How to efficiently read a textbook?

In high school I had taken a few different AP courses that had required a lot of nightly reading, of which was always difficult for me to get through. I would read all 20-40 pages a night, but would never grasp any of the details fully as I was struggling to just get through the pages. Now that I am in college, I have a history course (Europe in the World Since 1600s) which has a lot of reading each week. I did expect to have this much reading, however some tips on reading the textbooks and understanding/grasping the info would be great!

I’m guessing that the way you’ve been reading is to start at the beginning and read to the end? Sometimes for fact-heavy reading, that’s not the best first approach. Here’s what works for me most of the time:

Think of the textbook as a giant outline. Say you need to read Chapter 3, which explains “pizza.” You’ve already glanced through the Table of Contents for the entire book, so you know that for this author “pizza” falls conceptually somewhere between “entrée” and “snack” food. Now take a look at the subheadings in the Pizza Chapter - History of Pizza, Making a Pizza, Different Kinds of Pizza, Pizza in Different Social Contexts, The Future of Pizza.

So your assignment is the Different Kinds of Pizza section of the chapter. Before you begin reading, flip through that part and take note of the subheadings there - Meat toppings, Veggie Toppings, Red vs White Pizza, Unusual Toppings, Regional Variations, Dessert Pizza, etc.

Now read the Chapter Summary and the Vocabulary section at the end of the chapter, if these exist.

Next you move to the next level of specificity. As you read through the smaller sections, keep their connection to the larger picture in mind. Rather than getting bogged down in the specifics of broccoli, mushroom (fresh vs canned), sundried tomato, onion, green pepper, spinach - which may become important as you delve deeper into the field and find that you’re writing a paper on"Broccoli’s Contribution to Pizza Consumption from Free-Standing Food Carts during Lacrosse Games in Southern North Dakota" - for now you want to understand the connection of each component to the whole pizza.

Don’t highlight very much - go for topic sentences and important vocabulary words. If writing things down or drawing pictures helps, do that. Go back and forth between the Summary and the content of the text. If there are problem sets or review questions, do those along the way (even the ones that aren’t assigned!).

Take a break between sections. This could be a couple minute stretch/email check or doing something else entirely for longer.

Once you’re done and have let the information marinate in your brain for a bit, then go back and read the entire assignment from start to finish.

Assuming that you’ve done all this to prep for lecture, you can then return to the text after the lecture and reread, merging your prof’s conceptualization with that of the textbook.

Read so that afterwards you believe you could sufficiently tell someone else everything they need to know from the chapter. I like taking notes.

speed reading is a skill that takes practice. When you begin speed reading, you lose some comprehension. If you keep practicing speed reading, you will improve not only speed but also comprehension while speed reading. My daughter just did a presentation on it, which is the only reason I know much about it, lol. There are dummies and idiot’s guides to speed reading that could give you some tips if you have time to read them.

This is a lot more simple-minded than what others are suggesting, but it helps me to read out loud. Whenever I find a word I don’t know, or don’t know how to pronounce, I look it up.