Inevitably, each semester students ask instructors: Do I really have to read the book?! The answer is YES. You really do need to read the book. You bought it; you will have assignments and exams related to it; and you are in college to learn and earn credits. That’s not going to happen successfully by just going to class. There is a lot more to college than showing up, and reading the book is essential. It’s not extra. It’s not optional. It just has to be done.
However, reading a textbook can feel like an overwhelming task, and it’s very likely no one ever taught you how. Knowing how to read doesn’t actually go far enough. We need to specifically know to read a textbook. The following resources have great advice for reading textbooks — these guides can make all the difference between a successful college experience and a seemingly impossible struggle and miserable bore! Here are some of my suggestions, but be sure to check out the other resources too.
- Before you get started, look over the table of contents to get an idea of the sections and what will be covered. Read the preface and introduction. They are there for a reason and will give you a good overview of what is ahead. Everything will make more sense after reading those.
- Before you start each chapter, scan the pages for section headings, pictures, charts, maps, and other illustrations. Look to see if the author has created key points or focus questions that will help you think about important points as you read.
- Figure out what your best reading conditions are. Low volume music, good light, and a cozy spot where I won’t fall asleep work for me — but you may need something different. If something isn’t working, keep experimenting until you get the right mix of conditions for the best reading.
- Divide up reading into small chunks. Don’t try to read for too long without a break. Stretch, moving around, and drinking water helps me on reading breaks.
- Interact with your textbook. Take notes; highlight key points; write down questions; look up words you don’t understand; and pause between sentences or paragraphs to think about what you just read.
There is a lot more at these great links!
YouTube: Textbook Reading