Michelle Wittle On Becoming a Better Reader

Michelle Wittle On, Writing Tips

I spend a lot of time talking about making sure we understand why we are writing and who are we writing for, but I haven’t really discussed how the same theory can be used when we are reading.


We all read for different reasons. Sometimes we just need a good book to distract us from whatever troubles we have in our lives. Maybe it’s too cold to go outside and there is absolutely nothing on the television, so you want to grab the cat and make her sit in your lap while you read (but if you have a cat like mine, she will eat the book you are trying to read or she will slap her head against yours to let you know that you have to pet her and pet her now). Then there is the reading to learn how to read music or a biography. Lastly, we have the reading because my teacher to me I have to read it.


That is the reading I want to address here in this blog. As a former teacher, I want to let you all in on a little secret. Teachers aren’t making you read something because we are evil; there is something we want you to learn from it. There is always a common thread to what we pick and there is always a purpose (or was that just me). I was always looking for stories that would all relate somehow whether it was characterization, theme, or even plot; the stories connected.


So, when you are faced with a reading assignment for a class, I want to give you some tips to help you read the assignment better.


First, if you have a study guide or questions, read them before you read the text. That way when you find an answer to a question, you can mark it off and this will also keep you focused on the text.


Secondly, make sure you read the headlines. There aren’t written because the author was bored and wanted to fill up space. The headlines are little warning signs to help you know what the next couple of paragraphs are about. Again, this will help you keep your focus because you will know you are reading to learn about whatever the heading told you it would be about.


If you are reading a novel for class, say an English lit class, your teacher definitely picked that book for a reason. Most of the time you will have an assignment for it, so you will know why you are reading it. But, if you aren’t sure then you should ask. If it is something you have to come up on your own, then look at your syllabus and look at the other books you will be reading. Try to find the common thread.


All things are read for a reason. It isn’t because you were told to read it; there is a reason for it. Sometimes I will give people books because I see the main character of that book act just like they do or I think they can learn a lot from the plot. I never give a book just to give it and people don’t read just to look at words on a page.


Everything in life is done for a purpose and reading is no different. If you want to become a better reader, you need to not just focus but focus on your purpose for reading whatever you have to read. We don’t learn because someone told us to, we learn because there is something we need to gain from the lesson. Find your purpose for reading and you will become a better reader. 


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