Dr. Ben Mangrum’s Tips for Reading Retention
Here are a few practical tips for retaining more of what you read and concentrating on analyzing the assigned texts. Following these tips will be beneficial for the type of reading and analysis I expect you to be able to do in class, review, and in our publishing work.
- Don’t read late at night. While a lot of what you’re reading will be fascinating, don’t think of it as entertainment before bedtime. You’ll retain less and engage more cursorily with the material if you’re tired.
- Don’t read lying down or in a reclined position. It’s a law of physics that if you read while lying on your couch, you will fall asleep. Instead, read while sitting upright at a desk or table.
- Read by yourself, or at least where the movement and noise of others won’t distract you. You may also want to use headphones and listen to white noise by using websites such as simplynoise.com.
- Read in bright light. Bright light is a substitute for caffeine.
- Set reading goals. It’s really tempting to check Facebook in the middle of a reading assignment, but don’t do it! Set such rules for yourself as, “I won’t text, check my email, or update my status until I finish this chapter.”
- Write out definitions of unknown words. If you don’t know the definition of a word, look it up and write it in the margins of the book.
- Read with a pencil and notebook. In addition to underlining in the books themselves, try creating a reading notebook in which you write questions you’d like to raise in class or copy passages you find difficult/interesting. My students have found that this reading notebook pays big dividends for in-class discussions and the writing they produce for the website.
How to read poetry and scholarly articles
For reading strategies geared to poetry and scholarly articles, see “How to Read” on Suzanne Churchill’s website.
Thanks to Dr. Benjamin Mangrum for permission to share his “Tips for Reading and Retention.”