I remember when I initially attempted to read an English book after relocating to the USA from India. It was incredibly challenging and I felt defeated and frustrated when I wasn’t capable of comprehending any of the material in my 3rd grade elementary class. Nevertheless, through numerous attempts at improving my reading skills, I was able to overcome those challenges. The process that worked for me was close/active reading.

I think you will agree with me when I say reading is a really troublesome task to perform without your attention becoming diverted. So, today I am going to reveal how to instantly improve your reading skills with three simple stages. Today, I have come a long way from not being able to recognize the American alphabet. So today, I am going to teach you what helped me overcome this obstacle.

Reading a book should be approached similarly to playing video games. You’re probably thinking, what the heck is she talking about? Whether you’re playing Among Us with your friends or playing Call of Duty, your senses are very sharpened and you react to every little detail. This is primarily due to the fact that the player is being active.

What is Close/Active Reading?

Active, or close, reading is a comprehensive and diligent approach to interpreting a text. A close reading of a document accommodates the reader to disengage, decipher, and reassemble the working sections of a text into a new interpretation of the text. So how would one go about attempting to actively read?

Let’s get started!

1. Pre-Read

Before you begin reading, there are a few steps that will help you while reading. Annotating the text while reading is absolutely necessary so grab a pen/pencil, or of course, utilize Adobe Digital Edition, Supermemo, or Polar, for digital content. Depending on what you’re looking for, a simple PDF like Adobe might suffice. Or if you’re a more serious reader, you might want to go with Polar. Making predictions as per what the reading will entail is another useful trick to help understand the concepts you might read.

2. Reading

Have you ever been reading and become distracted every 5 minutes? Have you ever self-diagnosed yourself with ADHD because you couldn’t focus on your reading? Believe me, I get it.

There are times when you cannot begin to read the first word and are so overwhelmed by the lengthy chapter that needs to be read for tomorrow’s lecture. One of the few things that assisted me was learning to annotate while reading (not just how, but what to annotate). Whether I was virtually writing notes on the side of PDFs or adding post-its on my textbook (not buying a $200 textbook, renting is the way to go!!), those notes were what I remembered during exams, not the actual text. It’s always easier to remember your own words over someone else’s.

Besides annotating, here are some other tips to help be an active reader:

  • Pay attention to the meaning / be able to identify key data
  • Track understanding during reading: this goes back to the first two steps of the original definition of close reading that I provided earlier: disengage and decipher. Disengage from the text and summarize what you just read. If this is a difficult task, you may not have understood the text.
  • Look up foreign words in a dictionary.
  • Visualize as you are reading
  • Make inferences/judgments about the text
  • Create connections, both within and outside the reading (by adding tags to annotations)
  • Ask/write questions as you read
  • Be active and engaged

3. Post-Read

One of the main things I struggled with was actually retaining the information. I would cram in chapters of reading just to be able to remember it but not understand any of it. However, this is the most interesting part because we get to actually think about what we just read. This stage could be known as the processing stage. The first thing the reader should do is address questions of interpretation that have developed during your reading and have not been answered by further reading. Reading notes and annotations will assist you in this stage. Also, creating flashcards and reviewing them is extremely essential in memorizing the information.

Furthermore, rereading the text will allow the reader to analyze a deeper understanding of the text. Also, review annotations and continue annotating if new information is discovered. Lastly, creating an overall summary of your own will be very beneficial in retaining the text.


We all learn to read letters/characters and think that this is it. Whereas through the multiple years of my reading journey, I discovered that there's so much more to actually retaining the information. That is why these 3 stages - pre-read, reading, rereading (processing) - is an essential method in improving your reading skills because it primarily targets reading comprehension. With this process, you will be able to discern the information and retain it.

Now you have everything you need to get started so either pick up a book or open up Polar and begin your reading journey.

Posted on: Nov 09, 2020
Polar Team

Written by Polar Team
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