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5 Ways to Become a Better Reader

5 Ways to Become a Better Reader

Language and literacy are among mankind’s greatest inventions. Evolving and even dying over the course of human history, languages are a reflection of our cultural and societal attitudes. Today, surrounded by social media, television, movies, billboards, and, of course, books, the ability to read and write is crucial to forming an identity and expressing one’s feelings. Most humans acquire language in early childhood and speak fluently when they are about three years old, but our continued relationship with language gives shape and meaning to our lives. Here are 5 ways to become a better reader.

Take it slow.

Many readers feel that they read too slowly, especially compared with others, but the truth is that the faster you read, the less likely you are to comprehend fully what you’re reading. The best readers are flexible—slowing down when needed, especially if weighty concepts or unknown words are grouped closely together—and always have a dictionary at hand. If you get to the end of a paragraph and realize you haven’t absorbed any of the information, do not hesitate to re-read the passage. Reading is a lifelong process: learning to read closely and slowly will help you become faster over time without missing anything.

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Read aloud.

When humans first began reading written words, it was unusual to read in silence. Though generally inappropriate for commuters or for late-night adventurers, reading out loud is one of the best ways to improve your reading ability. You may feel silly reading to your cat (or to no one at all), but once you get into the rhythm of the author’s voice, you will begin to read more accurately and with better vocal expression. Try listening to the author reading their own work—you’ll be surprised to find how clearly it comes through on the page.

Feel it.

Can you remember the first piece of writing that transported you to another world? One of the most powerful moments in a young, fluent reader’s life is learning to enter into the lives of imagined heroes and heroines. Subtleties of language and perspective become potent clues to deeper underlying meanings, and are easy to miss for even the most seasoned readers. As you read, let the language inform your pace, give pause to important gestures and dialogue, and allow striking ideas to simmer. In no time, you’ll be appreciating novels like fine wine.

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Write.

Writing and reading go hand-in-hand: how and what you read affects how and what you write, and the best readers often make the best writers. But while much can be learned from close, repeated readings, there are many secretive pleasures to language that can only be experienced through the practice of writing. This is why certain authors are labeled “writer’s writers”; another level of meaning and intense appreciation exists for those who create rather than simply observe. Try writing every day for a month; you will never read the same again.

Tell your friends.

All of literature is essentially communication from an individual’s inner voice to an audience. Though Franz Kafka’s dying wish was that all of his works—written in obscurity, often late at night, and mostly unpublished—be burned, aren’t we glad his friend, Max Brod, didn’t listen? There is something magical about sharing books with friends or a book club. It’s a good way to see the world from someone else’s eyes and, in the process, critically examine your own reaction to what you’re reading.

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Do you have any other helpful tips for becoming a good reader? Please leave a comment in the box below!

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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