How to understand literature
Personally, I have a tough time understanding literature, novels specifically. I forget everything I read on the last page, or I do not fully soak in what is going on in the story. This is a common thing in most people’s lives. Especially during school or college when you are reading something slightly complex or not complex, but it is just very boring, yet you must learn it. This skill does not pertain to only school either. Let us say you like reading in your free time but have trouble remembering or understanding the material. My goal here is to help anyone who needs it better understand literature, because I know I can struggle sometimes.
- Novel of your choice
- Sticky notes
- A comfortable environment
First, you should read the introduction of any book or article. There will always be an introduction that covers main points. Let that information soak in and make sure you understand before you move on. Documenting this section in your notebook or post it note is not very necessary, but if you feel the need to then go ahead. Reading this will give you a better understanding of the pieces theme. Continue to read your sub-headings and summary. Reading these things can give you an idea of the main points and help you to better see when they come up in the book. It is especially important to reflect on what you have read also. From the introduction, summary, and subheadings really take that information in and reflect to be sure you understood and remembered.
Jotting small bullet lists from these things is not a bad idea either. Just on your little post it notes write down some points you had a challenging time remembering or you felt were significant and place them in your book wherever you would like. I recommend putting them at the beginning or end of the introduction or summary, but that is fully up to you how you want to organize your thoughts. Now you are ready to read!
Get your notebook ready and whatever writing utensil you prefer because this is where it comes in handy. As you read your book chapter by chapter write down the main points. Whether it be in a list or paragraph form. You can also do these on post its, but the notebook gives you more space to work with. As you go along stop at the end of each chapter. Write down the main points in that chapter you remember. Also, doing this throughout the chapter is perfectly fine, so those points are fresh on your mind.
Look for signs of explanation. Where the author starts talking about specific events and how they effected other events and be sure to write those down also. Now do not rush yourself. It is perfectly okay to be reading on a book for months at a time. You do not have to finish in one week. If you come across a word, you do not understand or know the meaning of then look it up and jot it down. Make a page in your notebook for vocabulary specifically if that helps you stay organized. One word in a sentence can set the entire tone, emotion, or plot. It is important to know the meanings to the words in your book.
If you follow these steps and still do not seem to be grasping the material, it is perfectly okay to go back and read over and over. Sometimes you can just keep reading and you will get the hang of things. Once you have reached the end of your piece go back and read your notes. If you feel your missing something just read over them as much as you need. The repetition will help you learn it if it is a boring book for school.
Now I have a few more tips just in case!
- Do not beat yourself up about it. Everyone has different processes and learns differently. Just because your process is harder does not mean anything. You are doing wonderful!
- I would not recommend doing this in a noisy place. Your brain will try and focus on all the words except the ones you are reading.
- Try and find someone who is reading the same novel or someone in your class reading the book as well. Its always nice to have discussions about literature, and they may tell you things you did not notice about the book.
- Lastly, do not give up on yourself. I know that sounds cheesy, but you cannot beat yourself down an give up. The issue will never resolve.