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by Skyler Boudreau, Book Reviewer for Reader Views
Last month I started my first semester at college. I’m currently studying for an associate degree in English with the goal to eventually get a bachelor’s degree in journalism or political science. One of the things I knew before beginning school was that the reading would be very different than reading for fun. I was a little nervous, but throughout the month, as I’ve adjusted to my new schedule, I’ve discovered that many of the skills I developed as a book reviewer have actually been very helpful in my college reading. What a relief! There are two main strategies I employ while reading a book for review asking questions and taking notes.
The questions I ask myself range from more general ones focused on the target audience for the book, such as “Who was this book written for?” and “Would the target audience be enjoying it?” to more critical ones such as, “What are the characters’ motivations?” and “Does this subplot add anything to the story?”
Taking notes helps keep track of my answers to those questions and any new thoughts I might have. By jotting everything down, I have already have a document that I can reference while I’m building the outline for the review. With my notes, I don’t have search through the book to find the page number of a specific quote I want to cite or try to remember which specific pieces of the book I want to discuss in the review itself.
The most important part of college reading is to “read actively.” Basically, a reader needs to make sure that he or she is engaging with the text. If their eyes are glossing over and they have to read the same passage a hundred times, they’re never going to remember the information. There are a lot of different ways to read actively, but two of the most important ones are asking questions and taking notes. Hmm… I wonder where I’ve done that before?
Sifting Through Information
Another important skill to master for college reading is how to sift through information. Some facts are more useful than others, and it can be difficult to pick those pieces out of a large reading assignment. That’s where asking questions comes in especially useful. Before even beginning an assignment, it can be helpful to ask yourself what exactly you should be getting out of the text. If you know what you’re looking for, it should pop out at you as you come across the relevant information while reading.
Critical reading skills are useful outside of book reviewing and academics too. You can employ them when reading contracts, legal documents, or the news. While I’m glad that I can fall back on some strategies I already know how to utilize, there are plenty of other ways to read critically as well. What are some of your strategies? On another note, have you ever had a professional skill that came in handy in an academic setting (or vice versa)?
Skyler Boudreau is a resident of New Hampshire currently pursuing a career in freelance writing. One day she hopes to become an editor with a publishing company and a best-selling author. Her flash fiction piece ‘Citrus, Snakes, and Guns’ was published in Vine Leave Literary Journal #15. When she is not reading, writing or blogging at Sky View Book Reviews, she can usually be found playing a plethora of musical instruments.