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HOW TO READ

http://ctl.byu.edu/node/329
People go to sleep over good books not because they are unwilling to make the eort, but because they do not know
how to make the eort. Good books are over your head; they would not be good for you if they were not. And books
that are over your head weary you unless you can reach up to them and pull yourself up to their level. It is not the
stretching that @res you, but the frustra@on of stretching unsuccessfully because you lack the skill to stretch eec@vely.
To keep on reading ac@vely, you must have not only the will to do so, but also the skill the art that enables you to
elevate yourself by mastering what at rst sight seems to be beyond you.1

Of the twenty principles taught in Student Development 305 Advanced Reading Strategies for College Success,2
several have been idenEed by students as having made the most dierence in their reading of challenging texts.
Below are the ve top strategies students wish they had known earlier in their college careers. (All are taken from
Learn More & Read Faster,2 the handbook for the course. The sources and inspiraEons for these strategies are given
there.)
1.
BEFORE READING: Preview & Build An:cipa:on
2.
BEFORE READING: Set Purpose
3.
DURING READING: Synthesize Along the Way
4.
DURING READING: Ask Ques:ons
5.
AFTER READING: Explain
1. BEFORE READING: Preview & Build An:cipa:on T.H.I.E.V.V.E.S. with Snatches. Previewing, looking over a text
before reading it carefully, is considered a key strategy of eecEve readers. The three main funcEons of previewing
are to see how a text is put together, to realize the content of what you will be learning and thereby build or bring to
memory background knowledge about the topic, and to give you enough of the content to set valuable purposes for
reading it more carefully. Building anEcipaEon, a separate principle from previewing but oUen done at the same
Eme, moEvates you to become engaged and commiVed to reading an academic text. It takes reading out of the
realm of going-through-the-moEons and puts your mindset solidly in the realm of I have much I want to learn from
this and I want to. T.H.I.E.V.V.E.S. with Snatches is one strategy for doing this, although there are others (see Six
Ways to Become Fascinated by a Boring Text ).
Preview the content of a chapter of the text. Ask yourself:

What am I going to learn in this text?

What is the problem the author is trying to solve or the main message he/she is trying to put across?

What does the author want me to learn from this text? My professor?
Skim parts of the entire chapter with the goal of seeing key facts and concepts.

T.H.I.E.V.V.E.S.1 is an acronym for text features that can help you complete a useful preview of the text. So
get the goods from this text by looking at and thinking about each of the following as you come upon them
in the text:
Title
Headings
Introduction
Every first sentence of sections or paragraphs2
Visuals
Vocabulary, often bolded
End questions or Every author-generated question
Summary

Snatches helps build anticipation. While you are previewing, snatch here and there a look at a picture, a
graphics, and always a sentence randomly or purposefully selected from the text. Then ask, What
interesting and important things might I learn from this text?

From this brief preview, make your best attempt to state the main message or problem. List what seems to
be the essential content in the chapter.

Foot Notes

1. Manz (2002).
2. We read the first sentence because that it usually contains the main point of the paragraph or section.
OHear and Aikman (1996) found that 63% of the main ideas in 12 contemporary bestsellers were positioned
in the first sentence of the paragraph. The main point is not always there but enough of the time, especially
in informational texts, to make it worth reading this sentence in a preview of the text. Furthermore, doing so
leads you to predict, thus building your anticipation for reading the text.
2.
2. BEFORE READING: Set Purpose Launch. SeZng a purpose before reading declares your desEnaEon. If you are
going on a journey, having a desEnaEon helps in you make decisions along the way. You know where you are
headed and what you want to accomplish along the way. The student who took ve hours to read twelve pages
wanted to get everything out of the text. Well, ve hours is not nearly enough Eme to do that. It is like saying I
want to explore every rock and gully in Utah. Five hours wont do it. This is not only an unrealisEc purpose, it is
detrimental to accomplishing your long term academic goals. There are many other important reasons to set
purposes. Launch lists useful steps for seZng purposes for reading. Closely connected is AFTER READING: Check
Purpose Met Purpose? because you will want to follow through to be sure you met your purposes for reading.
After you have set a purpose and have read the text, confirm to yourself that you have indeed met your
purposes for reading it.

If your purpose is specific and active enough to prove that you have met it, do the action.

If the purpose is a question, answer it completely.


6.
Address several of these reflective questions to strengthen your metacognitive awareness and thereby
your comprehension:

What were the purposes you set originally before reading this text? How did you come to those
purposes?

