Tuesday, June 5, 2012
READING FOR COMPREHENSION
WHEN I was a high school student at St Peter’s in Ghana’s eastern region town of Nkwatia-Kwahu, I had a mate who was extremely good at memorising notes given to us in class. Sometimes, while I would be busy struggling to make meaning out of certain topics, this guy would appear from nowhere and begin to recite from memory the entire lesson notes in a matter of minutes. Whenever he did that I got shaken a bit, that what I was finding difficult to absorb was a piece of cake for another person.
Yet, most of the time I performed better than he did in examinations. I never understood why I did better than someone who could recite all his notes from cover to cover. But now I know why. My friend often read with the sole objective to memorise the words of his notes without seeking to understand the concepts the words represented.
Literacy confers the ability to read but not necessarily the ability to comprehend what you read. It takes a sense of purpose and consciousness to make sense of what you read. Don’t take it for granted that because you are literate, you will understand everything you read. Effective reading is an art which can be learnt and perfected through series of practices.
Before you begin to read anything, set your objectives. Why do you want to read this material? Is it for entertainment, inspiration, information or relaxation? Setting an objective right from the beginning helps you to know what to look out for while reading. If you read without any conscious objective, you will only end up accumulating facts that do not make sense to you.
You should establish some linkage between what you read and your life or career. If you determine how relevant what you read is to you life, education or work, you would most likely stay focused and definitely grasp something useful from your reading.
Again, before you read actively, you must have a feel of the particulars. Look out for the name of the author, the publisher, place of publication, number of pages, title of work, number of chapters and the central theme that the work covers. All these will help you to decide whether or not the material is worth reading. It will also help you to establish a degree of confidence and familiarity even before you begin to read.
Another recommendation is to engage the material with questions while reading. In your mind, employ the use of questioners such as how, why, when and what. Sometimes you can even decide to play the devil’s advocate by challenging some of the things you read and see if the script can defend itself by the time you get to the end. Or you could get cynical with phrases like ‘and so what.’ All these approaches will help you evaluate whether or not your objectives are being met throughout all your stages of reading a particular text.
Taking notes is another way to ensure that your reading is not a futile venture. You can take notes in different ways. You could write your impressions unto a separate medium such as paper, word processor file or personal blog or use a highlighter to mark important sections of the text. This approach ensures that you focus on portions of the text that are important to you, thus gleaning meat from it.
If my prescriptions do not work for you, it means you are probably not taking care of something – yourself. Yes, yourself. You must know your best context or atmosphere for reading. Some people read better in the night when everything is serene. Others like to read when there is some noise at the background. There are people who require the radio to be on or some music to be played when they are reading. Some also like to read continuously for hours without any interference while others prefer to read amid intermittent breaks. What about you? When is the most conducive time for you to read? Within which circumstances is your mind alert to grasp things you read? If you examine yourself well, you will know. Then you can read and understand.
Reading to understand is so critical in the knowledge because your effectiveness will be based on what you understand. If you can’t understand what you read, then the one who does not read is better off in the sense that you would have wasted your time – another critical factor of production in the knowledge economy. Don’t just read. Read to comprehend.
© June 2012 Terry Mante
Personal Development Network (PEDNET)