Reading actively

I saw an interesting headline for an article in a British newspaper: ‘Chinese students continue to choose British universities‘. This headline makes it sound like Chinese students choose British universities rather than universities in other countries. However, after some surfing around the subject, I found an article in an Australian newspaper (published on the same day!) with the title: ‘High university cost fails to deter university students’. The Australian article says that the number of Chinese students has risen by 22.8% this year in Australia. Going back to the British newspaper, I learned that the number of Chinese students at British universities has only increased by 14.7%! Perhaps the headline for the British newspaper should have been ‘Chinese students prefer Australia!’ (Read The Guardian article in the UK here and The Australian Higher Education article here.)

Wherever you come from I wish you every success in your studies. It is likely that you are going to read a lot for your course so developing your reading skills should be a priority for you. For that reason I am going to say some things about reading over the next couple of posts. The first thing to say about reading is that it is not the same activity each time you do it! When I read my novel in bed before switching the light off at the end of the day I read ‘passively’ – I start at the top of the page and read the story steadily at the same speed (I sometimes even get to the bottom of the page before I fall asleep!).  This type of reading for pleasure is often called ‘extensive reading’ by teachers. What is important about this type of reading is that you choose the book and you don’t worry too much about difficult words you come across. Your extensive reading may be ‘readers’ (shorter simpler versions of real novels) or more authentic materials written for any reader. You may not ‘enjoy’ the reading at first but (rather like taking exercise) you will see the benefits in the long run. But I actually wanted to think more about the other type of reading which you do academically, for study, and when you read for study you are an ACTIVE reader. There is nothing passive about reading for study! If you start at the first word and read steadily through the text it is unlikely that you are going to achieve your goals. What are your goals for reading the text? Are you sure you want to read the text at all? How do you know if it will be useful for you? What parts of the text will be useful? What point is the writer making? What notes will you make? What are your notes for? All these questions make you into an ACTIVE READER as you employ a variety of strategies to help you meet your goals and over the next few posts I’d like to give you some tips on how to start developing or continue improving your reading strategies. The starting point is to raise your awareness of the topic of academic reading and for that I am pointing you to this page on Study Advice and Learning Development from the University of Reading.  This page gives you an overview of the issue of academic reading and you can read it here.