General Question

cadetjoecool's avatar

How do you focus on reading a book?

Asked by cadetjoecool (218points) May 18th, 2011

This one is hard to explain. Sometimes when I’m reading a book, I’ll be thinking about something else, and then have no idea what I just read. It seems to happen more when I’m tired, but I can’t say for sure.

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20 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

This also happens to me a lot. I think you’re right about the tiredness. If I take a nap, I tend to be able to focus better when I wake. Unless I abandon it altogether.

If you must read, then I do this thing where I try to speed read. I take in blocks of text all at once and move on. It is very brain intensive and expending that kind of energy tends to keep me from being sleepy—for a while. Eventually I will crash and have to nap.

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

This also happens to me. Yesterday I was at the library reading the first chapter of a book and at the end of it I understood nothing that was going on.
I think it could help if you first take 2 hours or so in just reading the first chapter or amount of content you would like to read. That way when you’ve read that much I guess it could be easier to concentrate because you already have a clue of what the book is about…
Hope that made sense ;)

happy reading

Blackberry's avatar

I think all the other technology around us plays a factor as well. Who’s going to read a book when you either play Xbox, watch TV, play with your iPad, etc. But I also haven’t figured out how to focus. I have to rely on pure interest. I have to get sucked in.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

It helps to be able to relax with no other distractions.No radio,tv and I won’t answer the phone.
I have a few favorite places I like to read.I will sit in my Morris chair with a cup of tea,on my boat in a secluded spot or in bed at night.
Perfect spots:)

janbb's avatar

I am having more of a problem with this than I ever did. I think my internet addiction is the problem.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

This is going to sound silly, but you might try eating a piece of chocolate or some other sweet about 10 minutes before reading. Just a little piece. It gives the brain sugar it needs to run on and helps in concentration.

Sunny2's avatar

I think there are times when what is worrying you or what is on your mind is more important to you than what you are reading. If you must read what you are reading, try putting yourself on a timer for 5 or 10 minutes at a time and make yourself concentrate on the reading for that long. You might also find out if you need to ‘hear’ what you read. Hum when you read. If the words lose any meaning they had, you may be like me and have to hear the words (in your mind). As a result, I do fine with novels that have a lot of dialog, but non-fiction is often difficult. When I lose my concentration, I also find it useful to take notes as I read. Or read out loud if the going gets really tough. This condition is more common than teachers realize. I know, from talking to people that most people read, and the words just ‘jump’ into their minds. Others, like me, have to ‘hear’ the words.

flutherother's avatar

I notice this at times. Once I get really interested my concentration is good, but sometimes I have to go back to reread a paragraph having taken almost none of it in. I think tiredness is part of it.

Seelix's avatar

If I have to read for school and I’m having a hard time concentrating, one thing I do is read out loud. It might sound silly, but it works for me.

Jeruba's avatar

There’s an interesting book on this subject that my husband and I are currently reading: The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr. He talks about how over the centuries the media themselves have changed the way we think and experience the world, and he calls the Internet the biggest game-changer since the printing press. He devotes a great deal of attention to just how the availability of printed matter did change things. And of course he discusses other media as well. His main focus is exactly this distractibility and loss of attention span. Our brains undergo actual physical changes as a result of different kinds of stimuli, and he says that use of the Internet is producing changes of that kind in us.

I think some of it is baloney—he extrapolates too far from his own experience, without corroboration (I do use the Internet heavily, and I don’t have a thousand interruptions popping into my screen every minute, and I can still read a long magazine article, concentrate on a book etc.). And Siva Vaidhyanathan effectively counters some of Carr’s arguments in the recent The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry). But Carr does make some strong and valid points.

I’ll come back in a bit and answer the question in terms of my own practice. I have to go out now for physical therapy (ugh).

Paul's avatar

I find a deadly quiet room, no backround noice whatsoever, helps immensely!

Coloma's avatar

I usually have no focus problems with reading, unless it is when I am drifting off at bedtime.
I read before bed almost every night. Have about 5 books on my night table and randomly pick whatever turns me on in the moment. Sometimes I’ll read for an hour, others, I am fading after 5 minutes. lol

Einsteins bio. knocked me out in about 6.5 minutes last night. HE was interesting, his bio. is incredibly dull. haha

Coloma's avatar

Uh…speaking of ‘focus’ the original ‘F’ word haha

I realize, I never did answer this question, I simply babbled about my reading habits. :-/

I’d say, yes, you are probably better prepared to take on a more intense read if you are well rested and not distracted by other things.

Light background music, or quiet is a personal pref. I prefer quiet myself or mellow no lyric instrumentals.

Also…if you have a hard time focusing on a lengthy book, maybe pick up some easy, short reads, such as trivia and interesting facts. One I have been enjoying is called ” Do Penguins have knees, and other imponderables of the mysteries of life.” haha

Each entry is only a page or two long and keeps rolling over into something new and stimulating.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I grew up an only child, so books were one of my main sources of entertainment. I have no problem focusing on a good book, but then again, I often get pretty absorbed in most tasks.

As long as the book is good/interesting, I can almost always tune everything else out and get lost in it.

Coloma's avatar


Me too! Books and pets were my passions!

TheObjector's avatar

That happens to me too. I just shake my head and go back and re-read.
There’s no real focus? uhm well. i dont need to focus on anything really when im reading. I read aloud sometimes and that makes me less likely to zone out.

Jeruba's avatar

I’ve returned to this question several times in the week since it was posted, trying to think of the right answer.

I think the correct response is “effortlessly.” And what that means is that if I have to work at it, I just about can’t focus on it. Not just in school (when a botany text could put me under in two minutes flat) but even now, when I have to read something, that’s just about all it takes for my mind to wander all over the place until I drift off or give up. That automatic resistance to gottas got me in trouble throughout my school and working years and still does, right up to the present minute. I’m starting to think I’ll never conquer it.

In contrast, if it’s something I want to read or have chosen to read (not always the same thing), I have no trouble at all. I learned to concentrate early in life, as an avid reader with three noisy younger siblings. When I’m engrossed in a book, I simply don’t hear or notice anything external.

Hacksawhawk's avatar

You could also try to follow the lines with your finger or a ruler. This might look childish, but in fact when a child is learning to read and he/she uses her/his finger to read, we mustn’t tell the child to remove the finger, but to move the finger faster.
Reading with a guide (your finger or a ruler) is much more effective, because the eyes constantly wander off when left without guidance. You can try this by yourself: First try to make a circle in the air with your eyes alone, then do it again but let your finger make the circle in the air and let your eyes follow your finger. If everything went well, the circle with the guidance of the finger must’ve been much better.

Jeruba's avatar

@Hacksawhawk, when I’m proofreading, I never fail to use a straightedge. It’s imperative that I look fully at and only at one word at a time.

Nullo's avatar

I do some of my best reading in the break room at work. It’s 30 minutes of quiet in an otherwise unenviable day. I want the escapism enough that I just fall right in. So long, obnoxious customers, I’m off to play among the stars! And I’m not bringing you!

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