Did you stick with those purposes throughout the reading? If you changed purposes midstream, why
did you? Was this a move to more useful purposes? Should you have stayed with your original
purposes? Why or why not?

After reading, what did you realize you most wanted and needed to gain from this text?

Did you meet these purposes? How do you know?

How did your purposes influence your approach to the text?

Are you pleased with your accomplishment?

3. DURING READING: Synthesize Along the Way Download. Synthesizing Along the Way means pulling together the
pieces of what you are learning at points during the journey of reading a text. Synthesizing involves explicitly
looking for related words, concepts, and ideas in the text and using them to construct a main idea or summary
statement. This DURING principle involves stopping aUer a secEon of text and noEng what you are learning from
the reading. You do this quickly, just enough to hold the informaEon unEl you can think more deeply about it later.
Downloading is a quick way to do this.

Five patterns for QUICK DOWNLOADING are Slash, Linear, Web, Pictorial, and Random. The reason to do
a quick download during reading is to hold the meaning of what you just read so you can move on. You
record that meaning as words or phrases rather than sentencesyou are distilling the key information; you
are creating a visual with relationships among the parts which will facilitate recall later; you are synthesizing
along the way.
After reading a section of the text:

Select one of the Download Patterns below that fits your style and the text, OR make up a pattern of
your own. These can be effective, fast, and memorable ways to take notes of your reading, and you
can keep adding to them as you read.

Rapidly download what youve learned. Do this in one of several ways:

On a separate sheet of paper be sure to label with text name and page number

In the margins of the text so handy when you go to review

On a sticky note can write more, can transfer to another sheet, can keep a borrowed text clean
More information about these downloads may be found in Frank (1990, Remember Everything You Read,
104-121), Chapter 6:

4. DURING READING: Ask Ques:ons Profs Ques=ons and My Ques=ons. Asking Ques@ons is approaching a text with
wonder. Asking genuine quesEons is more important for learning than having pat answers. Reading with quesEons in
mind is an important part of criEcal reading; you challenge ideas and demand an understanding of the authors
meaning and purpose. As you try to answer your quesEons, do not be saEsed with shallow answers. Go beyond the
text if necessary. Appreciate that the best quesEons have no ready answers. Some quesEons take days, years, or
centuries to answer while some may never have sure answers but are quesEons sEll worth asking and thinking about.
Good quesEons change the world. When you sustain your quesEons, ponder them, and allow them to give birth to
new quesEons; you are becoming a scholar. Nothing is a more important tool for a scholar than asking good
quesEons.
You have been asking quesEons since you could talk; it is a natural way of being in the world. Bring that same curiosity
to the text.

Ask quesEons BEFORE you read to give purpose for readingto discover answers you really want to know.
Ask quesEons DURING reading to clarify meaning, to probe for understanding, to be metacogniEvely aware,
and to gain new insights.

Ask quesEons AFTER reading to review, to reect on the signicance of what you have learned, and to
generate new thinking.
One strategy for asking quesEons when you are in the survival mode is Profs Ques@ons. Beyond that are asking your
own quesEons, SocraEc quesEons, and probing quesEons for criEcal and creaEve thinking, but that is not our purpose
for now. Suce it to say: Do not let Profs Ques@ons be your only quesEons.
5. AFTER READING: Explain. Be the Teacher. Explaining is partly retelling but is also providing examples, connecEng
to informaEon outside of the text, and jusEfying your outlook on the content. Understanding goes beyond mere
knowledge of facts, giving back on tests the ocial theory of the textbook or professor, or telling someone about it.
Making yourself explain what you understand pushes you to a higher level of comprehension. ExplanaEon involves the
following :
1.

Knowledge of Why and How:


Providing knowledgeable and jusEed accounts of events, acEons, and ideas and the reasons or theory
behind them

Verifying knowledge with examples, predicEons, support, analogies, or theoreEcal perspecEve


2.
Warranted Opinions:

JusEfying how you arrived at an answer and why it is right

Giving valid evidence and argument for a view and being able to defend that view against other views

Seeing the guiding principles behind the problem, phenomenon, or fact; seeing the principles that clarify and
give value to the facts
There are strong reasons for explaining what you are learning. The strategy used to apply this principle is Be the
Teacher.

