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English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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2.1 The main challenges

Reading textbooks and other academic and specialist sources can be difficult for a range of reasons. In the following activity, you will consider the main challenges.

Activity 5

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Think back to any long or complex texts you have read in the past. Your experiences may be from your school years or you may have read non-fiction books or long newspaper articles. What difficulties did you encounter? Did you develop any strategies to help you read such texts? Make some notes in the box below and then compare your experiences with those reported below.

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Below is a list of some common reading difficulties experienced by some people when reading academic texts.

  1. I’m used to reading short pieces of writing. When I read long texts, I fall asleep.
  2. I read textbooks over and over to retain the information. It takes a lot of time and I still find it very difficult to remember what I read.
  3. I find reading difficult and I often lose concentration.
  4. I’m used to reading newspapers, but academic texts are harder to read. They are organised differently and contain many difficult words.
  5. English is not my first language, so I have to spend a long time looking up many words in the dictionary.
  6. Even if I understand every word, I sometimes don’t understand the concepts explained in the books I read.
  7. I try to take notes but I'm really lazy at ‘proper’ note taking – I don’t find it works for me as I never go back and read them.
  8. There is so much to read. I get lost and don’t know where to start.

You may have experienced similar difficulties. You may also have found ways to help you cope.

Academic and specialist texts may take longer to read than the texts you read every day and may contain a great deal of information about unfamiliar topics. They may also be structured differently from the texts you normally read. Therefore engaging with pieces of extended writing can be challenging unless you employ useful strategies. The next few activities will help you discover strategies to make reading easier.