry, to Jehovah’s praise.—Deut. 17:19.
2 The Christian’s main reading material is the Bible and those publications that offer genuine help in understanding the Bible. He knows that it is the knowledge found in the Bible that leads to eternal life. It is this reading that equips him to be an effective minister, and it is this reading with which we are chiefly concerned in the Theocratic Ministry School.
3, 4. Why should we be selective in what we read?
3 Our taking of information into the mind through reading may be compared to our taking of food into the stomach. In both instances we must be selective. The eater, even when just satisfying his appetite, is foolish to take into his stomach that which is indigestible or that which offers no real benefit to the body, or worse, may even poison him. For best results, for long-lasting benefits, food should be easily digested and assimilated by our bodies.
4 So, too, with our reading. Whether it is casual or serious reading, what we take in should be mentally digestible and it should be something that will lastingly benefit our minds. Obviously it is unwise to feed the mind on that which is untrue, godless or immoral, and which may therefore cause spiritual indigestion. (Phil. 4:8) And why waste time reading material of little value? Just as we are selective in what we eat, so we should be in what we read.
5, 6. Why do we need to schedule time for personal reading, and when might such reading be done?
5 Schedule for personal reading. Having selected the right kind of material to read, you need to take the next step. This is to establish a schedule of reading that will fit into your particular life pattern. If you fail to set aside specific days, or evenings, for periods of reading, your efforts are likely to be too haphazard to be successful.—Acts 17:11.
6 Thoughtful reading requires ample time as well as surroundings that favor pondering over the material examined. But not all your reading will be done during extended study periods. If you can set aside even ten or fifteen minutes regularly each day to do some reading, you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish. Some persons do this reading early in the morning, or before going to bed at night. Others read while riding public transportation en route to their place of secular employment or school, or during their lunchtime. In some homes, the entire family reads together for five or ten minutes after one meal each day or just before going to bed. Regularity, doing some reading every day, produces good results.
7. What should be our goal in Bible reading?
7 Your personal schedule should include time for reading the Bible itself. There is great value in reading it right through from cover to cover. This can be achieved by reading a certain number of chapters or pages each day or each week. However, your goal in reading should never be just to cover material, but to get the overall viewpoint of it with the intention of remembering. Take time to ponder on what it says. When reading the Bible you can always be confident that you are partaking of the best spiritual food that can be had.
8, 9. What other material would it be beneficial to include in our reading program?
8 Time is also needed for preparatory reading of the material to be covered at the Watchtower study and other congregation meetings. It is good to have in mind commenting at the meetings, but do not make the finding of answers your main objective. Rather, seek to understand what you read and consider how it affects your own life.
9 Then there are the Watchtower articles other than those used in the congregation’s weekly study. Awake! magazine, too, offers a great deal of informative material in its pages. And have you read the older publications of the Society in your language? To the extent that you can make time to read the material, there is a blessing in store for you. The rate of one’s spiritual growth is, to a large extent, governed by the regularity and the quality of one’s reading habits.
10-17. What practices will help us to remember more of what we read?
10 Memory aids. To benefit fully from what we read, we need to remember it. People will often say that they do not remember because they have a bad memory. It may be in many instances, however, simply an untrained or unworked memory. It is the course of wisdom to endeavor to get the most good out of the reading that we do. Much of the good would be lost if the material read were quickly forgotten. We need to learn how to read so as to remember. There are a number of suggestions that have worked well for experienced readers. They may assist you.
11 As you read, endeavor to read phrases or word groupings rather than individual words. This will make it possible to speed up your reading and will help you to grasp ideas instead of struggling with words. For usual reading, do not sound out the words or move your lips as you read, and do not make a practice of backing up to read again unless it is to impress a key thought. Of course, for weighty, involved material you need to slow down so as to be sure to get the right thought. You may even want to read it aloud, or in an undertone. (Ps. 1:2) The Psalms and Proverbs, for example, were not written for speed reading but for meditation.—Ps. 77:11, 12.
12 It also helps if you read with pencil in hand, underlining key words and otherwise noting special points you may wish to go over again. Underlining, however, should be done sparingly, for if overdone it defeats the purpose of isolating the principal ideas. When you come across some specially valuable explanation or an argument that could be used to meet some common objection in the house-to-house ministry, it would be helpful to make note of the page and paragraph at the back of your book. Then it can be found quickly when needed. Never mark a book, of course, unless it is your own property.
13 You cannot just read through an article or a book without pausing, reflecting, comparing the information with what facts you already know on the subject—not if you really want to remember the outstanding points. Learn to analyze what you read, taking note of reasons given and arguments in support of conclusions that are presented. Also, be on the lookout for principles that apply to your life and that are a guide to daily living. Pause to consider how you can apply them.
14 In a serious reading of one of the Society’s bound books it is often helpful to consider first the title and the logical order of the table of contents. This will impress on your mind the overall theme. When you prepare to read a magazine article or a chapter in a book, look first at the various subheadings. These show the order in which the theme will be developed. Be alert to take note of topic sentences, which usually appear near the beginning of each paragraph. They will often tell you in a nutshell what the paragraph is about. Concentrate on getting the overall view of the subject on which you are reading.
15 Another suggestion is to try to visualize what you read, making mental pictures as an aid to memory. In imagination see the actors and the background, hear the sounds and voices, smell the odors, taste the food and drink, share the happiness or grief of a situation. Try to put yourself in the scene being described. Every sense can be brought into play imaginatively to reproduce vividly the Bible account. Passages of Bible history can be more easily committed to mind in this way.
16 When you come to the close of a chapter, give it a final brief mental review. Then compare your mental outline with the written material again.
17 If possible, discuss with someone else the points you have covered, doing so while they are still fresh in mind. Your expression of them will deepen the impression on your mind, while the other person may well be able to add to your fund of knowledge on the subject. If you have found some practical field points, use them in your preaching ministry as soon as possible. This, too, will fix the material in your memory.
18-20. Why is it so important to learn to read well?
18 Value of effective reading. Reading has a direct influence on our lives. The kind of work we do, the skills we develop, our enjoyment of life, our spiritual growth are all connected with our reading ability. Without this ability to read one is denied much of the richness of learning and experience. Parents can help to train their children to read by a systematic home program of reading. From time to time it would be good to call on your children to read aloud, for example, reading the text and comments for the day from the booklet Examining the Scriptures Daily. If you are not a fluent reader, it would be well worth your while to practice for fifteen to thirty minutes each day. In a few months you will experience satisfying results.
19 Good reading habits, scheduled times for reading and research, and use of the various suggestions outlined here will greatly improve your ministerial ability. You will be able to remember more of the precious words of God, so as to apply them in your life and ministry. Even elderly persons can improve their ability to remember if they practice the points here offered. No one should feel that he is too old to benefit.
20 God’s reason for setting down his grand purposes in a book was so that all his wonderful works might be made known to the children of men and long remembered. (Ps. 78:5-7) Our appreciation for his generosity in this matter is best shown by our diligence in reading and remembering that life-giving Word.