Reading Strategies To Help With Tricky Text I Oxford Open Learning
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Reading Strategies To Help With Tricky Text


When we embark on our journey as students, most often it involves having to read a range of different books and text for purposes other than pleasure. Even if the subject we are studying or the skills we are looking to acquire are practical in nature, it is often necessary to read around the subject in order to broaden our knowledge of the concepts or ideas at the core.

For many of us, we often access learning materials that incorporate a variety of different, highly engaging media; from podcasts, to YouTube tutorials, to online training, we are familiar with education that also entertains. As a result, it can often feel like a challenge when we are expected to engage simply with words on a page.

If you find yourself staring at the page or reading the same paragraph again and again without a clue what it contains, try some of the following techniques to help tackle the text at hand.

What is the purpose of the reading?

If you aren’t reading for pleasure, then why are you reading? Is it to gain information? To broaden your appreciation of a subject area? To inspire your own work? If you are uncertain about the reason for the reading, see if you can narrow it down. Reading with purpose is one way to help keep your mind focused on the task.

What information or ideas are you looking to retrieve?

When we are reading a text that we find challenging, it is useful to have a series of questions to help maintain our attention. If reading fiction, these are likely to relate to the plot and characters and will build upon the information you gather and change page by page. With non-fiction, your questions are more likely to be drawn from the purpose of your reading in the first place, and will require extracting specific details.

Can you break down the text?

Sometimes the sheer volume of text we encounter can feel overwhelming. When this feels the case, it is always useful to break the text down into more manageable chunks. Whether you feel capable of covering a chapter at a time or think tackling things paragraph by paragraph is a better approach, set your reading goal and then reflect upon the content you have covered; see if you can summarise what you have learned.

How can your vocabulary knowledge help?

Before sitting down to start your reading, take some time to think about the key words or phrases you might encounter based upon the subject matter you are studying. Having a bank of secure vocabulary can save time and confusion whilst you read, as it means you will need look up fewer definitions. Check out the titles of chapters or subheadings in advance and secure your knowledge of any key terminology before you begin to engage with the content. Add to your word bank as you read to ensure you have the understanding to hand if or when you return to the text.

Whatever your approach to reading may be, it always becomes easier when it becomes a habit. Aim to avoid putting off turning that first page and instead look to read little and often. And, who knows, with a little practice those more challenging texts may even become more and more pleasurable too!

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