From our childhood we are told that reading is a very good habit. Specially, if you are preparing for any competitive exam like CAT, GMAT, GRE or even UPSC (it now has a paper with questions on reading comprehension), you must read a lot of books written in English. In this context, from here on, by reading I mean reading books written in English language.
Why Reading is a good Habit?
Reading improves our comprehension as well knowledge. Reading a lot of good books makes us familiar with English language and we no more need to memorize grammar rules to find out if any sentence is wrong. It is the same way as a child learns her native language just listening to her parents and not by learning grammar rules.
Once a respected gentlemen rightly said that to write well, you need to read a lot. So, apart from helping us to understand what others write, reading is also essential to express our thoughts in good words and proper language.
But what if someone doesn’t read at all? What if mere thought of reading a book makes you yawn? Is there any way to develop this habit, easily?
Well, all big things in life require some amount of work. However, there are few ways to do it the right way so that you get maximum benefit in minimum amount of time. And obviously, you need to be motivated enough and self-determined to maintain a disciplined schedule, atleast when you begin.
I was not exactly a reading buff. Though I read books every once in a while, I was not the kind of guy who reads scores of books every month and asks for even more. Every time I finished a book, it used to be an achievement for me. But during my CAT preparation, I realized that I need to read a lot and I was actually able to read a lot of books during that time. How? I followed a simple approach.
Pick the right book
First of all, reading here does not mean reading “anything”. I am no one to criticize Chetan Bhagat for his books. He writes books in simple, lucid language to be easily understood by anyone. But for the kind of competitive exams mentioned above, those books may not help you. You need to read something with a higher level of English. Books of famous English authors written in standard English is a good point to start with.
Pick a book from a famous author, an interesting one. You can pick J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books or Dan Brown’s books like DaVinci Code, Angel and Demons etc. There are many more authors like John Grisham, Jeffrey Archer, Stephen King, you can pick any of their books based on your interest. This is because once you get involved with the story of the book, you would like to continue reading it, even if you find the language difficult or boring.
Stick to a simple schedule & Take it easy while reading the first book
Now make a schedule to read for 15-20 minutes every day before you go to bed. Yes, this much is enough to begin with. No matter what, read for some time everyday before you go to sleep. Slowly your reading time will increase as you will get involved with the story. Don’t worry even if you do not understand many words. No need to look them up in a dictionary. Just try to understand the meaning from the context and move ahead. Referring dictionary continuously will obstruct the flow and make reading boring. Completing a book is more important at this time.
Level up once you cross the milestone
After 1-2 months of this when you finish reading your first book, you will definitely feel accomplished. You would also have developed at least some interest in reading. Now you can refer to difficult words while reading the next book. You can also read using an ebook reader as it is very easy to look-up words in these devices without breaking the flow of reading. You just need to touch the word and its meaning pops up.
Finally, keep it going
Slowly and gradually you can read more and more books. Finishing each book, will boost your confidence and as you go on, you will get familiar with more words making it easier for you to understand and time to finish a book will keep on decreasing. If all goes well, by this time, you would have developed the habit to read books. It will be no longer a far-fetched dream.
The method described above may not be the best way to develop this habit but it worked pretty well for me.
I hope you too find this useful. Feel free to leave feedback or suggestion in the comments section below.
You may find following links useful:
If you are preparing for CAT or planning to start soon, you can read my detailed article here: How to start preparing for CAT
The complete list of books and material you will need for your CAT preparation can be found here: List of Important CAT Preparation Books