How a Habit of Reading Complicated Text Pays Off

Sweating the hard stuff

Most of us are familiar with passive recreation, the likes of which include movie and TV watching, snacking and chatting, YouTubing, or just zoning out. You don’t have to do much and the entertainment and satisfaction payoff is significant. It’s relaxing to turn your brain mostly-off on occasion. At some point, though, you know you need to crack open a book.


Did you know there’s a difference between passive and active reading?

Sure, any type of reading is more active than sitting on the couch watching Netflix, but there’s a distinction between mostly passive content…the Harry Potters, the Percy Jacksons, the Twilights…and active, complicated text that requires total concentration. Sources for this type of active, complicated reading? Novels published in the 18th and 19th century; science, medical, law, and tech journals and articles; and essentially any publication that requires the whole of your attention and focus with zero distractions; something you might have to read two or three times to understand. 

Huh? Who wants to expend all that mental energy slogging through something that might take 2-3 reads to comprehend? You do. Yes, it’s a chore. And, yep, the content might not be page-turning. But the investment is so value-dense it deserves its own blog post ten times over. Getting into the habit sooner rather than later sets you up for academic success across the board.  


Pay-offs include:

  • Better comprehension of complex written material, which in turn means better performance in school
  • Faster, more efficient reading ability resulting from routine weeding through complicated content
  • Increased preparedness for the SAT, ACT, and any state-based assessment test by grade, as these test your reading comprehension, often against the clock
  • Enhanced writing ability, as complicated text reading invariably strengthens both your vocabulary and sense of how to organize sentences and paragraphs
  • Increased general knowledge of topics, particularly from regular reading of science and technology periodicals
  • Expanded and enhanced spoken vocabulary, which speaks for itself

The next time you’re tempted to read The Chamber of Secrets a third time, pick up a novel published in the 1800s instead. You can even Google “novels of the 1800s,” then track down its full .pdf online. You don’t have to read the entire thing–20-30 minutes of random excerpt reading per day will help develop this important skill over time. Don’t forget the science and tech articles, too. And who knows, you just might find yourself engrossed in Pride & Prejudice, Frankenstein, Fahrenheit 451,  or The Count of Monte Cristo and expand your definition of a page-turner.

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