NEW HABITS


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Remember to take notes on the concepts presented in all modules. You may very well see this material again on a Concept Quick Quiz!!


Module 2.2 - Reading Revolution - New Habits

Learning Objectives: 


When you finish Mod 2.2 you should be able to answer the following questions:

What habits and behavior patterns are exhibited by fluent readers?

How can I begin to implement these good reading habits/behaviors?

Do I have any poor reading habits that I should change? 

How can I get rid of bad habits that hinder my fluent reading?


What habits and behavior patterns are exhibited by fluent readers?

How can I begin to implement these good reading habits/behaviors?

The best way to improve your reading ability is, of course, to read widely and read a lot. However, plodding word by word through pages and pages of text is not the most efficient way to improve your reading rate and comprehension. In fact, as mentioned in Module 2.1, reading too slowly may actually result in poor concentration and poor comprehension. Fluent reading involves many factors - good comprehension, highly developed vocabulary, and flexibility in reading rate. Perhaps the single most important influence on how much and how quickly you will be able to improve your reading is your attitude.


To be a powerful reader you need a confident, creative, and positive attitude. You must be willing to change some behavior patterns and try some new techniques even though these changes may at times shake you out of your comfort zone. As you begin to take more active control of your reading and cognitive processing, you must be willing to feel uncomfortable; you must develop confidence and believe that you will succeed in reading more efficiently with a faster rate and increased understanding.


The importance of this commitment cannot be overstated. Your decision to commit the time and energy required for success includes a commitment to this program of reading improvement, to yourself, and to your potential. You will also need patience; changing habits is not an instantaneous process. Consistent practice and a positive attitude will, however, begin to result in progress long before the end of the semester.


Here are some of the habits of fluent readers that you should begin to cultivate in yourself:


Be aware of the importance of your environment.

  • Pick a quiet spot free, from distractions.

  • Good lighting is important. Use a 100-watt bulb for your study area.

  • Take control. Check out Kansas State University's advice on  improving concentration when you read and study. Be sure to read the whole page including the factors you can control now many of which are environmental factors.


Be physically at your best.

  • Read at the time of day when you are most mentally acute; avoid reading when you are fatigued.

  • Be sure your vision is not in need of correction. Blurred vision,  headaches, and fatigue when you try to read are signs that your eyesight is not adequate.

  • Relax. Reading performance, like many physical activities, is best when you are relaxed, not tense.

  • Nutrition is important. Avoid foods loaded with processed sugar; too much sugar can inhibit your ability to concentrate. 

  • Proper hydration is also a must. Dehydration results in decreased mental acuity, foggy thinking, and lack of concentration. Drink water. Contrary to popular belief, drinks loaded with caffeine (sodas, coffee, and tea) are not good choices for studying; caffeine is very dehydrating.

Practice good mental habits.

  • Remember to prepare to read. In the pre-reading stage set your purpose for reading, choose an appropriate reading mode, and preview the selection to activate schema. Don't forget to read introductory and summary material first.

  • Concentrate. Remember that another word for concentration is "awareness." Remember metacognitive awareness? Avoid passive, brain dead reading; it's a waste of time. Here are some great tips for increasing concentration. (Scroll down to find the link to "Top Ten Tips for Increasing Concentration". While you're there take a look at some of the other valuable college success links.)

  • Read for ideas and concepts. Visualize as you read. Picture in your mind an outline or graphic representation (map) of the author's main idea, significant details, and how they are organized.

  • Read in phrases, not word by word. Think of sentences or even paragraphs, not individual words, as the basic units of meaning. Give up the bad habit of attending to each word separately. We'll address exactly how to do this in subsequent modules, and you'll get lots of practice with this on the Speed Reader program in lab.

Do I have any poor reading habits that I should change? 

How can I get rid of bad habits that hinder my reading efficiency?

Correcting bad reading habits is sometimes as easy as becoming aware of the problem and deciding to solve it. Some changes, however, are not that easy and require effort and consistent practice. Just like the good habits discussed above, poor reading habits can be classified as poor mental habits (ones that interfere with your ability to concentrate) or inefficient physical habits.  As you read the following, assess your own reading. Do you have any of these bad habits? If so, make a conscientious effort to follow the suggestions for getting rid of them.

Eliminate poor mental habits.

