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How to Overcome Reading Barriers


Reading may be defined as an activity designed to decipher a message which has been coded according to a given orthography.

It is not unusual for different languages to employ divergent orthographies for their codification needs. To guarantee standardization, relevant authorities usually set up regulatory bodies.

However, given the potential divergences that may arise between codification (through writing) and interpretation (through writing), it is important to consistently sharpen our skills.

The rate at which we read and the accuracy of our reading is both essential yardsticks for measuring success in this endeavour.

Kind of Reading


Over time, man has evolved different methods to cater to his reading needs. The most popular types of reading are scanning, scamming, light, word-for-word, and study types.


Scanning (sometimes referred to as a rapid survey), is mainly concerned with speed. The activity must take place within the shortest time.

Scanning a telephone book, for instance, means searching for specific information (e.g names). Even on the page, where a relevant name is picked up, all other information is irrelevant and may, therefore, not be remembered.


Skimming is also a speed-conditioned reading method. Although no specific item or keyword is being looked for, skimming provides an overview of the text – it is a glance at the written material to be read.

This method is very well employed in sampling, which involved exploring the content of written material to obtain details about certain parts, e.g chapter headings or the introduction.

Selective reading, which involves reading a specific part of a text, taking out its essence, and leaving out the rest, is an expanded version of skimming.


Light reading, as the name suggests, is reading for ‘pleasure’.  Most people read novels, e.g. fiction, just for the fun of reading and would easily forget the storyline almost immediately afterward.

Read verbatim

Word-by-word reading (also known as close reading), involves paying attention to each word in a text. This method is painfully slow but very rewarding.

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It is widely used in such disciplines as literature and religious studies, where ‘interpretation’ is of paramount importance.


Study-type reading is associated with preparing for tests and examinations. The main aim, in this case, is to assimilate the text and be in a position to recall and exploit this knowledge when the need arises.

Different approaches have been developed to take care of the special needs of this type of reading. The most popular of these is the Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review (SQ3R) approach.

SQ3R is a reading plan developed as a sequence of events that culminate in effective reading.

This plan works as follows: first, the reader surveys the text by isolating the keywords and ideas as set out in chapter titles and subtitles; next possible questions that may be asked by the examiner are drawn up, then, the actual reading, takes place, followed by an attempt to recall the facts unaided through recitation.

Finally, a self-assessment of the reader’s performance is carried out by comparing the recitation with the raw text.

Developed by Francis Robinson at Ohio State University during World War II, SQ3R proved to be very efficient for military men who needed to effectively read manuals and retain the information contained therein.

Since then, variations of the method have evolved. The most popular ones are:

SQ3R2                          Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review (Repeat)

SQ4R                            Survey, Question, Read, Recall, Review, Reflect

SQ5R                           Survey, Question, Read, Recall,  (w)Rite, Reference, and Review

SER                              Survey, Explore, Review

PSQ5R                         Predict, Survey, Question, Read, Recall, (w)Rite, Reference, and Review

PROR                           Preview, Read, Organize, Review

PORPE                         Predict, Organize, Rehearse, Practise, Evaluate

OK4R                           Organize, Know, Read, Recall, Review, Reflect

It is good to note that all of them operate on the principle of a step-to-step approach to effective reading.

There is no need for one to be rigidly glued to any of them. Instead, one should be willing to experiment with any that seems to satisfy one’s goals.

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PORPE, for instance, though time-consuming, has proved to be highly suitable for preparing to answer essay questions, just as OK4R has been for multiple choice questions.

Barriers to Effective Reading

Effective reading may be hampered by several negative factors. Some of these are discussed in the following subsections:

If the writing system is sub-standard….

If the orthography of a language is not standardized, the ensuring irregularities would adversely affect the reading. We may recall a popular computer adage here: Garbage in, garbage out  (GIGO)

If the reading method is inappropriate…

Another hindrance to effective reading is the use of an inappropriate reading method. This practice may be like putting a square peg in a round table.

If the reading habit is bad…

When a reader has imbibed bad reading culture, it becomes extremely difficult to achieve positive results in reading.

Bad reading habits include reading for reading sake;  favoreading’speed at the expense of quality of reading; paying undue attention to volume, rather than depth of reading.

If the human mind is conservative…

The average human mind is conservative. This is why old habits die hard. Since reading starts in the pre-adult years, it is not surpassing that old bad reading habits cultivated from earlier years are hard to shed off.

What to Do to Enhance Effective Reading

Four factors that may enhance effective reading are the determination to improve one’s performance, openness to new techniques, willingness to combine methods and readiness to be motivated to practice.

If you determine to improve…

One’s determination to improve on one’s performance is one of the factors that may positively influence the effective reading.

There is a popular belief that ‘Where there is a will, there is a way. Some readers have been able to double their reading speed through sheer motivation, backed up by necessary training.

If prepare pen to new techniques…

Being open to new techniques is another positive factor since it eliminates rigidity and promotes flexibility. There is, thus, a willingness to modify exist practices or completely migrate to a new more cost-effective practice.

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If you combine methods…

Preparedness to combine different appropriate methods also has positive effects on effective reading.

There are circumstances in which no single reading method can guarantee success. For example, preparing for a multi-facetted examination, in which there is a section on ‘summary’ and another on ‘essay writing’ may certainly require different approaches to reading

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