How do you read a book? Do you dive in working your way from beginning to end? Or do you have a more systematic approach. Diving in and working your way from beginning to end is a technique for when you are reading fiction. Not so though for reading non-fiction. When reading a non-fiction book, it’s important to skim and scan it, before you dive in. You can read more books and learn a lot more if you practice skimming and scanning books the right way. Even though you’ll learn how to read faster, this post is not about speed reading, but about reading strategies to get the most out of your reading time.
Over the past four weeks, I’ve been reading more books than usual, and I read a lot. Did I just say I read a lot? Because anyone who knows me, know that I love books, and I love reading them. However, the books I’ve been reading are e-books, and I haven’t mastered the art of skimming and scanning an e-book yet. I tried a few times to skim and scan e-books and it was an EPIC FAIL. If you know how to do that, please let me know.
UPDATE: First Published January 2017
Initial Thoughts on Reading Faster and Learning More
This post is a follow-up to the one on Selective Reading. In that post, you learned that skimming and scanning are forms of selective reading. With that in mind, how and what you read starts with your purpose for reading. In the timeless classic, How to Read a Book, there are three reasons for reading any book:
- Deeper Understanding
Since one of my big goals for this year is to learn the 10 key skills that the World Economic Forum reports you need to thrive in 2020, my purpose for reading are for information on, and a deeper understanding of, the 10 skills needed for future jobs. That means, I want to discover ways to master the 10 skills, in as little time as possible – without compromising quality.
Related Post: How to Read a Book Faster
Skimming and scanning a book can help with that. However, I need to share some critical information with you. For the sake of argument, let’s say, each of the key skills is a subject that you have to master, so that means, you have to master 10 skills before 2020. But some of the 10 subjects are related to each other. They could be adjacent disciplines.
Some of the books in the Thinkers series by the Critical Thinking Foundation, report that every subject, or even a discipline, has a set of core ideas. To get at the core ideas, you start with defining the subject. For instance, if you wanted to learn the 10 skills, and you’re starting off with mastering complex problem solving, you’d ask the question, “What is complex problem solving?”
Answering that simple question, starts your learning journey, to learn complex problem solving. A reference book, encyclopedia, or a good problem solving book, will provide the answer to that question. In addition to core ideas, there are also secondary ideas, and peripheral ideas. The core ideas help to explain the secondary and peripheral ideas.
Do you understand now why you have to set the stage before you start reading any book?
Getting a Deeper Understanding of Reading Faster, Learning More
Continuing with the example of reading to master 10 subjects (skills), each subject has ideas and a structure that you have to learn. That means, if you want to learn complex problem solving, you have to learn the ideas and structure of complex problem solving. This may sound like a difficult thing to do, but the Critical Thinking Foundation offers a framework to help you – The Eight Elements of Thought. Having this kind of framework, allows you to read more effectively, because you have a sense of the kinds of information you must learn to master the subject.
You go through this process, if you want to think critically about what you’re reading. Thinking is a form of learning. By the way, critical thinking is one of the 10 key skills to learn by 2020.
Read Faster, Learn More: The Eight Elements of Thought
- What’s the author’s purpose for writing the book
- What’s the author’s point of view on the issue
- What assumptions are the author making?
- What are the implications of her reasoning?
- What information does she use to reason through the issue?
- What are the inferences and conclusions?
- What are the most basic concepts?
- What’s the question the author trying to answer in the book?
In addition, many speed reading courses use questions that are related to the ones above. The questions below, also make your reading time more efficient.
- What’s the purpose for reading?
- What’s the book about?
- What are some important themes?
- What are the key concepts?
- How are the concepts related?
- What do you already know about this topic?
- How can you apply existing knowledge with past experiences to what you’re reading?
- What meaningful connections can you make with your existing knowledge with past experiences?
Answering the eight questions that arise from the elements of thought, and the ones that are frequently included in speed reading courses, will give you a solid understanding of what the book is about. Therefore, you can read the book faster, while learning more from it. And because you have the questions, skimming and scanning the book will allow you to quickly find the answers that you are looking for.
Skimming and scanning a book, allow you to get the information you need quickly, without wasting time. A little bit of preparation can go a long way. So instead of spending six to eight hours reading a book, by using the strategies above, you can spend a fraction of the time, yet get the same or more from the book.
Definition of Skimming and Scanning: Is There a Difference Between Them?
Skimming and scanning are two very different forms of reading selectively. You usually skim a book before you scan it. Even if you decide to read the entire book, if you skim and scan it first, you’ll find that you read it much faster. Many speed reading courses recommend that you do skim and scan a book before you start to read it – they call it preparing and previewing.
Definition of Skimming
Skimming is a reading technique used when you want an overview of the whole book. You look at sub-headings, keywords, and phrases, to get the gist of the what the book is about. “Skimming can provide a good idea of what the author is writing about, what main topics will be covered, the general sequence of major ideas and the kind of approach used by the author.” Source: Skimming and Scanning
Definition of Scanning
Scanning is a reading technique used when you want to find a specific piece of information in a book. You would scan the book you are reading to answer the questions mentioned above. In other words, you are looking for answers.
Concluding Thoughts on Read Faster, Learn More, Use These Reading Strategies
There are so many goods books out there, and so little time to read them. Therefore, you need reading strategies that allow you to read books faster, while learning more. Think of the 80/20 Rule – you can get 80 percent of the content of a book, while reading only 20 percent of it. The trick is which 20 percent to read. Answering the questions above, will give you insights into what sections of the book to read deeply, and which sections to gloss over.