5.1 The Nature and Types of Reading - College Success | OpenStax (2022)

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Questions to consider:

  • What are the pros and cons of online reading?
  • How can distinguishing between reading types help you academically and personally?
  • How can you best prepare to read for college?

Research supports the idea that reading is good for you. Students who read at or above reading level throughout elementary and secondary school have a higher chance of starting—and more importantly, finishing—college. Educational researchers convincingly claim that reading improves everything from grades to vocabulary (Cunningham 2).

If you don’t particularly enjoy reading, don’t despair. We read for a variety of reasons, and you may just have to step back and take a bigger picture of your reading habits to understand why you avoid engaging in this important skill. The myriad distractions we now face as well as the intense information overload we can suffer on a daily basis in all aspects of our lives can combine to make it difficult to slow down to read, an activity that demands at least a modicum of attention in a way that most television and music do not. You may need to adjust your schedule for more reading time, especially in college, because every class you take will expect you to read more pages than you probably have in the past.

Types of Reading

We may read small items purely for immediate information, such as notes, e-mails, or directions to an unfamiliar location. You can find all sorts of information online about how to fix a faucet or tie a secure knot. You won’t have to spend too much time reading these sorts of texts because you have a specific goal in mind for them, and once you have accomplished that goal, you do not need to prolong the reading experience. These encounters with texts may not be memorable or stunning, but they don’t need to be. When we consider why we read longer pieces—outside of reading for pleasure—we can usually categorize the reasons into about two categories: 1) reading to introduce ourselves to new content, and 2) reading to more fully comprehend familiar content.

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5.1 The Nature and Types of Reading - College Success | OpenStax (1)

Figure 5.2 A bookstore or library can be a great place to explore. Aside from books and resources you need, you may find something that interests you or helps with your course work.

Reading to Introduce New Content

Glenn felt uncomfortable talking with his new roommates because he realized very quickly that he didn’t know anything about their major—architecture. Of course he knew that it had something to do with buildings and construction sites, but the field was so different from his discipline of biology that he decided he needed to find out more so he could at least engage in friendly conversation with his roommates. Since he would likely not go into their field, he didn’t need to go into full research mode. When we read to introduce new content, we can start off small and increase to better and more sophisticated sources. Much of our further study and reading depends on the sources we originally read, our purpose for finding out about this new topic, and our interest level.

Chances are, you have done this sort of exploratory reading before. You may read reviews of a new restaurant or look at what people say about a movie you aren’t sure you want to spend the money to see at the theater. This reading helps you decide. In academic settings, much of what you read in your courses may be relatively new content to you. You may have heard the word volcano and have a general notion of what it means, but until you study geology and other sciences in depth, you may not have a full understanding of the environmental origins, ecological impacts, and societal and historic responses to volcanoes. These perspectives will come from reading and digesting various material. When you are working with new content, you may need to schedule more time for reading and comprehending the information because you may need to look up unfamiliar terminology and you may have to stop more frequently to make sure you are truly grasping what the material means. When you have few ways to connect new material to your own prior knowledge, you have to work more diligently to comprehend it.

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Application

Try an experiment with a group of classmates. Without looking on the Internet, try to brainstorm a list of 10 topics about which all of you may be interested but for which you know very little or nothing at all. Try to make the topics somewhat obscure rather than ordinary—for example, the possibility of the non-planet Pluto being reclassified again as opposed to something like why we need to drink water.

After you have this random list, think of ways you could find information to read about these weird topics. Our short answer is always: Google. But think of other ways as well. How else could you read about these topics if you don’t know anything about them? You may well be in a similar circumstance in some of your college classes, so you should listen carefully to your classmates on this one. Think beyond pat answers such as “I’d go to the library,” and press for what that researcher would do once at the library. What types of articles or books would you try to find? One reason that you should not always ignore the idea of doing research at the physical library is because once you are there and looking for information, you have a vast number of other sources readily available to you in a highly organized location. You also can tap into the human resources represented by the research librarians who likely can redirect you if you cannot find appropriate sources.

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Reading to Comprehend Familiar Content

Reading about unfamiliar content is one thing, but what if you do know something about a topic already? Do you really still need to keep reading about it? Probably. For example, what if during the brainstorming activity in the previous section, you secretly felt rather smug because you know about the demotion of the one-time planet Pluto and that there is currently quite the scientific debate going on about that whole de-planet-ation thing. Of course, you didn’t say anything during the study session, mostly to spare your classmates any embarrassment, but you are pretty familiar with Pluto-gate. So now what? Can you learn anything new?

Again—probably. When did Pluto’s qualifications to be considered a planet come into question? What are the qualifications for being considered a planet? Why? Who even gets to decide these things? Why was it called Pluto in the first place? On Amazon alone, you can find hundreds of books about the once-planet Pluto (not to be confused with the Disney dog also named Pluto). A Google search brings up over 34 million options for your reading pleasure. You’ll have plenty to read, even if you do know something or quite a bit about a topic, but you’ll approach reading about a familiar topic and an unfamiliar one differently.

With familiar content, you can do some initial skimming to determine what you already know in the book or article, and mark what may be new information or a different perspective. You may not have to give your full attention to the information you know, but you will spend more time on the new viewpoints so you can determine how this new data meshes with what you already know. Is this writer claiming a radical new definition for the topic or an entirely opposite way to consider the subject matter, connecting it to other topics or disciplines in ways you have never considered?

