Friday, May 3

How to Read and Understand

One of the greatest challenges any student might face is how to read and understand. It is very necessary that a student masters how to do such a thing very well because most of his or her academic work involves mainly reading and reading can only become meaningful and useful, if and only if, the study do understand what s/he has read.

In fact, for any student who wants to really score high in all his academic endeavors, I am fully of the opinion that reading and understanding is a MUST!

In this piece, I am going to throw more light and clarify the various methods which I have used from my own experience that can make reading and understanding not only worthwhile but enjoyable.

The first thing I must advice is that every student should have a way or method through which s/he understands best. Also, I am aware that certain habits enhance the ability of a student to read and understand. Some students prefer learning on their own while some others prefer someone teaches them. It is my advice that you stick to whatever works well for you.

Similarly, certain situations or circumstances can also influence how a student reads and understands. For example, I know that some students are capable of understanding under certain conditions like when and only when the exams are fast approaching but you and I already know that that is not actually a   favorable situation.

So, talking about favorable conditions/situations, the following methods are just my own favorable method of reading so as to understand.

Read more than once
Some students have formed the habit of reading their textbooks and/or other reading materials just once. This is often necessitated by the inadequacy of them having the zeal to read and to understand.

Such students fall into the trap of hoping that they will be okay if they just read the piece only once but the thing is that for you to really read to understand, unless you are a bloody genius, there is the need to read over and over again.

One surprising thing about reading any material over and over which I have discovered is that in most cases, when you are reading the material the second or third time, as the case might be, you will surely find out that the whole thing starts becoming easier and easier to understand.

So make sure you read your materials at least more than once. Believe me, you will find out that the subsequent readings will start becoming more like a revision.

Read in conducive environment
By conducive environment, I mean that you should endeavor to reading only in areas where you are comfortable as against being stressed up.

Depending on what you are reading and why you are reading, you might also have to raise your comfort level to effectively improve your ability to understand what you are reading. 

If you are reading for pleasure, you might just lie back on your bed or sofa and enjoy yourself. If you are in for a serious academic reading, you will have to seat in a very comfortable manner and use enough lightening to make your reading an easy and enjoyable experience. The reading environment seriously affects how much you can read and assimilate. 

That means that noisy environments have always been a bad idea for easy comprehension and thus should be avoided at all cost. Remember, libraries are usually located in non noisy environments for this same reason.
Some people like reading with some soft music playing in the background while some others like to read while there is a little noise in the background coming from the TV. Similarly, some students try to read at night when there is less noise so that might be helpful for you too.

Whatever works for you is okay by me. As long as you are reading and understanding.

Translate what you are reading to yourself
I learnt this trick from one of my teachers who taught me Further Mathematics. Please, don't ask me how can one translate something like mathematics. 

I could recall, he mentioned it as one of the reliable ways or method by which he is able to understand anything that seems a little bit difficult for him to easily comprehend whatever he is reading.

I try it occasionally and most times, I find out that it works! It works because for you to be able to translate anything by the way of explanation, you will agree with me that you must understand it first.

This translation should be a sort of mental translation whereby you are trying to break down whatever you are reading into smaller bits and pieces of information coded in a language that you already understand very well.
While you are at it, you will see that everything will appear as if you are talking to yourself, trying to let yourself know more about whatever you are reading, as if you are having a nice discussion with yourself.

This will surely boost your concentration because the fact is that we think in words and for you to truly understand what you are reading or have read, you need a certain level of thinking which you must be doing unconsciously while trying to translate what you are reading.

And just in case you are very interested in learning how to translate further mathematics to your own language, then you can give me a call and I will give that my maths teacher a call for him to give you a call on how you can do that...okay?

Ha ha ha

Formulate questions for yourself
Yes, learn how to formulate questions for yourself as you read along. Similar to trying to translate what you are reading, this method will also ensure that you have the right presence of mind required for total understanding.

At some stage while you are reading, you should be able to ask yourself some questions like:

Did I understand what was said in the last paragraph? What message is the writer trying to convey in this thing I am reading? What is the main lesson in this passage?

