From a young age, we learned the essential skills of reading. This is a skill that we often don’t think much of, especially around the subject of comprehension strategies for adults.
You’d think it’s rather weird at first. Adults all across the world are fully capable of reading anything. We’ve been doing that for decades.
But there is a massive difference between reading comprehension amongst children and adults you see. It’s something that hasn’t been explored much in science. You can tell by the number of studies out there discussing kid’s reading abilities rather than adults.
This lack in studies though, is a good enough reason to look into what kind of strategies exist for adults. As I said, an adult’s need for reading comprehension is different. It’s not so much as learning how to read but how to use the information we have, process it effectively, and leverage it.
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What Are Comprehension Strategies?
Because adults are focused on processing information and leveraging it, our comprehension strategies tend to be more focused on the surrounding areas rather than internal. That being said, there are some strategies that focus on how we are reading too.
I’ll get to those further down this article, but here are some external comprehension strategies to try out:
Place Yourself In A Distraction-Free Environment
There is a lot of noise going on around us these days. From TVs, our phone, music, and other distractions. The key with this strategy is to create a reading and learning environment that’s suitable for you.
For most people, that’s one without distractions.
But what if you can’t remove all the distractions?
Simple. Some alternatives are going somewhere else. Consider going to the library, a study room, or even the bathroom. You can also listen to classical or ambient music. This muffles sounds and music without lyrics can help you with concentrating more.
Having Someone Smarter Read With You
Let’s face it, we’re not all-knowing. There are people who are smarter than us. Maybe not in the area of reading, but the person may have read the book or is further along in life with experience and understanding.
This is what I mean by reading comprehension with adults. It’s not so much that we don’t know how to read, but rather, it may be tougher for us to take concepts from articles or books and apply them.
If you’ve got someone like a mentor, teacher, friend or parent, who has experience in this field, don’t hesitate to rely on them.
How we comprehend information varies from person to person. No matter what though, keep the following in mind should you use this strategy:
- If you are there to support in any way, be sure to give them questions. If you’re the one asking, you can always ask them to do this too. Comprehension isn’t just reading, but using the information.
- If you’re supporting, it pays to be able to explain things briefly. If you can summarize chapters or the whole book into key lessons that’s good.
Reading Out Loud
Reading out loud slows you down while reading. We focus more on pronouncing our words. We also process what we are reading more so when doing this.
Reading out loud also activates the parts of our brain that learns visually and through audio. It does this because we are seeing the words plus hearing them spoken aloud.
If you find yourself benefiting from this, I’d suggest looking into audiobooks. While there is no visual side to them, the audio could help. You can also look into narrated books that have audio and visual learning aspects.
Sometimes, we don’t always process everything in one sitting. Or maybe there was something that’s brought up later that you don’t understand and need to go back to previous lines to grasp it.
In some other cases, we read through a page or a paragraph and can’t even grasp what was said.
Regardless, don’t be afraid to go back through and re-read it. Perhaps read it out loud. That or slow down your reading. Keep re-reading until you understand what’s going on.
As you can tell, reading comprehension is simple at its core, but not everyone can leverage them right off the bat.
How Can I Leverage Comprehension Strategies?
Knowing those strategies is one thing, but leveraging is something else. Regardless, because reading comprehension is still a skill, we can improve it through various methods.
1. Dedicate Yourself To Reading
It’s a given that you want to be spending some time to reading. It’s recommended for starters to devote two to three hours to reading per week.
Not only that, but you want those hours to be part of a good reading session. Wat this means is that your reading is guided and relaxed.
Guided in the sense that there is structure and focused attention. You want to be expanding your vocabulary and quizzing yourself on what you’re reading.
Relaxed is being in a position where you can enjoy what you’re reading. Think back to the calming environment I mentioned above.
2. Understand and Re-evaluate How You Read Right Now
If it’s been a long time since you’ve picked up a book, this might be tougher to do. Then again, you do have to start somewhere.
What this strategy focuses on is encouraging you to read from different texts. Specifically, texts that you’re not familiar with.
Information is presented in many different formats. What you read in the newspaper is going to be written differently on a stand-alone website or on a blog. The same applies to textbooks as well.
This isn’t to say that certain mediums have superior written content, but rather, they demand different levels of comprehension.
The key to this strategy is to go into unfamiliar territory and read that way. Challenge your existing notions and preferences for reading and mix things up. But only do so for a short period of time.
Start off with reading 20 minutes from that and push to increase the time little by little. Maybe next time devote 22 minutes of your few hours to reading from it.
3. Expand Your Vocabulary
While the previous strategy can help with this, you don’t need to be using different reading mediums to expand your vocabulary. At the end of the day, reading comprehension stems from context, the interaction of words, and vocabulary. It’s through these three things we understand what we are reading.
Expanding your vocabulary is pretty easy. You can purposely pick a word from the dictionary and learn it and apply it every day. Or if what you are reading has a word you don’t understand, write it down.
The goal is to have a running list of words you don’t immediately recognize. From there, you can make flashcards to help you memorize them.
4. Read for the Joy of It
While many of us read for work or for growth, there is merit to reading for pleasure. This is a good strategy because sometimes, we get so wrapped up in reading for growth that we can start to see reading as a chore.
Remember, reading should always be for the fun of it.
With this in mind, some things you can do for this are:
- Reading a book that is below your grade level. Sure you won’t be learning much, but the key here is to relax and enjoy the book.
- Pick out fiction books. Authors in these genres focus on entertaining written content as opposed to content where you are learning.
5. Stay Curious
The last strategy I’ll mention is to have curiosity. Learning stems from us wanting to know something that we do not know. Whenever we google something or read an article, it’s because we don’t know that information.
Although people are quick to do that, I would suggest stretching your curiosity further. Not only focusing on new words but new pieces of information.
Being curious is more like a mindset than anything else, but it does lead to us seeking answers and thus reading and learning.
Here’s How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You.
Bonus: Speed Reading for Better Comprehension
One other strategy that I want to be touching on is speed reading. This is one of the comprehension strategies that some may have heard over the years. It’s the strategy behind how some people can read a book a day or read 50 plus books in the span of a year.
While this may not be your goal to read that much, being aware of the technique and using it can help you in extracting and learning faster than before.
Open Colleges explains this strategy in detail in an article, ere is a simple version:
- Don’t subvocalize. We were taught in school to read each word one by one. Instead, focus on letting your eyes glide through the words. How you can do this is through humming or counting in your head.
- Read words in clusters. The next step is getting your eyes to focus on three or four words at a time. The idea is grouping everything important. What it boils down to is getting rid of filler words like and, a, an, the, etc.
- Don’t backtrack. I said above that re-reading helps. It does, but it helps for those who want to read slowly. For speed readers, this is more time lost.
- Focus on skimming. With so much content out there, we’ve become masters of skimming. Some of us may not realize it is all. Either way, make sure you are skimming, which is focusing on parts that are important to you.
- Read plenty. This is a given but worth bringing up.
You can check out this article to learn how to read faster: How to Read Faster: 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed
Reading may not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but the key to growth is through the information that’s put out there today. The better and faster we can take information, extract, learn, and apply it, the more we will grow.
As such, taking these comprehension strategies and leveraging them can help us tremendously. Even considering taking up speed reading can help you out too.
Pick up a book now and start reading!
More Tips on Learning Fast
- 10 Effective Ways To Make You a Fast Learner
- 12 Powerful Learning Strategies to Help You Retain Info Fast
- How to Learn Fast and Remember More: 5 Effective Techniques
Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com