Active Reading

I grew up with a strong love of books. This basic love of reading carried me through primary and elementary school, and even through junior high. It wasn’t until high school that I realized just being a fast reader who enjoyed the process wasn’t going to be enough to get me through. By the time I reached college, it became clear that reading for pleasure was one thing, but reading for class was quite another. Here are a few tips I’ve gathered along the way that have helped me transition my reading from pleasant past-time to academic strength. Hopefully they’ll be helpful for you too!

Mark It Up

Many teachers and professors recommend writing directly on a book. If you’re a bibliophile like me, this advice may be impossible to take. The idea of writing in the margins of a book, underlining specific words or passages, or otherwise defacing a text is repugnant to me. However, some physical markers to help trigger your memory of what you read and thought while you read can be very helpful when it comes time to write a paper on a book. The compromise I’ve found is through extensive use of post-it notes. It may not be the most environmentally friendly or even cost-effective way to get the job done, but for those important books where I really need to remember what I’ve read, it can’t be beat.

Electronic Notes

Considering that I now type far faster than I could ever hope to write, I like to take notes on my reading in a Word document. This allows me to type out quotes that catch my eye and summarize pieces of the work all in one place. This method has worked particularly well when I have a big paper to write on a book and I have a topic in mind as I do my reading.


A great way to engage in reading is to ask questions as you go along. You don’t necessarily have to write these questions down, but it can help. These questions often help me participate in class discussions more effectively, as a question is both a way for you to participate as well as draw others into the conversation.

Get Outta Bed!

Reading in bed is one of the best ways to zone out during reading. I’ve lost entire chapters due to the misguided idea that I could easily read while reclining. You should be comfortable while reading, but not so comfortable that you can easily just shut your eyes and doze off.

What are some other tips you have for being an active reader?



Filed under Academic Advice, My Experiences

2 responses to “Active Reading

  1. Oh! I hate marking in books, too! It’s like I’m defiling them. Post-it notes are definitely the way to go.

    Great tips!

    • I’ve started to think that post-it notes are even superior to writing in the book. After all, I can see where all my notes are written, while all the other students are forced waste time flipping through looking for their notes.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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