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Thread: Decline in reading retention

  1. #1
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    Decline in reading retention

    This has me worried considering I have an academic background in literature. I don't know if this has to do with physical or mental health or perhaps age (I'm 36). This sort of reading wasn't difficult in college - I was told what to read, why, what to look for and how I can compatibalize my reading into my writing assignments. Now, I find it harder to keep my head wrapped around read subject matter for long ... and I'm not sure why.

    I've been reading a lot lately and love books. In fact, I have collected a rather sizable collection of books across a number of topics, but mostly have to do with storytelling, non-fiction writing, social media, social media statistics, business operation books and marketing. This is due, in part, to a career change I'm trying to make and a podcast project having to do with the arts. So, as you might imagine, I have a lot of reading to get through and a learning to get done.

    But, herein lies the problem. While I can read fairly fast, the information isn't being retained. My memory of what I'm reading is scarce and slips my mind some hours after reading it. It may just be I have forgotten how to read (somehow) or unconsciously I only want key ideas kept in my head. Either way, I'm not sure what it is that's keeping me from being a stronger reader.

    Anyone got some advice for increasing my reading ability or should I embrace better reading techniques to keep the information in my head? Thanks in advance!

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    Do you have a job? A wife/girlfriend/kids? Family members, friends, rent to pay, etc.?

    I ask all of this because it could be a matter of simply having too much stuff on the brain to think about, whereas in college, reading and comprehending was your job.

    Add too this, the fact that our phones have overtaken us, we have so little time to just.....be.

    Your writing, at least in your post, is extremely articulate and grammatically correct, so it doesn't appear, from this one post, that you've lost ability to write and comprehend.

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    I was going to give very similar input to LHGirl. I also was an English lit major (and creative writing) and I am 52 and remain an avid reader. And yes I see how easy it is to get distracted and read differently because of screens and just information overload in general. Are you reading hard copy books or on an e reader? Also if you are reading for high level retention maybe take notes or highlight certain passages. I retain a lot more when I do that - I only do that when I read for work. I donít think itís your age at all.

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    I do have rent to pay, an at-home job and friends/roommates who I live with. The biggest worry is that of finding a new job which I've been scrambling to find since the term on my current job is about to expire.

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    Originally Posted by Batya33
    I was going to give very similar input to LHGirl. I also was an English lit major (and creative writing) and I am 52 and remain an avid reader. And yes I see how easy it is to get distracted and read differently because of screens and just information overload in general. Are you reading hard copy books or on an e reader? Also if you are reading for high level retention maybe take notes or highlight certain passages. I retain a lot more when I do that - I only do that when I read for work. I donít think itís your age at all.
    I think that might be the case. I wasn't working very much while I was in university so my schoolwork got my undivided attention. Now, with everything coming at me from every which way, there might be other contributing factors.

    As far as note-taking and highlighting goes, It's a skill I should develop. The whole 'interactive reading' from Mortimer Adler's book How to Read a Book is starting to make more sense to me now.

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    Platinum Member bluecastle's Avatar
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    I can relate to this. I've got a background in lit and creative writing, and have paid my rent with the latter since I was 19, so reading lots is kind of part of the job. I probably tear through a book or two a week.

    And a lot of them? In they go, out they go, leaving scant residue in the memory, where in my younger and more vulnerable years everything lodged in there like an arrow. (Case in point: "my younger and more vulnerable years," I'm 90 percent certain, comes from the first line of The Great Gatsby.)

    So it goes, I say.

    Part of it, I'm sure, is that the bandwidth has other needs and interests now, some valid (have I paid homeowners insurance?), some trivial (a scroll through the bowels of Instagram to see what my friend's eating right now in Vietnam). But I think another part of it is that it just requires more than "a book" to keep me interested in, well, a book.

    Think of it like a tolerance of sorts, where only the hardest, purest drugs now get you high. Or think of it as a bit of subconscious mental editing: the mind letting go of things it doesn't really need to make room for the things (a brilliant sentence, idea, passage, whole book, whatever) that serve it. I read a short story collection over the weekend, for instance, that I think I'll be quoting long after I've forgotten my own name. As for the three books I read before it? Can't even name 'em, and I don't think it's because my mind, at 39, has grown porous and feeble. I'd say it's sharper, if anything, more picky.

    Not sure if any of that sticksóand, if not, all good! Just your brain looking out for itself, taking in what it needs and pushing away what it doesn't.

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    Platinum Member DancingFool's Avatar
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    Your ability to remember and learn does change with life and age. That said, there is also a big difference between reading and remembering/analyzing literature v. reading for the purpose of learning a new or a more technical skill. It's not the same brain function you are trying to access so to speak.

