As a college student I have been asked more than once to read books in the context of my English classes. Telling you that all of them were a breeze to read would be a lie. In fact, often times, I had to read the same lines over and over again to make sure I understood them correctly. That being said, I have come up with tips on my own on how to understand better those assigned novels, and I thought I would share them with you today. Here is a list of 10 tips, but don’t just follow these ones, get creative find what works best for you, and please share them with us so we can all help one another.
Tip 10. Read the description
This tip may sound weird, but trust me by reading the description at the back of the novel it is already easier to grasp to content of what you are about to read.
Tip 9. Come into the game with the right mind-set
If you persuade yourself that you won’t understand the topic or the book as a whole before reading the first line,chances are that you won’t understand it. You have to believe in yourself and in your capacities. As Theodore Roosevelt once said,”believe you can, and you’re halfway there”.
Tip 8. Find a calm environment
Don’t plan to read your book during a family gathering, on the subway or riding the bus, chances are you will get interrupted and your understanding will be fragmented. Find a nice, clean and peaceful place to read. For instance, the library, your room, or if the weather is on your side take your book to the park; the fresh air will help you to focus. However, I would recommend not to read on your bed as it affects your sleeping schedule.
Tip 7. Make summaries
This might be the last thing on your mind while reading a book as you probably don’t want to add to your workload. However, making chapter summaries is very useful in understanding a novel, plus you get a great tool to help you study before a test because you will have already written down the most important elements. I suggest to read a couple of chapter in advance ( for me it is usually 3) and then come back to the first one and summarize it; that way you are more sure of what is important as you know a little more about what is happening next. If you want to know which information is important you can check out our section named summary!
Tip 6. Write down the words you have not seen before
This tip is more about a personal preference, when I read a book in which there are words I don’t necessary understand I won’t stop to look for them in a dictionary right away. Instead, I underline them and as I finish reading the chapter I’ll come back to all the difficult words and make a list with all of them and their definitions.
Tip 5. Make a list with all the characters
Sometimes we get assigned with a novel with what seems to be a hundred and ten characters and making a list with a brief description of who they are and their relationship is what I find to be the most helpful. For Frankenstein, there is a little less characters, but some of them are really important. Look at our section on characters, I am sure this will help you out!
Tip 4. Ask questions
This tip for some people might be a given, but I will insist on it. Ask questions, don’t be afraid, chances are you are not the only one with those interrogations and you will probably help many others.
Tip 3.Make visual supports
I suggest to make drawings or even maps to help understand the material at stake. You can create some sort of conceptual map in order to link all the characters and find how they all are related to one another for instance.
Tip 2. Find yourself a reading buddy
Find someone who you get along with and that has to read the same book you do. You can get together and help each other with your understanding of the novel. You can quiz one another, or simply talk about the sequence of events.
Tip 1. Don’t plan to read the book in one sitting the day before it is due
I know it is really easy to procrastinate and to push everything to later, but assigned novels for your English class are not something to take lightly. You should allow yourself time to read the book and to reflect on what you have read, this way it is easier to understand. While you are reading, I strongly recommend to have highlighters next to you to highlight important passages. If you only borrowed your book, sticky notes will be your best friend!