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Put the “Read” in “Reading Week”

Or, How to Actually Read on Reading Week

By Cristina Valeri, 3rd-year English major

By the time Reading Week rolls around in February, most of us are ready to do the exact opposite of reading–namely napping, snacking and watching whole seasons of TV shows on Netflix. What the university officials idealistically called ‘Reading Week’ is what we university students call ‘Much Needed Week Break. During the Busy Time of Second Semester’ where we do those exact things I mentioned before–napping, snacking and watching whole seasons of TV shows on Netflix.

Maybe we spend some time with our family and friends, too, if we feel like getting out of our pajamas.

However, sometimes we need to actually get some readings done on Reading Week. For this English major, that’s pretty much been the case every year. So here’s what I’ve learned when it comes to getting readings done–use your time wisely! Us Peer Learning Assistants love to tell students about ‘Found Time,’ which is basically those chunks of time in between classes or extra-curricular activities that you can use effectively to get work done. Well, Found Time works for Reading Week, too.

Here`s some examples of Found Time on Reading Week:

1. Bed-time: Try reading for ten or fifteen minutes before you go to bed. Keep a piece of paper and pen by your bedside to jot down some notes.

2. In the Morning: Once you wake up, instead of getting up and getting ready for the day right away, or just lying there pondering what you’re going to do that day, grab your book or textbook and get reading! Before bed and in the morning are usually quiet times in the house, making them ideal for focused reading.

3. Waiting for chronically late friends or family members to pick you up: Have dinner plans with friends at 7? Be ready for 6:30 and use the extra time to get some of those readings done.

4. Transition Time: Sometimes you have those odd transition moments between plans where you have nothing to do. While my first instinct usually tells me this isprime time to watch a thirty minute episode of The Mindy Project or Seinfeld, my GPA and grad school aspirations say I should probably pick up a book.

5. Carry a book around with you: Keep a textbook in your car or a novel in your bag–you never know when you might get a spare ten minutes.

6. MAKE TIME: This is perhaps the most important tip of all. Take time out of your busy schedule for some reading. Go to Starbucks, get a hipster drink and feel very scholarly as you actually accomplish some reading on Reading Week. The nice thing about Reading Week is that there is no class time, so choose to get ahead on that homework!

Now, we only get a week to get all this reading done so sometimes speed reading is necessary! Try reading entire phrases instead of each word individually. This is called “rapid reading” or “skimming,” as the reader extracts the gist of the message instead of individually reading each word (which can take longer). You should skim when you’re only trying to get a general idea of the subject or to get down the main points or argument.

Some people also find that using a pacer helps them read faster. You can use your finger as a guide or a ruler, anything that works for you! Pacers can help you stay focused on the page and also practice increasing your speed.

If you’re trying out these rapid reading techniques, or even if you’re not, it’s also important to question yourself about what you’ve read afterwards to make sure you understand the material. Another great way to double-check your understanding is to discuss the material with friends. I’m sure they would all be interested to hear exactly what happened in the five chapters of Great Expectations you just read or all three of Kepler`s laws of planetary motion.

(Disclaimer: As an English major, I have no idea what Kepler’s Laws are or if they are actually taught at Queen’s).

Learning Strategies has a lot more information on effective reading, common reading challenges, and taking notes. For more information, read our module on reading and note-making. You can also always book an appointment with one of our advisors or, if you’re in first or second year, drop by the volunteer-led Study Skills Coaching.

To sum up, Reading Week is a short but much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of the busy winter term. So go ahead and relax a little, spend time with family, catch up with friends and get up to date with those TV shows calling your name, because if you’re able to use your time wisely, you can accomplish all that and get some reading done.

Photo courtesy of Thalita Carvalho under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license.