Posted by: W. E. Poplaski | November 7, 2008

Three Steps to Improved Reading

The ability to read complicated material becomes more important the higher you climb the education ladder.  High school, college and then graduate school demand progressively more from the student reader.  Those not up to the task fall by the wayside, notwithstanding their passion for their major.


However, competence in reading is a learned skill.  Reading ability needs to be cultivated if you wish to become a proficient reader.  What steps can you take to cultivate this skill?


The most important step you can take is to increase the amount of reading you do.  Make it a point to never let a day go by without doing at least some independent reading.  Here are three easy ways to go about it:


A.               Make it a habit to read this blog’s POEM OF THE DAY feature.  (  )  After you read the poem, spend some time thinking about what the author is attempting to convey to you.  This blog entry will give you some pointers on reading poetry—  .

B.               Read the essay presented in the Weekly Read-Along each weekend.  ( ) These essays are chosen because they represent challenging reading material and have some historical significance.  If you find that the essays are too difficult for you then try substituting magazine articles of similar length; Newsweek, Time Magazine and U.S. News & World Report are three excellent choices.

C.               Always have a book you are reading.  It does not matter what genre, but it should be appropriate for your reading level and you should be dedicated to reading it.  You can get help selecting reading material here— .


The second step to improving your reading ability is to focus on comprehension.  A great way to do this is to annotate your reading text.  You can learn effective annotation here— . 


The Weekly Read-Along is the perfect place to improve your comprehension.  After you read through the week’s essay, number each paragraph.  Then go back over the essay, and on a sheet of notebook paper, write a short descriptive phrase for each numbered paragraph.  The idea is not so much to summarize the paragraphs as to provide descriptive tags for them (asking yourself, “why is this paragraph included in the essay?” is a good way to begin to generate tags).  Next, scan down your numbered list of ‘descriptive tags’ and try to get a sense for how the author has presented his argument/story.  This will give you a good idea of how the essay is structured (it also will help you find exactly where you are having difficulty with a particular essay—for those paragraphs, go over them sentence by sentence).  Many essays can be divided readily into three parts:  introduction, body and conclusion. Try drawing lines on your notebook sheet to demarcate these parts.  Finally, complete your annotation with the techniques described at the Bucks County Community College link. 


Your notebook sheet should be filled with comments/questions and will serve as a great review of the essay.  Moreover, regularly going through this exercise will train your mind to read critically.  Eventually, you will find that on your first reading of a text, you pick up much of what you once only got after annotation.


The third step to improving your reading ability is to increase the size of your vocabulary.  Visiting the website is a convenient way to do this.  As with any skill, the key is to develop a daily practice routine.


It takes time to develop a skill and strong reading skills are no exception.  However, increasing the amount of reading you do, working on your comprehension, and developing a good vocabulary—are three steps you can take on your own to give yourself a boost up the ladder of improved reading ability.



Also see ‘Links to College Level Reading’— 


and ‘How to Study:  Focus’—



  1. […] Also, see Three Steps to Improved Reading— […]

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