You might find that staying alert and engaged while read is difficult, but reading for classes or work may be even harder because many textbooks and business materials are written in boring or dense language. Most of the reasons why people struggle to stay interested while reading are situational and have nothing to do with intelligence or ability.
Turn It Off
People are more connected to each other and entertained than ever before, and as a result, they have never been more distracted. Electronic devices designed to connect and amuse people include mobile phones, TVs, computers and MP3 players. All of these devices can distract you while you read, which causes you to lose focus. Every time you’re interrupted, you have to start over again. This leads to inefficiency; you end up reading the same sentence or section multiple times, which takes more time than concentrating the first time you read it. To stay focused and make the best use of your time, avoid all electronic devices while reading. If you’re reading from an e-reader, tablet or computer, do not browse other works or websites; mute the sound on the device you’re reading from and turn off all other unnecessary devices.
Find Places to Read
Have you ever noticed that the noise level in most libraries, bookstores and coffee shops is usually low and that people in these establishments are often reading? These patrons are onto something; they have found places that nurture the act of reading. Simply changing location and finding a place that is conducive to reading can help make what you’re reading more tolerable. Take advantage of what these lovers of reading have already figured out and become like them. Start watching for readers in quiet public places. If you notice a lot of them, mark it on your mental map as a possible reading location. Or, create your own reading-friendly space: put a comfy seat in a quiet, well-lit corner of your home and pour yourself a cup of your favorite warm beverage; you’ve got a coffee shop vibe without the elevator music or the overpriced lattes.
If your typical reading spot happens to be lying horizontally on your sofa or in your bed, you’re setting yourself up to lose interest or fall asleep. Sometimes, you can become too relaxed, which causes your mind to wander. You may end up reading the same passage multiple times or, worse, you may fall asleep, especially when reading dry material. You are more likely to stay awake and alert seated in an upright position, especially at a desk, so stay away from the recliner, too.
Don't Read While Tired
Many people read right before they go to bed. They fall asleep while reading and then wonder why they can’t remember what they read the next day. If you read in bed or when you are overly tired, your body is worn out and so is your mind. Just as you work better when you are feeling refreshed and rested, you will read better when you are not tired.
If you read with someone else around, you will not read for long. Chances are reading time will turn into social hour because whatever your friend or family member has to say will be far more interesting than the textbook. To avoid the temptation of chatting, choose to read in a quiet place by yourself.
Reading aloud forces you to experience the material with two different senses simultaneously. Not only do you see the words as you read them, but you also hear them, which helps you comprehend and retain the meaning. This method does take more time than just reading quietly to yourself, so you may want to save this strategy for the most difficult or boring passages.
Reading must be active instead of passive. In "How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading," Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren say that marking a book as you read is critical because you will stay awake; it makes you think, and you are more likely to remember what you read. Physically interacting with the text keeps you engaged, and the best way to do that is to write on the page. If space is limited, use sticky notes that you can place directly near the passage you’re writing about. Most e-readers have bookmark and note functions; become familiar with how to use them. Various programs for making notes while reading on your computer are readily available. Alternatively, use your computer’s word processing program to type notes, or simply take notes on paper while reading.
- How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading; Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
Courtney O'Banion Smith holds degrees in communication, English and creative writing. For more than 11 years, she has taught English, composition, literature, and creative writing courses to college students from diverse backgrounds both face-to-face and online.