Important Strategies For Improving Reading Retention Skills

Last Updated on October 7, 2022 by Editorial Team

“Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” This statement by a visionary from the past shows the importance of mindful reading. If your heart is in it, and it provokes your thoughts, you are bound to go back time and again to what you read. However, when the textual content is a bit technical or belongs to the category of ‘course material’, young readers like kids may not be too enthusiastic about learning by applying reading fundamentals.

One of the direct outcomes of such an evasive approach will be poor retention. In addition, a few learning disabilities also interfere with retention abilities. This means, the student or the reader may not retain in mind or reproduce verbally or through written manner the content read. It is where the reading retention strategies step in and offer the best guiding tool to teachers and students.

In this post, we will walk you through:

  • Why reading retention strategies are required
  • Effective retention strategies for reading beginners
  • How these benefit

So, let’s begin!

Why reading retention strategies are required?

Strategy for retaining the reading material is not some complex action but a set of simple activities. These can be called the ways to memorize and be able to reproduce the written material. This ability may be more pronounced in some people than others. There may be several reasons for this disparity[1]. Sometimes, it is a lack of basic skills, and at others, unfamiliarity with the language is a culprit too. Teachers or homeschooling guardians may guide students on using these strategies for the following reasons:

  • Learning disorders interfere with retention abilities: Inability of a person to retain content from books read by them may stem from attention deficit disorder. The inability to build concentration or the lack of it caused due to dyslexia-related complications, ADHD, and other neurocognitive disorders translates into poor retention[2].
  • Little interest in reading: One of the direct impacts of learning disorders is show of lack of interest in reading. Since small children are not able to explain to others the discomfort caused to them by the words’ shapes, they cover their problem by showing no interest in reading. It may pile on year by year, as they do all sorts of tactics to avoid reading, developing a sort of handicap of inability to ‘read-to-learn’ in the long run[3]. This brings us to next point, that is, inability to ‘read to learn.’
  • Inability to ‘read to learn’: Mostly among preschoolers and early reading learners, one is most likely to spot the inability to read to learn. Since the brains of dyslexic children are not wired to recognize and retain shape and sound of words, they exhibit limited to nil capacity to decode written material.

Let’s find out about the easy retention strategies available for kids to learn and apply so that they can reproduce orally or lexically the written material after consistently going through it.

Easy retention strategies for reading beginners

Another point that emphasizes the importance of retaining the reading material is related to academic performance. Students need to reproduce in oral and written exams the topics given in their curriculum to pass the grades. Though not entirely dependent on it, this process is a crucial part of academic assessment. Hence, you may consider the reading retention strategies as a quick guide on how to prepare for formative and summative assessment as well. Here are a few effective strategies:

  • Write a Short Summary: Once you have understood well the topic and content, try to summarize it in the form of short notes. This process allows you to mentally traverse back to all written material. Thus, it is a kind of second reading that your mind does and that allows you to jot down on a paper the summary of material you read. Primary requirement for this, of course, is ability to write. But, you may use alternative means to writing to express in a summary the written content.
  • Repeat reading: We all are born with unique capabilities. Some of us may simply require more repetitions of any activity than others. Also, retaining does require practice even if you have an elephant’s memory. So, read twice or thrice, take a break, come back and discuss with self or others to find how much you could retain. Accordingly, decide on increasing the repetitions.
  • Read aloud: When you read aloud, you are listening to yourself what you are seeing in the book. Since dual sense of organs are at work to receive the input, it strengthens absorbing ability and ultimately, reflects in stronger and longer retention.
  • Build questions and try answer them: Read the book or chapter and while doing the process, write down relevant questions that cover written material. Once you are finished reading, answer the questions, either by skimming through relevant portions or on your own. It gives mental repetition required for retention.
  • SQ3R method: SQ3R is a method that an American education specialist, Francis. P.Robinson, introduced in 1946 in his book Effective Study. He explained retention process is possible to master if we follow a sequence of actions before, during and after the reading. Those actions include:
    • Survey: Quick skimming (not deep reading) through summary and sub-topics and finding out the purpose of text
    • Question: Converting the headline into a question and then reading the ensuing portions so that you connect in mind what you are likely to find as answer
    • Read, Recite, Review: While above two steps are pre-reading preparations, these three steps define reading and post-reading process. You attentively and actively read the material after forming a question. Then, recite it through writing or oral discussion and then review it to ascertain correctness of your comprehension.
  • Build knowledge trees: Here you dissect the material and convert it into main thought and sub-thoughts just like the branches of a tree. Thus, you can comprehence the written material from all possible aspects and build a concept mentally. It effectively helps retain the book’s or any paper’s content, as it promotes active reading.
  • Bottom-up/top-down approach: In this strategy, you skim through the topic either of two ways. In bottom-up approach, you read the conclusion first and then move up; and in top-down you read heading, sub-headings and conclusion vertically down. In both approaches, the reader develop the basic idea about the topic first before digging deeper into it.[4]

If we sum up all the points above, these are nothing but active reading strategies. The idea behind these strategies is to drive the reader’s mind to the topic or the book and train it to skim, scan and absorb the material. Once you have practiced and mastered these strategies, you are most likely to present in an eloquent manner the understanding you develop from the reading process.

How these will benefit?

Reading retention strategies are designed to help readers learn and achieve the very purpose of the process, that is, to gain knowledge. However, the strategies do much more than impart knowledge alone. A few impressive changes you may find by adopting these strategies are:

  • Improved comprehension: With active reading strategies put to use, you can comprehend written text better. You ability to derive conclusions and understand underlying meaning improves with these strategies.
  • Better concentration: When you are skimming notes, making a summary or surveying, you are totally into the topic. Thus, you train your mind for concentrating on any activity by adopting strategies to retain reading. It is an activity that helps you in all other jobs, allowing you to be more cognitive in approach.
  • Better cognition: With mindful reading, you can check various emotions and also understand a lot about useful things, people, surroundings. Also, you get a chance to travel inwards and discover your strengths and weaknesses. Thus, you become more aware about the self and surroundings by mastering reading retention strategies.

To conclude,

Reading is not merely an activity to be done to pass the academic grades. It is a gateway to the whole world of knowledge. As they say, you transport yourself to a different situation, thought or place, when you read a book; hence, learning strategies to actively read helps you expand your horizons. Start practicing the strategies above and see how these strategies groom you into a confident storyteller or writer, apart from becoming an impressive reader.


[1] The use of EFL reading strategies among high school students in Taiwan, a Study by Kate & Sabina, Choyang University of Technology, 2015

[2] Learning Disabilities Research Studies conducted by MIler, Vaughn and Freud, Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, Maryland, USA, 2014

[3] Study of Prodiminant Factors leading to low reading abilities in a School, University for Departmental Studies, Ghana, 2018

[4] Bottom-up and top-down processes in reading: influences of frequency and predictability on event-related potentials and eye movements, Michael Dambacher, University Konstanz, 2015

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