Productive Reading Habits
Reading is an integral part to most university degrees, and being able to read in an effective way will help save you time and gain more from the texts you have to read. For an English Literature degree at Warwick, the kind of things you read can vary from novels, plays and poetry, to theoretical texts and critical essays. And there will be a LOT to read, so figuring out how you work best will be a massive benefit.
The first step in this is finding the right environment for you – whether that is a public place surrounded by noise, or a silent space. Personally I find it difficult to focus on what I’m reading while there is lots of noise around me. For this reason, I schedule reading into my day at times when I know it’s going to be quiet. While at uni, this will often be in my accommodation during the middle of the day. At this time most of my housemates are either out at lectures or studying quietly in their rooms. If I’m at my family home, the daytime is often not a good time to read, especially when the whole family is at home. Instead I will read in my room late at night, or if the weather is nice, I’ll often sit at the bottom of the garden and read. I’ve been doing this a lot lately since the weather has been warm, and it allows me to get some fresh air while still feeling productive.
As the summer holidays are generally when students have the most free time, it’s a good idea to use this time to start on your reading list as far in advance as possible. There’s nothing worse than having a whole 400 page novel to read before your seminar in two days’ time. Reading should, in essence, be fun, but the opportunity to enjoy it is often stripped away once tight deadlines are introduced. Getting a head start over the summer before your other uni commitments start piling up is a good idea. Module webpages will often display recommended reading lists (just be careful that the list is up to date. Many will not be finalised until later in the summer if the syllabus has undergone an update). However if you read a book far in advance, try to take enough notes so that you don’t forget everything you read and consequently you avoid having to read the whole text again.
To help with this, I use those small tab post-it notes to mark important quotes or passages. This will make it easier when it comes to finding parts of the text to analyse later on when writing essays. You could colour code these based on themes present in the text. I often write notes on these post-its too (I don’t like writing in the book itself, especially if it’s one that I’m likely to sell on later).
Also, audiobooks are your friend. There are lots of times in the day where you can’t read a book physically, for example when you’re walking or cooking. Because my days are often very busy at university, I don’t have much time to sit quietly and read, so audiobooks are a good way of engaging my attention where I would otherwise be distracted. I tend to listen at a faster speed too in order to get through it quickly. At home recently I’ve also merged audiobook listening into my down-time, for example listening to one while I’m playing video games.
Admittedly, not everything you read at university will be interesting or engaging to you, but that’s ok. Even stuff we don’t enjoy reading has something to teach us. Giving adequate time and attention to a text can help us gain a little bit more from it.