How to Get the Most from a Book

You’re reading a book . Are you reading it for your own pleasure? Do you have to read it for school? Or are Mum or Dad nagging you to read? Whatever the reason reading can be really rewarding and exciting. Here are a few tips from Patsy Lyons at Tara Book Company on how to get the most from a book that may make it even better.


#1. Prepare for the pleasure of reading.

Set aside uninterrupted time, make sure you have good lighting and that you are warm enough.  Have something to drink ready if you like and I find it handy to have a dictionary close by. Curl up in a comfortable chair, prop up the pillows in bed or relax in the sunshine – whatever works for you.

#2. Map out a Schedule

Before you start, you can check the number of chapters and pages in the book. You might like to map out a schedule for reading, for example how many chapters can you read in an hour, or will you read a few chapters every day? What’s the best time of day for you?

Some people prefer to read when the mood takes them.  You could keep a journal of the books you read, score them out of 10, write some comments, record new words or a favourite line.

#3. Taste the Beginning

Now you’re ready for the mystery, wonder and fun of the first page.  Taste the beginning few sentences, visualise the picture, say the words aloud, roll them round on your tongue, use a tissue to mop any drooling saliva. And you’re off.

#4. Pause after the First Chapter

Pause after the first chapter – if you can!  What do you think?  Are you intrigued, disappointed, tense, curious? Are you engrossed in the story? How does it make you feel? Don’t be afraid to say you love it – or hate it.

#5. Give the Story Time

Sometimes I expect to really enjoy a book, but after chapter one I’m not so sure. I give it time for the story to unfold, and I never give up on a book, I always hope it will teach me something. I take it one page at a time, one chapter at a time. Even if the book is a struggle I see it as a challenge and it makes me appreciate the next book even more.

#6. Books are a treasure chest of words.

Are there any new words in the book that you haven’t come across before?  Try to guess the meaning before you look the word up in the dictionary. Were you right?  Isn’t it wonderful to expand your vocabulary and spelling with new words? Try to use them in conversation. This will help to store them in your long term memory – and won’t your friends be impressed!  If you own the book you can write little comments in it, and underline words or sentences that are special to you.

#7. Enjoy Words

Roald Dahl invented words – like “scrumdiddlyumptious” in his  book ‘Matilda’.  JK Rowling collected words for years before writing her Harry Potter books. Did you know that ‘hagrid’ is an old English word for tired and worn out, and ‘dumbledore’ originally meant bumblebee?  Imagine my surprise when I came across both words in the first chapter of Thomas Hardy’s book ‘Mayor of Casterbridge’, written in 1886.  Now we know what JK Rowling likes to read.

#8. Have a Go at Predicting

I love ‘predicting’ when I’m reading. I pride myself on spotting clues. I ask myself questions like “Is he her real father?” “I think I know what’s going to happen. Am I right?” However, Louis Sacher’s book ‘Holes’ took me by surprise.  I didn’t spot the clues, Sacher had them well disguised. (I was really paying attention but he tricked me!). ‘Holes’ is a wonderful book, full of surprises. And you’ll be thinking about it for a long time after reading it –one of the signs of a good book.

#9. Use your Imagination

Use your imagination to “get a picture” of  the main characters in the book from the description and clues given by the author. How do they look and what kind of person are they?  Are they tall or small, young or old, mean or kind, shy or cheeky? How would you feel if you were the main character, or one of the other characters? What advice would you give them? How would you feel in their situations? Did you find it believable? The questions are endless.

#10. Try to spot Alliteration.

This is when some words with the same beginning sound are put one after the other. Think ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’. (It’s easier to think it than say it.)

#11. Discuss the Book

It’s great discussing a book you’ve enjoyed (or hated) with someone else who has read it. Book groups great for this, and you can always do it with your class novel at school. You can learn so much more when you listen to what others think, and you can share your own thoughts and feelings about the book.

#12. Ask if you need help

If you don’t understand something in a book, ask a parent, librarian or teacher to explain it to you. You can sometimes get additional information online from the publisher or author website. I was unsure about the ending in Kate Thompson’s book ‘Annan Water’ and got the answer direct from the author herself (ssh! she lives in Kinvara).

#13. Look for online resources

You can often get worksheets or reading guides online from the author or publisher website. Cora Harrison has 6 pages of downloadable worksheets on all of her books on Her Drumshee books are historical fiction.

The O’Brien Press website has quite a lot of resource material available to download, for all ages.

#14. And finally…

I have read books that made me cry or laugh, that make me angry or sometimes sad. I’ve learned from them, and some have inspired me. I’ve been a heroine and a victim. I’ve been lost for hours in books. Every book I’ve read has given me something.  I hope you will discover the same.

taralogo06Tara Book Co. are based in Kilcolgan, Co. Galway, Ireland, Visit them online at or tel: (091) 777005

Do you have a tip for how to get the most from a book? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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