Improving Reading Comprehension for High School Students
Reading comprehension is best developed simply reading more often. By the time a lot of teenagers have entered high school, however, school has kind of ruined reading in general. All they remember are dense novels they struggled for hours to get through before finally giving up and turning to Sparknotes. Now summer is finally upon us and no one is making you read anything – which makes it the perfect time to start over!
One reason your reading comprehension may be underdeveloped is that you don’t read a lot on your own. And you don’t read a lot, because you don’t enjoy it. However, one of the reasons you might think you hate reading is just that you never found the right novel to fall in love with. Maybe you hated reading Jane Austen and Shakespeare in class and you think now is the time to try them again. Don’t. Classics are all well and good but trying to immerse yourself in the language of another century can be frustrating and time-consuming, and it might not be the best place to start.
Tip #1: If you hate it, put it down.
There is not going to be a pop quiz afterward, and there are so many diverse voices out there. You might not even know what you like to read yet – science fiction, horror, romance? Keep picking up titles and abandoning them after a few pages, or even a few sentences, until you find something that clicks. Eventually, if you find that you just enjoy reading good stories in general, you’ll find that you’re open to trying a lot of different styles.
Tip #2: Try something you already know you’ll like.
Look up one of your favorite TV shows or movies and see if it was based on a book. The best ones almost always are (think Sherlock, American Gods, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before). And this way, you’ll already know what you’re getting into. It’s a world and a story that has already resonated with you. Now you get the chance to dive even deeper – and maybe get to find out what happens next before your friends who only watch the show.
Tip #3: Write things down.
Yes, this one will remind you of English class. However, unlike school, you get to set your own guidelines. Best of all: there is no minimum word requirement. There are a lot of different ways you can tackle this challenge. Try keeping a journal next to you while you read. If you’ve taken on The Hobbit, for example, write down everyone’s names and where they’re from as you go. That way you won’t have to keep flipping back and forth to try and remember who is which mythical species, and you’ll get into the habit of note-taking. You can also jot down words and references you don’t recognize to look up later. This might even lead you to new areas of interest, like history or mythology.
After reading a chapter or a section you should also try writing down any questions or impressions. Jot down some thoughts and theories, and before you start reading next time, look over what you wrote down to refresh your memory. This is how you’ll train yourself to notice themes and connections from chapter to chapter. It doesn’t have to be a book report; it doesn’t even have to be a paragraph. This is entirely for your own reference, and you’ll find a format that works for you as you go.
If you have struggled with reading as a student, you are not alone. However, much of that might just stem from the fact that you haven’t been reading the right books. There are plenty of great books out there that are not “classic literature.” Reading them will still improve your vocabulary, analytical skills, and critical thinking. This will help you in all of your classes, and later in life too. Also, it’s just a fun way to relax and enjoy some downtime. You shouldn’t have to miss out on that just because you were once forced to slog through The Old Man and the Sea.
If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at some these great new books!
For more help, check out our Study Smarter Not Harder summer workshops!
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