  • Passive reading: Do you sometimes read in the same way you take a shower, letting the words wash over you with little or no active mental involvement? If so, you will likely retain, at most, around 10-20% of what you have read. If you will become actively involved in your reading, that retention can be easily raised to 75% or higher while investing approximately the same amount of time. This is especially important for study reading. In subsequent modules we will explore study reading strategies in detail. For now, practice activities like underlining, highlighting, making notes in the margins, asking questions, and making predictions; think about what you are reading and what you hope to learn. This will help to improve your comprehension, retention, and concentration. Staring at the words on the page with a disengaged mind is somewhat like driving down the highway staring at the lane divider stripes. That hypnotic effect can put you to sleep; with increased mental and physical involvement your brain will be fully occupied in processing and have little energy left to wander or become distracted.
  • Purposeless reading: Do you begin college reading assignments with no clear idea of what you need to learn, what comprehension level is required, how long this assignment should take to complete, and which reading mode is most appropriate? Remember the importance of previewing before you read. It doesn't take long and will save you time in the long run.
  • Regressing: We've all experienced this. You realize you have just read a sentence (or even an entire paragraph) over 9 times; you were unaware you were rereading (regressing); and you have no idea what you just read.  Sounds like a lack of concentration resulting in passive, purposeless reading, doesn't it? Your eyes were processing print and attempting to convey information your brain, but your brain was elsewhere, unavailable to receive input.  Regression is reading a word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph over and over again. Sometimes, with especially difficult, unfamiliar material or vocabulary, regression may be necessary for comprehension. Often, however, regression is an unnecessary, inefficient habit. 
    • What causes regression? It may be a lack of concentration, poor comprehension, low self-confidence, or just a nervous habit. Whatever it is, it is slowing you down.
    • How do you stop regressions? Becoming aware that you have this bad habit is the first step. Later in this course, you will learn hand pacing techniques that will focus your attention, keep your eyes moving, and pull your eyes forward and down the page. As you become increasingly aware of keeping your eyes moving efficiently, you'll be able to avoid regression.
  • Poor concentration: Here it is again. One of the most important tools in the students' tool box - the ability to concentrate at will. Attitude is the key. Don't allow yourself to rationalize this bad habit: "I get tired easily." "I fall asleep when I read." "My mind wanders, and I end up daydreaming." You are not helpless here; take control and focus your attention on the task at hand. More key factors that will lead to better concentration:
    • Increase your reading speed. If you slow down, your mind has time to wander. The faster and more actively you read, the more engrossing the material becomes and the more your comprehension will increase.
    • Hand pacing is a fundamental tool to better concentration because it forces your attention to the material you are reading.
    • Physical essentials to concentration include good nutrition and hydration, adequate sleep, overall good health, and good vision. Don't make concentrating more difficult by neglecting any of these.
    • Check out this website for more Strategies for Improving Concentration and Memory.

Correct inefficient physical habits.

  • Lip reading: Moving your lips while you read slows you down. The average person speaks at around 150-200 words per minute. If you are moving your lips as you read, you will not be able to read faster than you speak. Try this test: Hold your fingers over your lips or grip a pencil between your lips as you read a short selection. If the pencil falls, you are moving your lips. Getting rid of this habit will encourage the direct eye/mind connection (remember the mental telepathy that Steven King writes about?) and allow you to visualize concepts and main ideas rather than mouthing one word at a time. Breaking this bad habit will really speed up your reading. Usually becoming aware and deciding to change are all it takes.
  • Head Wagging: Many people are not aware that their heads are actually moving from left to right as they are reading. To test yourself, place your elbow on your reading table or the arm of your chair and hold your chin in the palm of your hand while you read a paragraph or two from a book. This one can usually be quickly eliminated once you are aware that you are engaging in this inefficient body movement.
  • Vocalizing: Do you whisper each word as you read? To find out place your fingers on your Adam's apple. If you feel any vibration or humming, you are probably whispering and limiting yourself to word by word reading. Vocalization is sometimes used to intentionally slow down the reading process for especially difficult material or if external distractions are pulling your attention away from the material. In general, however, it is a time-waster; concentrate on eliminating vocalization and reading faster. 
  • Sub-vocalizing: This is "hearing" the words as you read silently; saying them in your mind, at the same rate you would read out loud. Be careful of this. It slows you down, but you may need to subvocalize as you improve. As you become better, you can subvocalize less. Some tips:
    • Thinking about not subvocalizing doesn't make it go away, only speed does. It's like getting an airplane off the ground. Only at a certain speed does it become possible.
    • The last thing you should be doing when you're reading is thinking about whether or not you're subvocalizing. Drills such as those provided in the reading lab assignments will develop your speed and take you into visual reading.
    • Learn to "trust your eyes". This involves shifting your mental reading process from "see->say->understand" to just "see->understand". One way to make this leap is to build up your visualization muscle. (We'll learn more about this in  Mod. 2.3)
    • One way to stop subvocalizing is to increase the rate at which your eyes move across the page to the point where it is impossible to subvocalize. This means switching your reading strategy to a point where you notice gulps of words at each eye resting point (fixation). These gulps sometimes involve pulling words from multiple lines. When students succeed with this strategy, they often notice that they are still understanding what they are reading, but in a different way. You may catch yourself thinking: "But now I'm not really reading." In other words, part of your mind still believes that the definition of reading is to look at every word and sound it out in your mind.
    • Another way to look at this issue of subvocalization is that you should develop multiple reading strategies, some of which may include subvocalization and some do not. You wouldn't want a car that only has one speed. You want to have multiple gears (i.e., reading styles) that can be applied based on the unique demands of each situation.
    • Here's a technique for eliminating subvocalization that many have found helpful.

Changing some of these habits may be as easy as the decision to take action. Others may require developing and practicing new skills. In Module 2.3 we will take a closer look at one important skill for becoming a more effective and efficient reader - developing your "visualization muscle." 

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Proceed to Module 2.3

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