In today’s world, the importance of strong literacy skills is hard to overestimate. We need them in all spheres of our life. We are not born with these skills and have to learn and master them since early childhood.
Yet numbers show that many students come to college unprepared. For example, only 37% of high-school students score high enough on reading achievement tests and are able to adequately handle college-level material and read independently and analytically.
High-school students also come to colleges poorly prepared to write academically, and many of them can’t even write coherent sentences. As a result, many college students struggle with their reading and writing assignments.
Reading comprehension skills and writing skills are crucial to academic success while you are at college. Moreover, literacy skills, including writing and communication, will be crucial to you after graduation as you start seeking jobs and careers.
If your reading comprehension and writing aren’t up to standard, you can find yourself in trouble. The only way to improve the situation is to master your literacy skills. In this article, we discuss what literacy skills are and how you can improve them while in college. Here you can find some effective strategies and tools you can use to boost your reading and writing in college.
What Are Literacy Skills?
Literacy is a skill people develop to express themselves, share ideas, understand one another, and even solve problems. Oftentimes, people think literacy equals only reading, but in fact, it involves several aspects:
- Reading comprehension and writing skills;
- Listening and speaking skills;
- Analytical skills;
- Critical skills.
We become literate as we develop the knowledge and skills to interpret and use language confidently for learning, communicating with others, and participating effectively in social life.
10 Ways to Improve Your Literacy Skills
Generally speaking, literacy involves comprehending different texts when listening and reading and composing texts when speaking and writing. Reading and writing are basic learning skills, and they are foundational activities for college-level courses.
Reading college textbooks and scholarly articles effectively and writing academic papers takes practice. You should approach these activities differently than reading and writing in high-school. Consider the following easy tips and ideas to make the most of your reading and writing in college.
Preview the Text
Previewing is an effective strategy that allows readers to get an idea of what a book or an article is about without reading its main body. According to research, previewing can improve reading comprehension and save time. It also allows you to set a purpose for your reading. You should skim the text before actually reading it to get a sense of the key points and an overall idea.
You should read the chapter titles and section headings. A good idea is to take a look at the illustrations and photos and try to figure out whether they remind you about something. You may also scan the book for any bolded terms and read the first sentences in all paragraphs. Understanding the general idea of the text and its structure will help comprehend it when you read it in detail
As you read a chapter in your textbook, try to identify the main ideas, and take notes. You can use different note-taking strategies, for example, writing bullet points, mind mapping, outlining, etc. If the chapter is long, you can turn subtitles into questions and give brief answers to them. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to take notes. You can experiment with different methods and choose those that suit you.
And if you are a visual learner, you can also create graphs, flow charts, and diagrams that help connect important ideas in a memorable way. Note-taking will help you keep track of what you read and retain the information. You can also use your notes when summarizing the text.
Mark Key Concepts
If you read your own printed book, you can also mark crucial points directly in the text with a pen, pencil, or highlighter. As you read, you should capture the main information – important facts, definitions, terms, or phrases. You can circle keywords, underline them, or highlight them.
Another effective approach is annotating in the margins. You can use different symbols or abbreviations, or summarize the content of certain paragraphs in your own words. If you don’t want to write in the book, you can use sticky notes instead.
Expand Your Vocabulary
When you read scholarly articles in journals or chapters in the textbook where authors discuss complex concepts and theories, most likely, you’ll come across some words that are not familiar to you. You should always look up these words in a good online dictionary before you read further. Write down new words and try to remember them. You can test your knowledge by making flashcards and quizzing yourself.
If you come across parts of the text that are difficult to understand, try to paraphrase them in your own words. That means you need to rewrite a paragraph and don’t change the meaning of the original text. It will help you understand the main ideas and key concepts better. You should reread the paragraph several times to better understand its meaning. As you read, you should write down key concepts. Finally, you should write your version of the passage without looking into the original text. Then compare the two texts and make some adjustments in your version if necessary.
Asking questions to the text you read is an effective reading strategy that allows readers to engage with the content and better understand what they are reading. You may ask clarifying questions about the things you don’t understand or to make predictions. You can jot down such questions on sticky notes, and leave them in your book on the margins. When you finish reading the chapter, you should look through the questions and try to answer them or find answers in the text. You should make sure that your questions are relevant and logical.
Write a Summary
When you finish reading a chapter in your textbook or an article, you’re your notes and visuals and write a short summary. Summarizing allows you to remember specific details and express ideas using your own perspective. This approach will help you get a better understanding of the main idea of the text. If you struggle to summarize the content of the text in your own words, you should reread it.
Discuss What You Have Read
Reread the text critically and pay attention to whether the main idea of the content is supported with relevant evidence and whether the argument is logical and coherent. Then talk to other people and discuss the key points and the organization of the text. If you don’t understand something, ask your classmates to explain that to you in their own words. It’s always good to learn about other points of view that may differ from yours. You may also explain the material you have read to other people. This way, you’ll move it from short-term to long-term memory.
Use Correct Grammar
Reading complex texts, you’ll build your vocabulary and eventually improve your grammar and style. You should also pay more attention to grammar and word choice when you write your papers or make oral presentations. You are a student, and you should write at a college level. Use good English academic style and always use precise words and proper sentence structure. Keep in mind that the way you write reflects your ability to think analytically and critically and demonstrates your intelligence.
Be Clear and Concise
When you write something, try to explain complex ideas in simple words, without jargon, specialized words that may be not familiar to your audience, and without any too formal or obsolete words. Always use words that clearly convey your meaning and consult the dictionary when you have doubts about the precise meaning of the words. Don’t invent any words and use words that you clearly understand.
Try to make all your writings concise. Always use shorter words instead of longer ones if their meanings are the same. You should also avoid very long sentences – it’s better to split them into two. You should also eliminate filler words and phrases that don’t contribute to the overall meaning and avoid unnecessary repetitions and redundancies. And try to write in the active voice.
Writing clearly and concisely allows you to get straight to your point and helps your audience easily understand your argument and your main idea. Besides, if you write concisely, it also helps you organize your ideas and streamline the writing process.
Literacy skills are used for reading, writing, and understanding different information. They are very important in all spheres of our life, so we should work consistently to master them. Reading and writing at a college level can be challenging, but the more you do it, the better you will become at it. Use our tips, and you’ll improve your literacy skills, enhance your ability to understand complex content, and will be able to convey your ideas effectively.