If you are like most students, learners and people in general, you hate reading. Reading is just not a popular and interesting activity, at least in developing and developed countries one of which is Cambodia.
Personally, I myself used to hate reading to its bone when I was in high school. I rarely if not never read anything let alone a book. Reading was just beyond my wildest imagination at the time and not my favorite activity.
However, because many things have changed, I have also changed to fancy reading since I attended university. Partly because of the university and partly because of my curiosity to learn new things, I have made reading a daily activity. Since then until now, I have finished over no fewer than 400 (four hundreds) books and e-books related to Education, Business and Self Development.
Nowadays, as a hectic Master student, educator and entrepreneur, I still figure out sometime to read whenever possible. Like a coach potato who likes watching TV and who claims watching TV provides many benefits, I like reading and know that reading provides a lot of advantages to me and also other people who read.
How to make reading more interesting
I think you can understand that I’m not a born reader. I was born to a family whose members and relatives were not highly educated and whose sole purpose was survival. My parents never finish elementary school, so they have not had the knowledge to help me with my academic works. I think I don’t have to tell you that I have never had the motivation from my family members to read.
My motivation towards reading has been developed only after I joined my university as I mentioned earlier. At one point along my way until now, I just figured out a way to make reading more interesting or myself interested in reading. What I did is follow all the tips below.
I. Choose something you like to read
Trust me when I tell you that reading is a boring activity because you stay almost completely inactive when you read. You know by yourself that you have the feelings of resistance, boredom and possibly sadness whenever you hear the word ‘reading’.
In order to make yourself less resistant to those negative feelings, you have to persuade yourself to read if you can’t force. Just like the carrot-and-stick principle, you have to give yourself something sweet and attractive to read even though you will somehow punish it later.
Personally, one of the things you can use to attract yourself to reading is the topic of what you read or are about to read.
I read a lot but I rarely if not never read something I don’t want to know or learn about. That’s why I spend quite some time on any book before I decide to buy it. I just check the front cover, back cover, review, introduction, preface and others. Plus, I review the background of the writers or authors because different authors have different writing styles some of which might not suit your reading personality. These elements can help make a decision whether the book is a worth carrot for the stick.
You can imagine the pain of reading a 200-page book not of your interest. How much time do you have to invest to finish the time? For me, it might take forever since I can’t focus and have reason to read it.
What do you do when you watch TV? Do you just watch any channel on the screen when your TV is on or do you surf for your favorite channels or programs? I guess you do the latter, right? If yes, why don’t you apply the same approach to reading?
If you have never read a book before, I strongly advise you to search for THE book about something that you genuinely want to know and/or learn. Before you buy the book, you can review the book elements as given above.
II. Read short passages first
If it is your first time to read or you are not accustomed to read books with only texts, you can start with those with short passages supplemented with color pictures to help you understand the texts.
“Remember, you can’t run before you can walk. You have to learn to walk well before you can run”.
You should take reading as a process, not a product. When you consider it a process, you will take reading one step at a time. The first step you can do is to read something with easy sentences and fewer texts.
If you are really a novice reader, you can begin with children’s books in which there are many photos and pictures under which you will find written-word descriptions. The images might help you to feel less pressured and more relaxed to read because you can turn to them whenever you start feeling stressed-out with the texts. This is the reason that they use such kind of books with young children.
Again, I don’t want you to start big with reading. You can set a big goal to finish a book, but you can start reading one page at a time. Today, I still can’t finish one book by reading straight non-stop. The most that I read per time is around 100 pages. It’s just too much to finish a book at a time because I might not get what the lessons or implications in book. Let me put it this way; if you can finish one page a day, you will finish 30 pages per month and you will be able to finish a book in 5 or 6 months, which is not bad at all.
You should get yourself started in reading as soon as possible, and should not care much about the amount initially. Once the reading momentum is kicked started, the amount of reading and the level of difficulty will automatically increase day by day and time by time.
III. Read with a specific purpose
Maybe you don’t know it, but there should be a purpose for any reading that you do. As a learner, I read because I want knowledge from the document or book. However, as an English language learner, I sometimes read any English language book, document or news just for learning new vocabulary.
With a specific purpose, your reading is more effective and efficient. If you read for meaning and knowledge, you should precaution yourself not to care much about the vocabulary used in the texts. Instead, you should make more guesses of the meaning even if that means you have to skip certain parts of the texts.
Yet, if you read for new words or phrases to learn, you should get some pencils or highlighters ready as to make certain notes of definition or translation close to the words or phrases. Sometimes, you might also need a dictionary to help you get through those difficult words. Usually, you can’t read many pages at a time when you read for vocabulary because it takes quite some time to finish each page.
Nowadays, I’m teaching students reading skills for IELTS (International English Language Testing System). It may be strange to you, but I challenge them not to care much about vocabulary or meaning since IELTS Reading is like playing puzzle games, though with words and texts. During IELTS Reading test, a test-taker’s job is to find the answers, not to understand the texts or get the meaning of the texts.
So, set up a clear purpose before you read anything. Don’t just read because you want to read or because you are forced to read. Make reading a goal so that you can take out something from it.
IV. Read just the part you want
No matter how good an author is, he/she is not perfect. Having said that, I mean there must be some parts of the book that you don’t want to know or find them hard to understand though you’ve spent much time on them.
As mentioned in point 3, you should set a clear purpose in reading. If your purpose is not to read everything the book or article you are reading, you can skip any part you want as long as it serves your purpose.
Today, I read fast and skip a lot while reading. I usually skip the parts that I have already learnt (from other books or previous parts of the book) and/or that I don’t want to know. Something that I don’t want to know could be statistics, detailed information, and etc.
For novice readers, you might find it hard to skip when you read. But, when you read more especially in one particular topic, I guess you will learn almost automatically which part to skip and which to read. For example, I am a big fan of self development topic. There are thousands, if not millions, books written in the area. I have read a bunch of those books, so whenever I read a new self development book, I know which part to read and which to skip.
V. Read quickly
If you read quickly (at the fastest speed that you can still understand the text), you make your reading become watching TV. Whether you know it or not, your brain processes information very quickly, much faster than your reading speed.
Reading is boring especially when you read slowly, word by word. So, learn to read fast. Condition your eyes to focus on one sentence at a time, one word at a time. If you may stumble on certain words that you have never known before, I suggest you to skip them if your purpose is not reading for vocabulary. Focus on the meaning; learn to guess if possible. Guessing the meaning in reading is crucially important because it’s something that keeps you move forward in reading.
From now on, I strongly suggest you to read as quickly as you can. Trust in your capability and knowledge because you are really potential even though you may not know it.
*Note: if reading is really not what you want to do, you can use audio books to help you. There are so many audio books available now on any topic of your choice and interest. You can listen to the books like songs. Nowadays there are many Audible Audiobooks devices. You can check out at Audible Audiobooks.