The benefits of reading something twice are well-known. On a second reading one understands more, remembers more and integrates more. This applies to just about any type of reading apart from the most ephemeral. It also applies to any length of reading from a multi-volume history to a short article or blog post.
There are many experts who say that there are more efficient ways of understanding and remembering written material. These include pre-questioning, note-taking, outlining and various other techniques. I’m not saying they are wrong, but my feeling is that re-reading is easier and less intellectually demanding and therefore more likely to get done. The best method is the one that you actually do.
The problem is that all these methods, including re-reading, take time and this time has to be found from the time you need for all the other books and articles you have to read. So how about if you could read a book for the first and second time in one go?
In fact there is a very simple technique for doing this, which I have found remarkably effective. All you need is two bookmarks (Book Darts are even better) or the electronic equivalent. Here’s how it works using Book Darts with a printed book:
- Put both Book Darts at the beginning of the book.
- Read for as long as you wish.
- Mark the place where you stop with one of the Book Darts.
- When you want to read some more, start from the beginning of the book again, read for as long as you wish and mark where you stop with the second Book Dart.
- The next time you read, start from the Book Dart which is nearest the beginning of the book, read for as long as you wish, and mark where you stop with that Book Dart.
- Continue reading as in 5 until you have got both Book Darts to the end of the book.
Note that it doesn’t matter how far you get in a reading session. It makes no difference whether you stop before or after the leading Book Mark. You always start reading from the Book Dart nearest the beginning of the book. Doing it this way ensures that every bit of the book gets read twice regardless of how long or short your individual reading sessions are.
How much longer does it take to read a book in this way? Not as long as you would think. Your first reading is more relaxed than normal reading because you are not struggling to understand and take in all the meaning in one go. The second reading is also more relaxed because you know what’s coming and your mind has had a bit of time to work on the material.
I’ve used this method to read dense material such as history books, classic novels, scripture, and works in foreign languages. I’ve also used it for instruction books, magazines and individual articles. It seems to work well with all of them.