    Personally, I find that taking notes by hand tends to help me a lot when it comes to any kind of reading retention, but especially learning/skills retention. Nothing formalized, just more jotting down important points, kind of creating a handwritten cheat sheet for yourself that you can easily reference as needed without having to go digging through the whole book for info. Think personally pragmatic, rather than stylistic, or structured by someone else. Do what make sense for your brain, so to speak.

    Consider also, that if you are pursuing knowledge on how to do social media and marketing, that you might do better with videos than reading. In other words, you might retain faster by seeing/hearing rather than just reading. One aspect of college is lectures and that is audio/visual rather than reading based learning. So you might want to supplement your reading with watching some videos as well.

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    Platinum Member RainyCoast's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by redmage22
    This has me worried considering I have an academic background in literature. I don't know if this has to do with physical or mental health or perhaps age (I'm 36). This sort of reading wasn't difficult in college - I was told what to read, why, what to look for and how I can compatibalize my reading into my writing assignments. Now, I find it harder to keep my head wrapped around read subject matter for long ... and I'm not sure why.

    I've been reading a lot lately and love books. In fact, I have collected a rather sizable collection of books across a number of topics, but mostly have to do with storytelling, non-fiction writing, social media, social media statistics, business operation books and marketing. This is due, in part, to a career change I'm trying to make and a podcast project having to do with the arts. So, as you might imagine, I have a lot of reading to get through and a learning to get done.

    But, herein lies the problem. While I can read fairly fast, the information isn't being retained. My memory of what I'm reading is scarce and slips my mind some hours after reading it. It may just be I have forgotten how to read (somehow) or unconsciously I only want key ideas kept in my head. Either way, I'm not sure what it is that's keeping me from being a stronger reader.

    Anyone got some advice for increasing my reading ability or should I embrace better reading techniques to keep the information in my head? Thanks in advance!
    Your reading is probably passive. I find the easiest way to read actively is by what I call the three readings technique. I retain all the information I need this way.

    Firstly, set aside thirty minutes for whatever reading material you want to get through, comprehend, and retain. Get an erasable pencil, a highlighter, an empty piece of paper or a notebook.

    Read a section of the material quite quickly. Don't practice actual speed reading, that is useless. Read with a pace that's quick enough to discourage zoning out, but allows you to comprehend what you're reading just fine.

    Cover the text with your sheet of paper/notebook and try to summarize what you've read. Really try to remember everything, but don't spend too long trying to recollect something that disappeared into a cerebral black hole. If it ain't there, it ain't. Uncover your text and read through it again quite quickly, underlining wirh a pencil only the things you didn't remember in your summary.

    Cover the text again after reading it, try to summarize everything this time. Uncover and reread again, underlining with a highlighter the things you didn't remember.

    After reading, cover and summarize again. You'll probably remember everything this time. You can use the underlined things as cues for when you're going over the reading material again in the future. You can erase the pencil lines now if you want and only focus on the highlighted parts that were difficult to remember. If there were still things you forgot, you can write short notes in the margin or on post its. Write a micro, five sentence essay, or a humorous haiku if that helps you remember.

    I'm 34, always excelled academically, and it happens periodically that my memory/retention is so bad it scares me. It's been temporary every time so far, usually corresponded with exceptionally high stress levels.
    Last edited by RainyCoast; 05-07-2019 at 05:08 PM.

  10. #9
    Platinum Member Rose Mosse's Avatar
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    I skim and flag. Summarize. If multiple projects at once, I jot down on rough paper. Pen and paper. Nothing fancy. I think a lot when I'm not working or even working on things at home or on the water(kayaking). Not sure why but I tend to work on problems and solutions that way and I come back to them after some time. You may be cramming too much information and it's meaningless to you.

    I was an avid reader. Eventually I got to the point where I wanted people to get to the point and magazine articles were distastefully inane. I started to read books and stop at the end of the first two chapters because I started to play a game with myself and predict the endings. Then I'd flip to the back of all the books and find out what happened (skimming). After this got predictable I stopped reading books. I stopped reading magazines also because I can't be bothered with what's trendy or hot and can't stand marketing. I skim news articles. I ask for summaries and for reports in point form format. I enjoy my work, my life, what time I have but I don't appreciate wasting time. If I ignore a good deal it's not because I haven't seen it. Brain just doesn't care. I've learned life is far too precious for it.

    I hope you start feeling more productive and are able to inspire yourself a bit more. It may be the routine of it that's causing your eyeballs to roll a little.


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