In the last post on reading and Reinke’s new book, Lit!, we talked about how to make time to read. In this post, we’ll be using Reinke’s book to address the issue of reading comprehension.
I never absorb what I read!
I am all too familiar with this problem. Although the average person probably won’t remember 90% of the words they read, it’s the important concepts and select phrases and quotes that stay with us and make reading worthwhile. How do we go about remembering those important points to share with someone or remind ourselves of later on in our lives?
1. Practice reading meditatively rather than reading and reacting.
Ever read a few pages of a book and want to take a facebook break? Or do you come across a great sentence and feel compelled to tweet it or tumble it? The Atlantic, the LA Times and Wired have all written pieces on the internet’s negative effect on our attention spans. It’s a fact, online habits greatly reduce our ability to concentrate. Reading is exercising that long-term concentration that we don’t get many other places. Try to set aside 30 minutes to read uninterrupted. When you come across a quote you like, something you don’t understand or an idea you think is important, think about it yourself first. Write in the margins or pull out a notebook and jot it down. Things will stick in your mind much better if you think about them after your read them.
2. Mark up your books.
Although librarians may have hit you with a ruler for doing this in grade school, don’t be afraid to write in them now! The main reason why I buy my own books is so that I can write my reactions in the margins, highlight, star important points and dog-ear the pages. Also, even if you end up not writing a lot in a book, simply holding a pen or pencil while reading and tracing the lines will keep you focused and and even help you read quicker.
3. Aim for quality, not volume.
That said, reading quickly is not the goal of reading. In fact, reading lots of books isn’t even the goal of reading. To read well, we must be reading to glorify God by delighting in the written word and gaining wisdom. We can’t do this if we rush our reading. Reinke says,
“A wide gap separates a reader who simply consumes books from a reader who diligently seeks wisdom. Book consumers view books as ‘things to get read’. Wisdom seekers view books as fuel for slow and deliberate meditation” (178).
4. Join a book discussion.
A sure-fire way to prevent yourself from being a selfish reader is to discuss a book with friends. Do you read to help others understand things? Do you use what you’ve learned to apply it to your life and the lives of your friends? Do you join a book club with a humble and teachable heart, willing to acknowledge that others have gotten different things out of the same book you’ve read? Read to build up your community. Let it be a blessing to those around you!
Reinke ends his helpful book by pointing out that in reading, like in everything else, Christ is the center. There is no reading or comprehension without the light and grace of God in our lives. We find our identity and our confidence in Christ – not in how many theology books we can read or how well we use our time. Psalm 36:9 reminds us, “In your light do we see light.” Reinke responds with this exhortation:
We are humbled, but we are encouraged. We grab a new book and press on, not as slaves bound to a chore, but as liberated sinners who read to delight in the gifts of our God. We press on, reading and thanking God for the light we do see in books, and for his illuminating grace that lights our way. (185)