So much has been said about the poor reading culture in Nigeria and Africa generally. It has often been asserted that Nigerians read, only when they have to, example when they are preparing for an exam. Although Nigeria and the rest of the continent have produced some of the best literary minds in the world, the black race is often associated with lukewarm interest in books and written materials. Remember the infamous quote: “The best way to hide something from Black people is to put it in a book.”
Here at Ekklesia Magazine, our goal is to share any safe secular knowledge with the new man in Christ; knowledge and skills that when married with the presence of the Holy Spirit, will enable the born-again child of God to succeed at his secular pursuits. Come to think of it; the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. A Christian who hates to read will transfer the same apathy to reading the Bible.
What is the essential thing that you can do to improve your reading skills? The answer is to become an active reader.
8th Grade Reading Comprehension and Writing Skills, First Edition, illustrates how to read carefully and actively so that you can better understand and remember what you read. Please do not despise the nuggets from the book because you assume it is only for 8th Graders. We all need to refresh our memories from time to time.
According to the text, the following five specific strategies will help you become an active reader:
- Skimming ahead and jumping back – Skimming ahead enables you to see what’s coming up. Before you begin reading, scan the text to see what’s ahead. Is the reading broken up into sections? What are the main topics of those sections? In what order are they covered? What keywords or ideas are boldfaced, bulleted, boxed, or otherwise highlighted?
- Highlighting or underlining keywords and ideas – In any text, some facts and ideas are more important than others. To be an active reader, you need to identify key ideas. By highlighting or underlining the keywords and ideas, you’ll make important information stand out. You’ll also make it easier to find that information when you want to write a summary or to study for an exam. Of course, to highlight keywords and ideas, you must be able to determine which facts and ideas are most important. Ask yourself: What’s the most important information to understand and remember?
- Looking up unfamiliar vocabulary words – Looking up unfamiliar words is another very important active reading strategy. You need to know what the words mean to understand what someone is saying. After all, a keyword or phrase can change the meaning of a whole passage. Whenever possible, have a dictionary with you when you read. Circle and look up any unfamiliar words right away. (Circling them makes them easier to find if you lose your place.) Write the meaning in the margin. That way, you won’t have to look up the meaning again if you forget it; it will always be there to refer to. (Of course, if you don’t own the book, don’t write in it! Instead, write down the vocabulary word and its definition in a notebook.) If you don’t have a dictionary with you, try to figure out what the word means. What clues does the author provide in that sentence and the surrounding sentences? Mark the page number or write down the word somewhere so you can look it up later. See how closely you were able to guess its meaning.
- Recording your questions and comments – As you read, you’re bound to have questions and comments. You’re also likely to have reactions to the reading. You might wonder why the author used a certain example, or you might think a particular description is beautiful. Write your questions and comments in the margin (or on a separate piece of paper if the book is not yours) using the code that follows.
- Place a Question Mark in the margin if you have a question about the text or if there is something that you don’t understand.
- Place a Tick in the margin if you agree with what the author wrote.
- Place an X in the margin if you disagree with what the author wrote.
- Place a Plus Sign if you see connections between the text and other texts you have read, or if you understand the experience being described. It may also help you to write additional notes to help you remember the connection.
- Place an exclamation mark in the margin if you are surprised by the text or the writer’s style.
- Place a smiling emoji in the margin if there is something you read that you like about the text or the style.
- Place a sad emoji in the margin if there is something you read that you don’t like about the text or the style.
This kind of note-taking keeps you actively involved with your reading. It makes you think more carefully about what you read — and that means you will better understand and remember the material.
5. Looking for clues throughout the text – That’s because good readers are a lot like detectives. They don’t read just to get through a passage; they pay careful attention to words and details, much like Sherlock Holmes would do if he were solving a mystery. Detectives look for clues that will help them better understand the writer’s ideas. These clues come in many forms:
- specific word choice and details
- repeated words or phrases
- the structure of sentences or paragraphs
The key to finding these clues is to look carefully. Be observant. As you read, keep your eyes open. Look at not just what the writer is saying, but also how he or she says it. Notice the words he or she uses. Look at how the ideas are organized. Being observant is essential for reading success. People draw conclusions (make inferences) about what they read, and sometimes those conclusions are wrong. Usually, this means that they just didn’t read carefully enough. They didn’t notice the clues the writer left for them, and they based their conclusions on their ideas. But conclusions should be based on the ideas that are there in the text.
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