Building College Reading Skills
In high school, you may have simply picked up a book and read it. This won't work in college. You'll need to improve your strategy if you want to be able to participate in class to the fullest extent possible.
1. Write in your books. In high school, you borrowed your books from the school you attended. In college, you will need to purchase your books. My college textbooks are colorful. Why? Because some books were read multiple times. You purchase your college textbooks because they are your tools. Learn the proper way to annotate a text. Don't highlight every word - but you might want to highlight key passages. Don't be afraid to make marginalia. Is there something that doesn't make sense? Put a question mark next to it. Don't agree with something? Write that in the margin. Want to see the outline of an argument quickly? Mark the premises and conclusion in the margins. By using a strategic method for marking up your text, you'll increase your understanding of that text.
2. Engage with the author as though you were having a conversation. Even if you are reading fiction, writers almost always have an agenda. In fiction, it might be describing a particular theme; for poets, they might be trying to evoke a particular emotion or mood.
3. Read the assigned passage two to three times. The first time you read the assigned passage, you are just trying to get a grip on what's going on. The second time you read the passage, look for the structure. Find the symbols the author is using. Look for the elements of characterization the author uses. The third time you read the passage, try to reconstruct the argument and formulate an opinion about the text. What was the author's purpose in writing this passage?
4. Read more than the assigned readings. Are you reading more than what's assigned for class? If your professor provides a recommended reading list, purchase those books as well. Are there topics you're interested in beyond what's been assigned? Go ahead and go to the library. Is there something you're not sure you understand? Go to the library.
5. Try to get the first reading in before the semester starts. Books for your classes will often be at the university two to three weeks ahead of time. Try to read your books before class starts. This will give you an advantage over fellow classmates.