Reading is important. But, the next step is making sure that you remember what you’ve read! Memory is sometimes a tricky thing. You may have just read the text, and the concepts and ideas of the poem or novel may not “catch” on… The images may just fly right out of your head. Here are a few tricks for remembering what you read.
Time Required: Varies
What’s your motivation?
Do you want to read the poem or book, or are you only reading it because it’s assigned. Even if your reading is required, you may discover something about the author or text that will interest you. What do you know about the text? If you have a choice between texts to read, perhaps another work of literature will offer more of an enticement, and will be of more interest to you.
Are you sleeping?
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you probably won’t be able to concentrate on what you’re reading. In fact, you’ll probably fall asleep while you read. If you want to remember what you read, make sure that you’ve had enough sleep before you start. Or, if you’re like most students (and you’re burning the midnight oil), read when you are most alert. And, consider the possibility of drinking a cup of coffee or tea while you read. Coffee and reading seem to go together anyway…
Are you confused?
If the plot, characters, or word usage is confusing for you, you likely won’t be able to remember what you read. It’s a bit like reading a foreign language. If you don’t understand what you’re reading, why would you remember it? The ideas, concepts, plot, characters–everything just slips away. But, there area a few things you can do… Use a dictionary; look up the difficult words.
Are you connected?
Does a character remind you of a friend? Does the setting make you want to visit the place? Does the book inspire you, and make you want to read more? With some books, you may feel a connection right away. But, other works require a bit more work on your part. You probably won’t feel connected to the book after the first page of a 200+ page novel, but you may make connections after 25 or 50 pages. How willing are you to make the connections happen? Are you paying attention to the symbols?
Do you see it?
Can you visualize the rainy day and the funeral? Or the band of intrepid comrades who set off to save all that they hold dear? Can you see the tragedy, the comedy, or the romance? Can you see the shock of red hair on a precocious orphan? Use your imagination! See if you can imagine what’s going on. Immerse yourself in the story. You may really be there.
Read it; hear it; be it!
Read the lines. Then, speak them out loud. And, put some character into the words. When he was writing his novels, Charles Dickens would act out the parts of the characters. He’d make faces in the mirror, and change his voice for each character. But, you can do the same thing when you are reading the text! Let the lines seep into your imagination. Think about what the character is going through in the poem or story.
What is distracting you?
Are you worried about school, money, your parents, or your significant other? Sometimes distractions can make it difficult to pay attention to what you’re reading. If you’re hungry, eat something before you read. Make an effort to put all distractions out of your mind.
Are you paying attention?
Whether you are reading the text for a class or for your own personal enjoyment, jot down all those great quotes and ideas for future reference. You can write up these reading notes in your reading log or book journal. Be sure to reference the page number(s) for each reference, so you can find it later.
How often do you read?
If you read frequently, you’ll likely have an easier time with remembering what you’re reading (and what you’ve read). Memory really is all about: Practice makes perfect. As you make reading a regular part of your life, you’ll make more connections. You’ll stay more focused. You’ll be more motivated, and you’ll be understand the text better. You need to train your memory, put aside your fear, and learn to enjoy literature–as you remember what you read!
Are you marking it?
Post-It note flags are great resources when it comes to reading and remembering what you read in books and literature! They come in all shapes and sizes–with dispensers, in cases, in pens and highlighters, and with special messages. Mark passages by a particular character, color-code themes in a book, or draw attention to elements of the work you didn’t understand.
By Esther Lombardi