Reading Challenges

CHALLENGE 1. The reading is tough, and I don’t understand it.

  • Read it again. Difficult material is often easier the second time around.
  • Read it aloud.
  • Hold a mini-review. Pause briefly to summarize. Stop at the end of the paragraph and recite in your own words what you have read. Mark key ideas and concepts with an "I" for important and practice paraphrasing the important ideas. 
  • Look for essential words. Cross out all the adjectives and adverbs, and read the sentence without them.
  • Skip around. Jump to the end of the chapter and read the summary or conclusion to get the big picture first.
  • Pretend the material is clear as a bell and try to explain it to another person or to yourself. You may know more than you thought you did.
  • Mark it. Put a "?" by information you are confused about. Compose a question to help you express what confuses you.  A pattern of marks and questions over several pages will help you determine the questions you want answered in class or office hours.
  • "Google" it. Look up confusing concepts on the web and read the explanation in "user friendly" language.
  • Stop reading. Admit confusion and take a break. Allow some time to process the information. When you return, you will see it with fresh eyes.

CHALLENGE 2. I have too much reading and not enough time. I can’t keep up.

A challenge of a large volume of reading is essentially a time management problem—not a reading problem. Create a reading schedule. Break up readings, so you are reading every day not just the day before or the day of a class. If it’s impossible to cover all the reading one week, prioritize your readings. Devote the most time to the readings with the most complex concepts. Read the key sections of other readings.

CHALLENGE 3. I can’t sustain my attention or focus on my reading.

First ask yourself if you have eaten enough, slept enough, and are physically comfortable. If that’s not the problem, think about the best time of day for you to do your reading. When are you the most alert? Choose the best location for your reading where you will not be distracted or easily fall asleep. Practice turning headings, subheadings, and key terms into questions. Read to find the answers to your questions. If you find that you are consistently distracted by thoughts, take a few minutes to write out your thoughts by journaling about your concerns or making a to-do list of necessary tasks. You may find that actually focusing on your unwanted thoughts, allows you to move past them and focus on the desired task of reading.

Adapted with permission from Trish Baum, Resource Coordinator of Academic Support Programs.

"Baylor University ||| Textbook Reading Strategies." Academic Support Programs | Baylor University. Accessed November 5, 2016.