Trying to explain gives you feedback about the state of your knowledge. If you cant explain what you
have read, you probably do not understand it. Explaining shows you where the holes are in your
understanding and motivates you to search for answers and a more complete view.
Explaining well gives you a sense of ownership over the material. You can do more than parrot
informationit is yours because of all the connections you have made to the text in the act of
explaining it. You have become a co-author of this text.
Explaining deepens your understanding. In the very act of explaining, the information becomes
clear to you. The examples you generate and the questions your listener asks help you formulate
your understandings that would not have happened without this opportunity to explain. You talk
your way to a fuller understanding and toward more insights about the ideas in the text.
Explaining forces you to see the organization of your learning so you can present it in a coherent way.
It compels you to formulate a coherent synthesis at the start of the explanation and then to express
how the parts relate to each other.
The multisensory experiences involved in explaining a text (saying, hearing what you say, using
gestures, drawing it, listening to others reactions, rereading parts to emphasize, pointing to the text,
showing an illustration, etc.) make remembering the material easier because it has been put into
long-term memory from several angles.
Explaining to someone can also strengthen memory because of the social connections made to the
material. You will remember the material better because you will recall the situationthe place, the
people, the feelings while explaining, the questions that came up, the discussionall contribute to
being able to recall the information.

Suppor:ng Academic Reading Strategies

First of all, realize that these strategies are the beginning of academic reading, not the end. They help students come
to a basic understanding of the text and help them nish their texts in a Emely manner. When they feel capable of
nishing their reading assignments with understanding, they are then ready for probing, criEcal, and analyEcal
scholarly reading. First though, what can you do as a professor to help students take advantage of the benets of these
ve basic reading strategies? Here are just a few suggesEons:

Since these strategies come from the expert-reader research3 and because you are the expert reader in your
classroom, share your own experiences reading the tough texts in your eld. Research of professors here at

BYU4 shows that we do these variaEons of these strategies but we probably learned them the hard way
through trial, error, and long experience.
When you give a new reading assignment, suggest one or more of the strategies you feel will be especially
helpful in learning from that text assignment for your learning objecEve.
Because having a strong purpose for reading is powerful in guiding ones reading, you can give students
purposes for reading. The purpose can be as generic as To learn something fun. To challenge my current
percepEons. To prepare to teach others,.4 or it can be as targeted as Draw the respiratory system from
memory and describe in detail the purposes and funcEons of each part of this system. Students common
purpose, of To pass the quiz, is useless for focusing and guiding ones reading.
Challenge students to come up with their own important purposes specic to the text and have them share
these in class on the due date of the reading. How did they come up with the purposes? How did these
purposes help them learn from the text?
Adapt the handouts linked to this Ep to your discipline and give students a hard or electronic copy. Introduce
it and encourage them to use it. Remind and discuss it aUer they have had experience trying the strategy
with your assigned readings. What did you try? How did it work for you? Why?

T.H.I.E.V.V.E.S. with Snatches

Six Ways to Become Fascinated by a Boring Text

Launch

Met Purpose?

Why Synthesize Along the Way

Downloading PaVerns

Profs QuesEons

Why Try to Explain What You Are Learning

Be the Teacher
Hold a quick discussion with students about what consEtutes eecEve approaches to academic reading
(supporEng yourself BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER reading.).
Ask several readers to report to the class what they've been doing that has helped them successfully read
your texts in terms of rate, basic comprehension, and higher order criEcal thinking.
Hold a contest for the students who can predict the most quesEons you give on a quiz or exam.
Encourage students to form study groups and have them share their strategies for reading well in preparaEon
for the study group. Suggest they do Be the Teacher during the study group sessions.


Addi:onal Resources

1. Adler, M.J. & Van Doren, C. (1972). How to read a book: The classical guide to intelligent reading. New York: Simon
& Schuster.
2. Isakson, M. B. with Isakson, R. L., & Windham, I. (2011). Learn More & Read Faster. Provo, UT: BYU Publishing.
3. See Pressley, M., & Aerbach, P. (1995). Verbal protocols of reading: The nature of construcEvely responsive
reading. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum for a review of 38 expert-reader studies. Also see Flippo, R. F., & Caverly, D. C.
(2009). Handbook of college reading and study strategy research, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge (Taylor & Francis).
4. Isakson, M. B., Gilbert, J. B., Isakson, R. L., & Loud, Z. S. (ms in prep). How Undergraduates and Professors Read
Academic Texts and ImplicaEons for Teaching. You may request a copy of the nal report at marne_isakson@byu.edu.