Introduction: Self-Improvement: Reading Comprehension Strategies for Career Success
When was the last time you applied what you read?
Reading books are important if you want to attain professional success. Reading comprehension is important, but so is applying what you read to achieve life and career success.
Have you read?
People tell me this quite a bit: "I love that book, the problem is applying it." Well, my answer to that is the application is everything. Loving the book is nothing. It isn't how many books you read, it's how...
Millionaire entrepreneurs, innovators, and learning experts share how to improve at the most important skill in business.
In an interest to evolve this blog, I seek ways to make the content more relevant to professionals. I have taken the new tagline, “Learn. Stretch. Grow,” to heart, and have been working to build a strong foundation of blog posts that are useful to any professional who is interested in learning and growing. I talk a lot about reading and learning new skills on this blog, so today, I am focusing on reading comprehension strategies.
To achieve career success, you have to incorporate ongoing learning into your life. But what is the point of learning, which includes reading, if you never apply what you learn? Take billionaire Richard Branson – who has built several businesses that bring in billions of dollars each year – for instance, he is a lifelong learner, who takes lots of notes. But he doesn’t just take notes, he later reviews his notes and turn them into goals. And he attributes his success to taking notes and applying the information. If that works for Richard Branson, why wouldn’t it work for you?
I also read that the most successful people seldom read for entertainment, it’s as if they are on a mission, so they read to deepen their knowledge about a topic, or read to gather information. I am a big believer in diversifying your reading, so I try to read broadly. One of the things I have to do, is to find a better balance among the three reasons for reading: Entertainment, Information and Knowledge.
Before I wrote this article, I conducted a lot of research on reading comprehension strategies, and noted the information that is relevant to you. Although there are many forms of learning, we are focusing on reading books, understanding them, and applying what you learn to achieve career success. Before reading a book, be very clear about why you are reading in the first place. Are you looking to escape into the world of great fiction, or are you are reading because you are trying to learn a new skill, or are you reading because you are gathering information on a topic of interest?
The way you read when you are reading for entertainment, is very different from when you are reading for information and knowledge. Since I have talked about note-taking already, let’s focus on some simple reading comprehension strategies.
Reading Comprehension Strategies
Stewart Erlich, College Writing and Reading Teacher, talks about two types of reading strategies: Macro and Micro Reading. And he recommends that it is most effective when you incorporate both.
- Macro Reading: Get the big picture of what you are reading. What is the book about?
- Micro Reading: Detail oriented reading. You go deeper into the content of the book.
To get the big picture of the book, do the following:
- Read the publisher’s note about what the book is about.
- Read the introduction to the book if it has one.
- Read the Table of Contents.
- Read the Index, if the book has one.
- In the Appendix, if there is a section that defines terms used in the book, read those as well.
- Pre-read or scan the book to get an idea of the main points in the book. While scanning the book, if anything jumps out at you, bracket the section in the book, then choose a label that encapsulates the point.
Interestingly enough, most speed reading courses recommend that you scan the book before you start reading.
Have you read?
For this type of reading you are now getting into the details of the book, and the best way is to read actively, so that you are engaged with the content to get the most out of the book. When you are reading books to gather information or deepen your knowledge, the content can be a bit dry, therefore, it is important to use a combination of the reading comprehension strategies mentioned below.
When you are reading, you are stepping into the author’s world, and trying to understand what he or she is telling you. To get the most from the book, pretend that you are having a conversation with the author – because you are. Highlight, circle, and annotate as you are reading. Identify things that you do not understand in the book, so that you can later focus on gaining clarity. Doing these things help you to interact with the words on the page and make them yours. And take notes as you are reading, so that you can review them later and turn them into action steps. By reading this way, you are creating a way for you to apply innovative concepts at work and in your life.
Imagine what would happen if each month you applied even one thing from what you learned?
Stewart Erlich says that Macro Reading + Micro Reading = Success
Final Thoughts On Reading Comprehension Strategies for Career Success
Finally, while researching reading comprehension strategies, with a focus on applying what you read, I came across an awesome blog post – How the Best Leaders Read – that’s worth the time to read. By following a couple of the tips in this blog post, you will make more progress in your career because you are applying more of the ideas that you are exposed to when you read books.
Dramatically increase your reading comprehension and retention using this fun, simple process for sharing and engaging with what you read.
Other Reading Comprehension Strategies
Quora is a great place to find interesting information. A user asked, “What are some ways to improve critical reading and reading comprehension skills?”
“First of all, it’s impossible to remember all of the details, especially in a highly technical book/article. Trust me, I’ve tried.
That being said, there are ways to improve your recall. I found these techniques effective as a history major and during law school. (Both endeavors require a high degree of reading comprehension and recall.)
- Underline or highlight – you can do this on paper or electronically. I find it easier to recall an obscure detail about a woman’s slip-and-fall on page 28 if I underline the relevant passage. Of course, underlining and highlighting aren’t enough. This technique, however, allows you to find a particular tidbit later in time. Not all of us have photographic memory, sadly.
- Pinpoint themes – during my studies, I would always scribble a few thematic on the margin as I was reading. For example, if I was reading about antebellum South, I would write “impact of slavery” on the margin whenever I saw a connection. There are usually a few overarching themes in any reading. If you can isolate and identify the themes, you are leagues beyond the average reader. This skill takes practice, so don’t worry if you don’t do it well at first.
- Think about what you’re reading – reading can be a passive or an active activity. Reading passively means that you’re just letting information stream by. Active reading is when you stop at different points and think – what does all of this mean? This is different than reading slowly — absorbing individual words is useless unless you put them in a grander context. (This is a prerequisite for the suggestion #2.)
There are probably scores of other suggestions out there, but simple steps are a good place to start.”
Reading Comprehension Books
Most comprehension books are for students, but that is not a bad thing. The information might be a lot easier to understand.
UPDATE: First Published in October 2015
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