How to Absorb What You Read

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With the constant distractions around you, it can be hard to absorb what you read in a meaningful way. You may struggle with absorbing a text for a class or reading a book for pleasure. To absorb what you read, start by creating a quiet reading environment. Then, make an effort to read the text slowly and carefully. You can also take notes on the text to help you absorb the content and better understand it.


EditCreating a Quiet Reading Environment

  1. Find a quiet, isolated area. Pick a reading spot that you know will be quiet and have the least amount of distractions. At home, this might be your bedroom or a room upstairs, away from shared areas like the kitchen or living room. At school, you may read in the quiet area of the library or in a quiet corner of the study hall.[1]
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    • Choose an area that has thick walls and a door or a partition. This will help to block out noise and other sounds that could distract you from your reading.
  2. Block out noise and distractions. If you know there is going to be noise where you are reading, wear noise cancelling headphones or ear plugs. Close all doors to keep out noise. This will help you stay focused on the text.
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    • You should also turn off your cellphone and your wifi. This way, you are not distracted by social media or text messages.
  3. Tell others to leave you alone. Let those around you know that you are trying to focus on reading. Put up a Do Not Disturb sign on your door. Ask others around you to stay away from your room or area so you can try to absorb the text in peace.
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    • You may instruct others to leave you alone for a set period of time, such as 30 minutes or 1 hour. This way, you are assured of some peace and quiet for a set period of time so you can focus on the text.

EditReading Slowly and Carefully

  1. Read a printed text. Reading a text that is printed on a page, rather than on a computer, will make it easier for your eyes to focus on the text. Print out texts that are online or on a computer so you have the physical copy. This way, your eyes will not have to strain to read the text on a computer screen.[2]
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    • If you are worried about using too much paper, print on both sides of the paper. Choose the double sided option when you print the text. You can also use recycled paper to print the text.
    • Alternatively, you can read the text on an eReader or on a screen designed for reading small print. Make the text large and easy to read on an eReader so you do not have to strain your eyes when reading.
  2. Skim the text for keywords, ideas, and themes. Look for words that are repeated several times. Identify ideas that seem important to the rest of the text. Notice themes that reappear from page to page. Skimming the text for these elements will make it easier for you to then understand the rest of the text when you read it in full.[3]
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    • Keep these keywords, ideas, and themes in mind when you read the text in detail. Use them as a guide for your reading.
  3. Read the text out loud. Reading the text aloud to yourself can help you slow down and read the text more carefully. Listen to each sentence as you read it aloud. Pay attention to how the words sound on the page. Notice repetition, turns of phrase, and the language used in the text.[4]
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    • To keep the reading engaging, you may try reading the text aloud with a peer or friend. Take turns reading the text aloud. This will allow you to listen to the text when it is being read by someone else.
  4. Revisit passages you do not understand. If you struggle with certain sentences or sections in the text, re-read them. Read each word slowly and consider the meaning of each sentence in the section. Spend some time pulling apart the passage. This will help you better understand it.[5]
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    • Once you have re read the passage, consider it within the context of the rest of the text. Ask yourself, “How does this passage relate to the text as a whole?” “What does this passage say about the key themes or ideas in the text?”

EditTaking Notes on the Text

  1. Highlight or underline sentences you find interesting. Use a highlighter or a pen to underline sentences that stand out to you. Look for sentences you find striking or interesting. Do not be afraid to markup the text with underlines and highlights, as this will force you to read the text more closely.[6]
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    • Try to only highlight or underline sentences that you think are really important. Highlighting or underlining the text too much can make it hard for you to identify sentences that are important, and you’ll end up with pages of underlines and highlights.
    • Only highlight or underline the book if you own it and it is okay to do so. Library books, borrowed texts, and old texts may not be suitable for highlighting and underlining.
  2. Put notes in the margins. Reflect on the text as you read by jotting down notes in the margins. Write down short thoughts you have about the text. Put a question mark next to sentences you do not understand. Put one to two words next to lines that spark a thought for you.[7]
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    • For example, you may write in the margins “key detail” or “explores main theme.”
    • Only make notes in the margins if you own the book and you are allowed to do so. Do not write directly in library books and old texts that are not yours.
  3. Make notes in a notebook if you can’t mark up the book. You can also make notes about the text in a notebook or on a piece of paper. Pull quotes from the text that you find interesting or important and write them down in the notebook. Then, add notes next to it. Or put the page number from the text down next to the note.
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    • For example, you may make a note about a particular passage like, “important discussion of title” or “key character moment.”
    • You may designate a notebook to a particular text so you can return to it for reference later. Having separate notes in a notebook may be a good idea even if you can write in the book.
  4. Create a list of questions about the text. Asking questions about the text will help you become a better reader. Pretend you are having a conversation with the text directly. Ask questions about passages you are confused about or intrigued by. Add to the list of questions as you read.[8]
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    • For example, you may ask questions like, “How does this sentence explore key themes in the text?” “Why did the author include this example?” “How does this passage make me feel as a reader?”
    • Keep the list of questions in a separate notebook so you can refer to them later.
  5. Make a list of words you do not recognize. Identify any vocabulary that you are not familiar with or do not know the meaning of. Keep a running list of terms. Use a dictionary to look them up and then consider the definition in the context of the sentence. This will help you better understand the text and read it more closely.[9]
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    • You may keep a dictionary handy while you read the text so you can look up words quickly and easily.
    • Keep the list of vocabulary in a separate notebook so you can look at them later.

EditRelated wikiHows

  • Learn Speed Reading
  • Understand the Book You Are Reading
  • Improve Your Reading Skills
  • Make a Reading Nook in Your Room
  • Actively Read a Piece of Literature

EditSources and Citations

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