3 Tips to Help You Get Through That Pesky Required Reading

It’s back-to-school season for millions of students right now, myself included, so since we’re all getting back into the groove of classes and homework, I thought I would take this opportunity to do some school-themed posts over the next week or so. I hope you enjoy. 

In case you guys didn’t know, I’m a college student and one of my majors is writing, which means there’s a lot of reading, and a lot of writing. I’m sure you’ve all been in a position where you had to read a book for a class, and you can’t find anything you like about the book.

Under normal circumstances, I would recommend just putting the book down and moving on to something else. Forcing yourself to finish a book you hate is a surefire way to send yourself right into a reading slump. Unfortunately, this is for school. You have to read it.

So how do you get through it? That’s what this post is here for! Now, just as a disclaimer, everyone is different, so maybe some of these tips won’t work for you. But maybe some of them will. Whatever the case, I hope you find a balance that works for you.

Tip #1: Take it slow.

I know it’s tempting to put off the reading until the last minute, especially when you know you don’t like the book, but that’s just torturing yourself, and why would you want to do that? Instead, my advice is to split up the reading, if you’re able to.

If you have to read 60 pages by Friday, start on Monday and read 15 each day, taking your time. Go back and reread paragraphs you don’t understand, if you need to, but don’t let yourself fixate too much on a confusing passage. All that will do is stress you out, and make you dislike the book even more.

Of course, there will be times where you won’t have an entire week to read, especially in college. Even if you only have a day or two, you can still apply this technique. Break the reading up into bite-sized chunks, and take little breaks in between each section. This way, you’ll give your brain time to chill, and you’ll retain more of the information.

The added bonus of this technique is that it gives you time to do some really stellar annotations, if you’re required to, which brings me to my next tip.

Tip #2: Take notes.

I know, I know. Why would you want to take notes when you don’t have to, or on a book you don’t like? I’ve noticed that often, the reason people don’t like books they read for school is because they don’t understand them, and they don’t try to, either. Notes are an easy fix for that. There’s a reason why a lot of English teachers require them.

Notes are not something to be afraid of. They’re just a tool to help you better understand what you’ve read by putting it into your own words. They don’t have to be extremely detailed, and they don’t have to take a lot of extra time. In fact, it’s probably better if you take them while you’re reading. You can make them as long or short as you need, as long as they help you better understand the content.

If you can’t write directly in the book, or don’t want to, that’s fine. You can write on post-it notes and stick them inside the book, or even have a notebook open next to as you read, jotting down any thoughts or questions you have as you go. Or, if you’re not into the paper-and-pencil thing, you can take notes on your phone or computer. Having these things will be super helpful when you need to study for a test or contribute to a class discussion.

Tip #3: Take advice.

If you’re really struggling with a book, you can always go to your teacher for help. For the most part, they probably became an English teacher because they love reading and wanted to spread that love to other people, and they will probably be more than willing to help you, but you have to ask first.

Trust me, I know that’s a scary requirement. This one is definitely the one I struggle with the most. Asking for help may seem like an admission of defeat, but it’s not. It shows that you’re willing to put effort into your education, and I think you’ll find that if you do ask for help, it will definitely have been worth it. Plus, you’ll be less scared the next time you need to talk to a teacher.

Teachers are there to help you. They want to make you succeed, but the only way that they can do that is if you let them. That’s something that you should always try to remember when asking for help: a good teacher will not bite your head off for asking a question. In fact, they will probably be happy to help you, and they might have some pretty good tips, tailored specifically for you, to help you become a better reader in general, not just a better reader of the books you have to read.

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There you have it: Ariel’s top tips for getting through a school book you hate. Obviously, this list is subjective, and what works for me might not work for you. The key is to not give up, and soon you’ll be pushing through that required reading like a pro. I believe in you guys.

Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next time.

-Ariel

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