Rethinking Your Relationship To Reading

by | Nov 14, 2017

Whether you’re a first year graduate student, tenured professor, or independent writer, reading likely makes up a big part of your work day. Even if you’ve crafted a kick-ass post-academic or alternative academic career, chances are a lot of your work life still revolves around reading texts of some kind.

Reading, in other words, is a cursory part of most of our days. We read on our phones, use screen readers, and even occasionally peruse the printed page.

But despite the fact that reading takes up so much of our time, we rarely stop to reflect on or nurture our relationship to the written word.

Is the act of reading pleasurable for you or does it feel like work? How do you like to read and do you often get to read that way? When do you know you’ve actually finished reading something—and understood it? These questions can help you cultivate a reading practice that enhances both your work and personal life.

The act itself, or how you read

Reading may feel like second nature, but have you ever stopped to reflect on the way you read?

Think about how you read: do you prefer to sit in a quiet place and concentrate or does the background noise of a busy café help you plow through page after page?

What is your preferred medium: are you a fan of audiobooks or do you like to print out readings and review them on paper? Observing how you read can go a long way toward helping you strengthen your reading practice.

Reading with purpose, or why you tead

This one may seem obvious—most of us involved in some shape or form with academic life read for work.

But if you dug a little deeper, could you identify why exactly you read on the regular? What part does reading play in your professional life? Are you reading to understand a single subject deeply or to gain a breadth of knowledge? Could you identify a purpose (or multiple purposes) behind the texts you regularly read?

Reading as pleasure, or what you read

Different parts of your life may call for unique approaches to reading. In other words, you might not read for pleasure in the same way you read for work. Or, perhaps, pleasure reading and work reading are one and the same for you.

Do you consider reading something you enjoy or something that you have to do? Does the answer change depending on what you’re reading?

Consider if you read different texts differently, and what that might mean for you—what texts do you pore over and what texts do you skim? What texts do you revisit over and over again and what could you not wait to put down?

Reading comprehension, or what you retain

We tend to think that finishing means getting through to the last page. But that may not always mean we are done.

Think about how you feel after you’ve reached the end of an article, book, or poem. What sticks with you? What do you let go of?

Think too about those texts you know you know—are they the ones you’ve read from start to finish? Once or over and over? Have you skimmed or read strategically to better understand a complex argument?

Reflecting on what lives on after you’ve closed the cover can be one of the most powerful ways to shape a productive and meaningful reading practice.

How reading shapes your writing

Regardless of your approach, being a better reader means being a better writer. Immersing yourself in the written word, especially if you have taken the time to cultivate an intentional practice, and can focus on reading in positive and productive ways, gives you the tools to better tell your own stories, whatever they may be.

Happy reading!

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Alexandra Sastre is the associate director of campus communications at Swarthmore College.

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