Improve Your Reading Retention With These 7 Tips And Tricks

Kelly Knox/Stocksy

Have you ever found yourself at the end of a book you’ve just finished wondering, what did I just read? (And not in a Gone Girl "what the hell just happened" way.) If you have trouble remembering the finer points of your recent reads, don’t stress, because you’re not alone, and there are plenty of ways to improve your reading retention.

While there are some who can retain the details of entire books, stories, and poems, most people have a hard time remembering everything they read. The exact amount each person forgets varies, but studies show that the forgetting curve, as researchers call it, is the most extreme within the first 24 hours. That means, unless you actively work to remember what you’ve read, chances are you’ll forget many of the plot points, characters, and quotes within a single day, after which you’ll forget more and more as more time passes.

Whether you’re a student who wants to improve your ability to recall book details for examines or essays, or a reader who hopes to improve for the benefit of book club discussions or yourself, here are seven tips and tricks you can follow to improve your memory and reading retention.

Keep a reading journal.

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Do you want to remember what books you read and what happened in each one? There are few better ways than keeping a reading journal. Jot down titles, authors, important plot points, character names — whatever you want to be able to recall later, keep it safety in a journal you can refer back to.

Read out loud.

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According to studies, you are more likely to remember something if you read it out loud to yourself. It may seem strange at first, but if you want to improve reading retention, you’re going to have to use your mind and your voice together.

Take notes as you go

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Whether you jot down your thoughts in the margins or keep a notebook to write your ideas in, taking notes as you read is one of the best ways to improve your memory and retention of the story. You can record important plot points, copy your favorite quotes, or write character names and descriptions — whatever you want to remember, put it down in paper. The act of writing improves retention and gives you a handy study guide to refer back to later.

Read at night.

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If you are one of the many book-lovers who enjoy reading before bed, you’re in luck, because that’s actually the best time of day to read and remember new things. According to studies, brains learn better at night, meaning that reading in the evening actually makes it easier to retain more of the story.

Stick to physical books.

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While it’s true that there are many benefits to e-readers, including their convenience, digital books certainly have their downsides, too. According to studies, readers forget more of what they read in ebooks than they do physical books. If you want to improve your retention and memory, stick to old-fashion print.

Skim the book first, or read a summary.

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While you don’t want to spoil the end of a new novel before you get the chance to read it, skimming a book first can greatly improve your ability to retain it. Before diving in on page one, scan the entire book to get a loose idea of the overall plot, main characters, and general themes. This will give you context as you read, and a solid base to build off of, which will make it easier to remember the finer details as you go. (This is not advised if you are a stickler for avoiding spoilers.)

Have a reading buddy.

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Whether it's a friend, a partner, or an entire book club, reading a new novel at the same time as someone else means you will have someone to talk to once your done. Engaging in discussions about your recent reads helps you create personal connections with the story and its characters, which in turn can help you not only retain more of the story, but have fun while doing it.