When college students encounter material in a discipline-specific context and have some familiarity with the topic, they sometimes can allow themselves to become a bit overconfident about their knowledge level. Just because a student may have read an article or two or may have seen a TV documentary on a subject such as the criminal mind, that does not make them an expert. What makes an expert is a person who thoroughly studies a subject, usually for years, and understands all the possible perspectives of a subject as well as the potential for misunderstanding due to personal biases and the availability of false information about the topic.

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FAQs

What is read college success? ›

Reading for College Success provides an English curriculum focused on developing the mastery of skills identified as critical to postsecondary readiness in reading.

Why is reading important in college? ›

Research studies consistently show that students with strong reading comprehension skills outperform their peers in the classroom and beyond by wide margins. In college, reading comprehension provides the foundation for academic study and learning, and your instructors often assume proficiency.

How do you take notes on OpenStax? ›

When viewing any OpenStax book online, all you have to do to create a highlight or save a note is click and drag over a section of text. A box will then appear with different options for highlighter colors and a section for the notes you'd like to take — just like in a regular hard copy book!

How can you best prepare to read for college? ›

Here are some active reading strategies and tools you can use to bolster your reading for college.
  1. Find Your Reading Corner. ...
  2. Preview the Text. ...
  3. Use Smart Starting Strategies. ...
  4. Highlight or Annotate the Text. ...
  5. Take Notes on Main Points. ...
  6. Write Questions as You Read. ...
  7. Look Up Words You Don't Know. ...
  8. Make Connections.
25 Aug 2020

How do you summarize a college reading? ›

Write in present tense. Describe the main points covered in the text. Include supporting details as needed depending upon the length and depth of the summary desired. Mention any important conclusions drawn.

How do you read a chapter? ›

Look over a chapter for a few minutes before studying it in depth.
  1. Read the title and introductory paragraph(s). Fix the name of the chapter in your mind. ...
  2. Read headings, subheadings, and italicized words. ...
  3. Read the summary at the end of the chapter.

What is important of reading? ›

Reading is Essential and serves as a basic building block for learning, regardless of the school subject, be it language arts or even math. In daily life, the need to read things such as street signs or prescriptions proves reading is also an important life skill. 2. Reading Strengthens the Brainand improves memory.

What is purpose of reading? ›

The purpose of reading is to connect the ideas on the page to what you already know. If you don't know anything about a subject, then pouring words of text into your mind is like pouring water into your hand.

What is one of the most valuable study skills you can master? ›

Reviewing and augmenting notes after the initial notetaking session may be one of the most valuable study skills you can master. Whether you are highlighting, underlining, or adding additional notes, you are reinforcing the material in your mind and memory.

How do you highlight important points in a book? ›

Highlighting tips

Limit yourself to highlighting one sentence or phrase per paragraph. Look for the sentence that best expresses the main concept. Highlight key words and phrases instead of full sentences. When looking back over these words and phrases, quiz yourself on them before reading further.

When should students take notes? ›

Many teachers begin class with a short lesson, and then assign various activities to reinforce the lesson. If our teachers or professors set up their classes this way, we should always take notes on the information presented in the first 10-15 minutes of class.

How can students improve their reading skills? ›

8 Tips to Help Students Build Better Reading Skills
  1. Annotate and highlight text. ...
  2. Personalize the content. ...
  3. Practice problem solving skills. ...
  4. Incorporate more senses. ...
  5. Understand common themes. ...
  6. Set reading goals. ...
  7. Read in portions. ...
  8. Let students guide their reading.
12 Apr 2017

What is summary of the story? ›

The summary follows the structure of a process essay; it describes the steps through which a story's conflict is resolved. It names and identifies important characters and describes the major events of the story.

Why do you feel your reading rate is essential to your success in college? ›

As a college student you may find yourself overwhelmed by the large amount of material that you are required to read. It's easy to fall behind in course reading and feel like you can't catch up. It can often feel like simply too many pages to get through in time! This is why an increased reading rate so essential.

What are 5 characteristics of a good summary? ›

A good summary should be comprehensive, concise, coherent, and independent. These qualities are explained below: A summary must be comprehensive: You should isolate all the important points in the original passage and note them down in a list.

What is considered college-level reading? ›

∎ When you can understand college-level materials, you are ready to practice reading faster. The average college student reads about 350 words per minute. A "good" reading speed is around 500 to 700 words per minute, but some people can read a thousand words per minute.

How is reading in college different from reading in high school? ›

HIGH SCHOOL: You are expected to read short assignments that are then discussed in class. You may study outside of class as little as 2 hours each week, and this may be mostly test preparation. COLLEGE: You are assigned substantial amounts of reading and writing, which may not be discussed in class.

Why do you feel your reading rate is essential to your success in college? ›

As a college student you may find yourself overwhelmed by the large amount of material that you are required to read. It's easy to fall behind in course reading and feel like you can't catch up. It can often feel like simply too many pages to get through in time! This is why an increased reading rate so essential.

Is college reading hard? ›

The level of out-of-class reading required in college can be pretty intense. If you're new to college, your reading load is likely significantly higher than what you experienced in high school; if you're a senior in college, the level seems to go up each year.

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