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Nine Good Reading Habits

Like all travels in this glamorous and lucrative world of study skills, we have come to the section where I contradict everything I have said up to this point. While I truly believe that each student needs to individualize his approach to school, there is a time and place for good old uniformity and standardization. There are some good habits, which, if your child chooses to use, will increase his retention and comprehension. They are based on a concept called active reading. This idea is simple: The more of your child's brain is engaged in the act of reading, the more he learns. The following strategies are good active reading habits that will help any reader:

  • Use the cover up: For many students, the words on the page run and blur together -- especially if you are hard wired like myself. To mitigate this, use a three by five index card to cover everything except the sentence that your child is reading. When they finish a line, they move the card down and repeat the process.

  • Give the text the finger: Along with the card, have your child follow their reading with their finger, engaging a tactical learning style.

  • Read out loud or mouth the words: Again, another way to engage verbal processing. Many students don't need to literally talk out load -- mouthing the words serves the same end.

  • Keep moving: As always, fidgeting is good for the brain. Keep them moving, to keep them on target.

  • Use three-color highlighting: Highlights are a cheap and easy way to integrate visual memory into the reading process. Buy your child three colors and have them assign a different color to the main points, supporting details, and terms of the reading.

  • Use bookmarks/flagging: Buy your child some type of "red" flag that they can use to mark important ideas or passages. The coolest ones are made by 3M and are literally plastic flaps that come in all different colors and stick directly on to the pages. Also, have your child record in a notebook the page numbers and any thoughts they had on why they flagged that page.

  • Take margin notes: Despite what crotchety old librarians say, books are supposed to be written on -- have your child write notes, questions, comments, snide remarks, or draw pictures in the margins.

  • Write or talk out summaries: Having your child take a few minutes to either write up a reading summary or talk it out will help him retain the readings and ultimately help him recall it come test or essay time.

  • Consider reading notes: I include this one with some hesitation -- reading notes are great for some kids, horrible for others. The problem with reading notes is that for some kids, if they take notes, they'll never finish the reading. The upside of reading notes is that they can obviously help with retention and retrieval of information come test time. So if you decide to work with your child on taking reading notes, make sure you limit them to writing at most one sentence about every other paragraph and summaries at the end of sections or chapters depending on the lengths of the assignments.

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