How to read and understand any text

Introduction

You just started your freshman year at college and your English professor requires you to read Beowulf by old English poet, Seamus Heaney. You’re not quite sure what the poem is about and you don’t want to get an F on your first paper, so you start looking on Google how to read and understand any text, but you find nothing that can help you in this case so you decide to look further and as a result, you find this guide on how to read and understand any text that will help you pass your paper with flying colors.

 

Preview the Text

The best way on how to read and understand any text is by first reading it aloud. When you read the text aloud, it will sound different than when you read silently because your brain doesn't know what words are coming next. Hearing your own voice helps you better understand the meaning of the words on paper. Secondly, when reading aloud, stop after each sentence and try to figure out what that sentence means. Once you've done that for a few sentences, summarize the passage in your head and then continue reading. Finally, focus only on one word at a time in order to grasp its true meaning.

 

Set a Purpose for Reading

It is important to establish a purpose for reading. Why are you reading? The answer to that question should dictate how much time you spend on the text, what aspect of the text you focus on, how deep into it you go, and which aspects of the text are most important. Before we start reading, we need to establish a goal or set our intention. It could be anything from understanding the meaning of a word in context to grasping an author's main idea. 

In order to get more out of your reading experience, ask yourself: What am I trying to understand? 

When you know this going in, you can look at specific points within the text rather than skimming over it all at once.

 

Active Reading Strategies

Active reading is a technique that helps readers engage with the text on a deeper level. Here are some ways you can actively read any text:

- Make predictions about what might happen next in the story 

- Take notes as you read 

- Ask questions about the text as you're reading it (e.g., What do you think will happen next?) 

- Record your thoughts while reading, then compare them with those of other readers

 

Annotate as You Go

1) Identify the main idea 

2) Break up the paragraphs into individual ideas 

3) Determine the author's purpose (why they wrote this text) 

4) Use a highlighter to mark anything that stands out or is important 

5) Ask questions about anything you don't understand

 

Review What You've Read

Reading can be hard work. But it's worth it. If you don't already know how to read, take the time to learn how. It's not that difficult! And if you need a little help understanding what you've read, here are some ways: 

1) Stop reading at intervals and summarize what you've just read in your own words. This helps make sure you're on the right track and helps solidify in your mind what the author is trying to say.

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