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How to Read a Book
Roy O. Beaman, Th. D.
     Note the table of contents to catch the whole as a unit so that, as the book unfolds, you may see the special emphasis in association with the broader subject.

     Catch the lead sentence in a paragraph. The earlier habit of longer paragraphs may have a number of lead sentences.

     You may often need to re-read a sentence or an entire paragraph to see if you perceived clearly the flow of thought and its emphasis. Such time, I assure you, is not wasted. Ten paragraphs perceived exceed forty scanned.

     If a chapter has subheads, you may profitably preview these before you read the chapter. A writer who never makes the reader aware that the writer has passed to a new phase of his topic may be obscure.

     A paragraph understood by the reader is better than many paragraphs mistily read. Speed and comprehension in reading are often vitally related.

     Make an effort to understand every word. A dictionary should be a constant companion of the beginner. Just one word may often be the key word in a sentence.

     If you know that you read poorly, talk with another about the meaning and/or importance of the theme of the book which you are reading. A few emphases from another person may make the book which you are reading a new book to you.

     When you start again to read a book, review the former pages to make the thoughts and emphases clearer. This is not time wasted.

     To make the preceding suggestion easier, mark your book. This is why I like to own the books which I read. A well-marked book is much more valuable than an unmarked one since I can get the main flow and main points in a few minutes of review. The habit of marking stresses awareness of the major emphases in each paragraph. (Another essay stresses the art of marking your book).

     If you keep on making poor progress in reading a certain book, talk with an adviser. The book may be mistily written. Perhaps you should read a simpler book on the same topic and then return to the more advanced book.

     An intelligent review of a book may greatly aid your comprehension. Of course, a confusing review may be a detriment to the beginner.

     Thomas Jefferson wrote a summary of an oration by Demosthenes and then compared the oration with his summary. Such was repeated until he felt that he had mastered the major ideas.

     Reading aloud may concentrate your attention on the physical job of sounds more than on the thoughts. Learn to read mentally without any movement of your lips.

     Learn to read groups of words. Some words function in sentences as individual words, but more function as parts of phrases and clauses. Even the words functioning more individually stand related to others.

     Strive to objectify your problems and to work on them with devotion. Usually, when you gain in conquering one problem, another problem is less difficult.

     Do not become discouraged. Much reading improves your skill whether you can weigh such or not. Keep at the job. He who strives to read better wins! Others have; you too can win!


[From a manuscript provided by the author to my son, James K. Duvall, 1980.]

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