What is a proactive reading?

What is a proactive reading?

It is no wonder that the book is called “our best friend”: reading is a human interaction, through which one can learn so much. Many of us would dream of having a good mentor, and books give us the opportunity to choose the greatest people as our mentors. All we need is the ability to understand and apply what is written. If you want to develop that skill and get more out of your reading, learn about proactive reading.

Proactive reading is an algorithm for working with a book that helps you better understand the text, find useful ideas in it, and remember the information it contains.

So that you can see the effectiveness of this technique from your own experience, I suggest that you take a book that you have long wanted to read off the shelf and master proactive reading on its example right in the course of reading this article. The technique involves five steps, and you can do the first four right now.

Ready? Then let’s do it 🙂

First meet

To get an overall impression of a book, look at the table of contents and flip through it. Pay attention to headings and subheadings, chapter beginnings and endings, highlighted words and phrases, illustrations, tables, i.e. anything that differs from the bulk of the text. How long will it take? Yeah, five minutes.

Questions and Objectives

Write down what you would like to learn from the book and what you already know. This can take the form of goals if the subject matter of the book is familiar to you, or the form of questions if you are exploring an area new to you. Time: up to 5 minutes.

Sample Reading

Start reading the first chapter of the book in your normal reading mode. Your task is to determine where the information you need is concentrated and how long it takes you to read. Time: 5 minutes.

Choosing a Reading Style

Now that you have a better idea of the content of the book and its potential benefit to you, it is time to decide exactly how you will work with it. Clarify your goals, if necessary, and based on that, decide how deeply you want to go into the material. Then choose the reading style that suits your goals (full / selective / accelerated reading or a combination of both). Time: Up to 5 minutes.

Directly reading the book

Read the book using your chosen reading style. To better understand and remember the material, make mental maps as you go along, take notes, or write down key ideas in your own words.


  1. Remember the alpha-omega rule: important information tends to be concentrated at the beginning and the end of everything: books, chapters, paragraphs;
  2. At the stage of setting reading goals, it is useful to ask yourself how reliable the information offered in the book is (facts or hypotheses, how long ago the book was written, the author’s reputation, sources);
  3. As you read (for example, after each chapter) ask yourself questions: “How and where can I apply what I have just learned?”, “Are there analogies between what I am reading and my current challenges?”, “What ideas from the book can I use?”.

Write down the ideas you find

It is often advised to mark interesting places in the book with a highlighter as you read. Better yet, don’t stop halfway through and write comments in the margins, engaging in an imaginary dialogue with the author, such as formulating an idea in your own words, asking questions, agreeing or protesting.

To make sense of a passage that is difficult to understand, you might ask two clarifying questions about it: “What does the author say?” (write down the main idea of the passage in your own words) and “What does the author do?” (describe the problem the author is solving with the passage – for example, “the author gives evidence for his main argument”).

It is common to think that one reads books in order to learn something new. However, this is not an entirely correct statement. It is no coincidence that the word “to know” has a second meaning: to recognize something already familiar, for example, a familiar person in a crowd. In reading, it is precisely about such recognition as a natural accretion of the new to the already existing volume of the perceived.

We can’t force ourselves to understand something, we can only create the conditions for it, and that’s what proactive reading is all about.

Connecting the new with what we already know is comprehension, central to reading. We read in order to understand and thereby grow. When we understand a text, we feel interest and pleasure, and the new ideas that arise in the process, which we can apply to our own lives, make reading even more interesting and inspiring. When we don’t understand a book, we get bored and lose interest in it, even if it is in the “must read” category.

It’s like a fire: until it’s lit, there’s no heat, no matter how hard we try. That’s why we need to invest time not only in reading itself, but also in the way we read–in learning the most effective reading strategies and styles.

The amount of information we consume today is so great that even a small improvement in reading efficiency will give your brain a significant developmental gain.

If you’re interested in mastering speed-reading techniques, I highly recommend you start with the following:

  • SQ3R;
  • BOST;
  • photo-reading technique.

You can find them by typing the appropriate requests into a search engine. We also promise readers of our site soon to tell about them in more detail in new articles.

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