Higher level reading skills are important when taking the SAT and the ACT. These skills are also vital for life in general. If you are easily fatigued by long reading passages, here are some ways to improve your reading skills quickly.
What are reading skills?
After practicing reading for so long, the concept of reading itself may seem simple. But there are a lot of complex skills involved in the seemingly simple act of reading.
Phonemic awareness focuses on the smallest units of sound. An example would be /d/ and /o/ and /g/ are sounds used to create the word “dog”. The word “dog” is broken down into those three individual units of sound. You cannot break down the sound of /d/ any further.
Phonics is known as the relation of sound to letters. It is how we blend and sound out words. For instance, /wa/ and /ter/ are blended together to form the word “water”. Phonics and phonemic awareness are the basic building blocks of reading. Without a strong foundation in phonics and phonemic awareness, students will later struggle with reading.
Vocabulary is an important part of reading because it allows us to better comprehend what we are reading. It is pretty difficult to discern the meaning of a passage if you are unable to understand most of the words used on the page.
Fluency is the reading skill that refers to the speed and accuracy with which we read. With time and practice, fluency increases because:
- you spend less time trying to decode words and sounds
- don’t get tripped up by unknown vocabulary as often
As long as you read consistently, with intention, your fluency will increase over time.
Comprehension is the ability to understand what is read. It is the most advanced component of reading. Good readers are able to visualize, infer, make connections, and gain information when they are reading. This reading skill allows you to fully immerse yourself in a story or article.
5 Easy Steps to Improve Your Reading Skills
1. Read Everyday
Reading just 15 minutes per day has been shown to improve reading skills.
So, read as often as you can – ideally, you should read something every day. It does not necessarily matter what you are reading; it can be a novel, a short story, or a poem. Challenge yourself to read beyond 15 minutes a day though if you want to increase your fluency and reading comprehension. These are the most important skills when reading.
An added bonus is that reading frequently also helps you to become a better writer.
2. Use A Dictionary
In the age of technology, looking up words has never been easier – which means it’s easier than ever to expand your vocabulary! When you encounter a word you don’t know:
- use context clues to come up with your best guess of a definition
- find the definition
- make a note of the definition
By learning more words, you’re expanding all of your reading skills. By using context clues, you’re also gearing up for the ACT and the SAT, which both ask you to determine the definition and/or connotation of words using context clues.
3. Take Notes
Taking notes helps you to stay on track and review what you read. This practice also supports you in quickly summarizing the text.
While taking notes, you can:
- draw pictures to help you visualize
- jot down important events from within the text
- write down questions that you may have about the events that take place in the text
- write down the meaning of unknown words
4. Verbally Summarize
Discussing what we read helps us to better comprehend and question what we have read.
A good way to achieve this is by reading in a group, like a book club. Not only will you develop your summarizing and inferencing skills, but you will also expose yourself to other thoughts and viewpoints of the text.
5. Use Audiobooks (Seriously, they will help you improve your reading skills!)
Audiobooks get a bad rep sometimes, but they are actually quite helpful.
However, don’t just listen to the book. Read along as you listen. It should not be a passive activity. Audiobooks are great for modelling. You learn what reading fluently sounds like. As you listen to the narrator, pay attention to how words are pronounced and how fluently each sentence is read. You should be actively engaged when you are using audiobooks.
These are just some suggestions to get you started. Read something you’re interested in – and try not to let the act of reading stress you out too much. Relax, read as often as you can, and have fun.