How to Read a Book

Updated: May 16

It is from Islamic heritage to be literate. Allah, the Magnificent, has stated,

"Read in the name of your Lord who has created. He created the human from a mixture of blood. Read and your Lord is Generous. The One Who taught by the pen. He taught humanity that which they had no knowledge."

[Chapter al-'Alaq (96): 1-5]

Islamic heritage is unique in that it was amongst the first to grant the once aristocratic right of literacy to all social classes, genders, and ages.

The above verses educate us in the Islamic model for learning; read, contemplate, read again for deeper understanding, record final thoughts and document for others to build upon those thoughts.

At this late date, most of us have the ability to read, yet we vary in our reading comprehension skills. Comprehension becomes critical, particularly when we are reading for more than merely leisure and are looking to formulate concepts or actions premised upon what we understand from what we read.

Below, we can find a methodology not only to read but to more fully digest what we read.

The first thing to do, even before you purchase the book, is to read the title and the name of the author. You then read the back of the book to gain more of an idea about the author, the direction of the book, or what people have said about the book. Sometimes, you may also find a bit more information on the internal sleeves of the book.

Next, you should read the contents pages. At times, titles can be deceptive, and the contents pages will familiarize you with the specific subjects covered in the book.

After you've gotten this far, then you read the introduction. The introduction provides you the tone of the book, it's goals, the terminology of the author, and any other nuances the author deems relevant to the success of your reading experience.

At this stage, merely flipping through all the pages of a chapter is your gauge. You just want to see what's on each page. You're not going to read anything thoroughly at this stage. This will give you a sense of how dense the words are on a page, the frequency of images in a given chapter, how long the chapters are, if there are tables and graphs, and if there's anything that jumps out at you.

If the book is stylized as a textbook, you would then proceed to the end of the chapter to see if there is a quiz. Reading this quiz will give you access to what the author believes you are supposed to have gained from reading the chapter. You will then know what to focus on while reading the chapter.

You return to the beginning of the chapter and read the bold print in the chapter, if any. You are not reading all the sentences and information in the entire chapter just yet. Bold print normally signifies titles, sub-titles, and subject headings. The bold print is the simplified version of the content and reading all the bold print at this stage will begin to formulate your mind around how the concepts in the chapter fit together.

You return to the beginning of the chapter again, reading the first and last sentence in each paragraph. The first sentence of a paragraph is an introduction. It is an overview if it is well written. The first sentence gives you an indication as to what the rest of the paragraph is about while the final sentence provides you a summary of what the paragraph is about.

The idea at these above stages is reading for exposure more so than comprehension. The above acts as a preview of coming attractions. You become aware of what all the dots are so that you are in a better position to connect all the dots once you perform your straight through read. Your brain will now be properly set up to read the chapter and take notes on it. If you follow this formula, you should only need to go through the chapter this way once. This may seem like a lot of work, but is it a lot of work in comparison to re-reading the same chapter several times attempting to understand it? One would think not! This surely beats cramming information and hoping it stays in your mind well enough and long enough to pass a test.

Now you are prepared to read straight through the chapter. Your awareness has now been increased. You will now know what to look for and how to filter the information for better retention. The fancy word for this is your reticular activating system.

Please keep with you that repetition is the mother of learning. Through this method, you are giving yourself multiple repeats. You will have an overview of what the book looks like, what the author thought to be most pertinent in a given chapter, and the main concept of each paragraph along with a summary.

As you are reading the book through, you can now utilize the white pages in the beginning and end of the book to make short notes of important quotes or concepts you may need a quick reference to later on. Make sure to document the page number first then just enough of the quote or concept for you to recall why you've recorded it. This shouldn't take up much more space than a line or part of a line. If you've completed this task successfully, you will have a complete index of the book once you've finished reading it. You will also never need to read the entire book through from cover to cover again to identify a specific reference if you do not wish!

Now that you've reduced an entire book to your notes on the white pages. You now can transfer these notes to a journal of benefits. Any notebook will do or perhaps you may prefer to compile these notes in your smart device. Your journal of benefits will become your new best friend. You should find yourself frequenting, memorizing, and reviewing this journal regularly. This will assist in building your scholarship and ability to swiftly recall information whilst having said information properly organized in your mind along with its references.

Once you've gone through enough books this way, you will find yourself beginning to dedicate journals to independent subjects and no longer a collage of several subjects. These journals will then become a part of your foundation on a given subject.

If you take the aforementioned seriously, you will find you are well on your way to bettering your reading comprehension and saving yourself a degree of review time for the remainder of your life on the duck tail of what you have read.

Kenneth "Aqil" Ingram II

Shawwal 17, 1441 A.H.

June 9, 2020 A.D.

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