Mastering Your Reading Load by Using Different Types of Reading Skills

Reading is a crucial component of any high school education. Students undoubtedly find themselves reading for classes like English and History, but they’re probably doing some reading for most of their classes.


Managing such an extensive reading load is challenging for many students, taking up significant time in their already packed schedules.


Fortunately, we have some tricks up our sleeves to help students improve their reading skills and prioritize their reading time more effectively. One of our incredible tutors, Eliza H., recently hosted a webinar on Managing and Mastering Your Reading Load, and today, we’ll review the key learnings. 



What Is a Typical Reading Load in High School? 


First, it’s helpful to understand what constitutes a typical reading load in high school. 


While homework has long been a subject of debate among experts, the prevailing wisdom is that there is a direct “correlation between completing homework and academic success, at least in older grades.” 


Many school districts follow the 10-minute rule, which suggests that students should receive 10 minutes of homework per day in first grade, with 10 minutes added each year. By the time students reach their senior year of high school, they can expect to complete 120 minutes of homework each day. 


Of course, not all of that homework is reading—but much of it is. A class like AP English, for example, may assign students up to 40 pages of reading per night or 250-300 pages of reading weekly. Even science and mathematics classes can involve a considerable amount of textbook reading. 


No matter a student’s precise reading load, they must be able to tackle it confidently and efficiently. 


Using the Different Types of Reading for Effective Studying

There are four different levels of reading, and students can benefit from understanding the role of each one:

1. Skimming: reading for what the text looks like

Most students are already familiar with skimming, which involves paying close attention to elements like structure, bolded words, and the title page. Skimming is most useful before reading a textbook, novel, short passage, or article.

2. Literal: reading for what the text says

In fiction, literal reading consists of reading for plot, characters, critical passages, and popular themes. In nonfiction, it might look like reading for general information, main topics, or important facts.

3. Inferential: returning to the essential parts of the text and thinking about why

When reading fiction, common questions may include, Why is this detail here? Why did the character do what they did? What is the author’s purpose here? How does this plot point relate to an overall theme? 


For nonfiction, questions will be more like, What does this information tell me about other things we’ve learned about? Why is it important? When would I use this information? 


Inferential reading can also involve re-reading critical passages from a longer piece of work or a short excerpt for analysis or in-class discussion.

4. Reflection: focusing on how the author has written a piece of work and how it connects to a broader context

In the realm of fiction, another common term for reflection is “close reading.” This process consists of examining word choice, literary devices, and broader connections. 


When reading nonfiction, reflection involves thinking about why certain information is important, who should know it, and whether it’s credible.


Students may engage in reflective reading to revisit smaller passages of a novel, poem, or study when preparing to write an essay.


How to Annotate Work While Reading 

Now that we’re all on the same page—pun intended—about the different types of reading skills, let’s review a helpful strategy students can use to track what they read: annotating their work.


Annotations are written notes—whether in the book itself or on a Post-it note—that alert students to the information they may need to find down the road for an essay, an exam, or a class discussion. The very act of annotating is useful in its own right, forcing students to be more present while they’re reading and notice things that may not have caught their attention otherwise.


Here are several ways students can annotate their work during the first and second levels of reading:


  • Questions. These can be points of confusion, questions they have about the text, or potential discussion topics. 
  • Impressions/reactions. What parts of the text were surprising and exciting—or boring and irrelevant? 
  • Connections. Ideas and concepts that reminded the student of something that happened in their life or in the world around them. 
  • Standout passages. Excerpts from the reading that seemed essential or relevant to a major theme, character, or topic.


Another helpful trick for students using skimming or literal reading is to write quick mini summaries at the end of an important or difficult section. That way, students can check their understanding of the passage later on.


Once students move on to employing inferential and reflection in their reading skills, their annotations will become a little different, focusing on smaller passages and closer readings of the material. During this time, students’ annotations should cover more granular elements like word choice, literary devices, rhetorical strategies, and missing perspectives.


With the right approach to managing their reading loads, many students can become true reading masters in no time. But if your student continues to struggle in this area, rest assured that support is just around the corner. Contact Signet today to discuss our academic coaching and tutoring services.

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