If you keep on doing this, you will see that you are already doing your revision even as you read and believe me, it is a very wonderful experience when you start discovering that you can now understand even more and more…

Read first thing in the morning
Everyone has the time of the day when they find reading very enjoyable and understanding so easy. For me, it is usually in the morning around 4 – 5.30 a.m in the morning.

If you are like me, anything I read around that time enters one time! Maybe, it because the brain is just coming out of rest. Maybe it is simply because there is also less noise around that time of the day.

The truth is that you should be able to find that time of the day when you read most effectively because that will also translate to the time when you will find understanding easier.

Then try to make a habit out of that and see how your grades will suddenly start to skyrocket!

Read other things
I have hinted on this before. Reading should not necessarily be about academics. Seriously speaking, you should also learn how to diversify your reading by also reading for pleasure.

I know so many final year students in the university who cannot remember the last time they read a novel or even a simple newspaper. They will publicly announce to me while beating their chest that they don’t have time for such things and I will only shake my head in sorriness for them.

That’s a shame because if you are like that, chances are you don’t know what you are already missing out from and you may not be aware of the great deal of knowledge and information that are passing you by.

Read for pleasure. Read of enlightenment. Read for fun. Read wide. Read, read, read because readers are leaders!

They say no knowledge is a waste and if you want to really know how to apply that in your so many areas of your life, then the choice is yours and you can start today by reading wide.

Don’t be like those final year students I told you about who only have the time to read their friends’ status update on Facebook or Twitter.

Recite and Memorize
Reciting and memorizing will surely help you in reading to understand as a student. It actually encompasses all we have been saying since because it helps your brain to become accompanied with what you have been reading.
Memorizing also helps you in feeding your brain piecemeal by piecemeal as against overloading your brain when you launch into serious cramming.

You might be tempted to include cramming into these basic methods of reading to understand, most especially if you have formed the habit but I won’t advise that simply because although some people are experts and excellent in cramming, the one very major problem with cramming is that you overload your brain in doing so and this often results in either your brain ‘locking up’ when you needed it the most and/or the brain completely going blank immediately you are through with the exercise because the brain wants to restore back to its original status and modus operandi prior to your overloading attempts.

Granted, some students are so good in cramming which means that you might not want to believe me. In fact, if the truth must be told, then I will tell you that I know how to cram a lot and very well but the truth that I also know from experience that cramming is not effective and it can easily lead your brain to serious tears and wears and breakdown due to excessive friction.

One other thing, don’t say I told you but cramming can lead to madness! So don’t cram. Just recite and memorize and you will be good.

Learn to summarize
Your ability to summarize what you are reading will surely boost your power of understanding.

Summarizing is like breaking down the long story into a very small and concise piece of information that you can always and easily recall when asked.

The ability to summarize will also keep your brain in a ready state for action because you have succeeded in ‘tricking’ your memory into reserving so much space for other things to be stored away.

Summarizing is like retelling the whole story in a very short way. It should be done in a very fun and enjoyable manner. You might need to learn how to encode and how to trace the plot of the whole story. It will also help if you can picture what you are reading and summarizing will definitely help you in doing such a thing.

Yes, above everything, make sure that you rest. Rest is important because it simply enables your brain to relax.

It makes it possible for your brain to file away that information you have gathered securely and ready to be recalled.

A good rest might be as good as having yourself some good sleep. It involves you taking a break from your reading. It can also involve something like you taking a walk in the street or even engaging in certain types of exercises or sports. For some people, it might simply be the time for them to resume their reading for pleasure!

The truth is that a good rest is required for effective reading and comprehension. So avail yourself the opportunity to rest after such a long and hard tedious reading. Remember you also need to be healthy to read and understand you also take good care of your health, drink a lot of water and make sure you do have yourself a very good rest.

Well, there you have it. Those have been some of my technique for effective reading and understanding. I seriously hope it will work for you also.
In fact, let me put you to a test right now to see if it will work for you. Can you summarize this very write-up? 

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