With the Easter break and the completion of Lent Term, the month of April seems to grant a much-needed breather. However, April is chaotic in disguise with the May exam period looming over us. What sits in the centre of this chaotic storm is reading — lots of pages of reading.
While writer’s block is quite a common phenomenon and is more widely discussed, lesser attention is given to its counterpart of reader’s block. A reader’s block occurs when there is a concentration deficit while reading. Put it simply, it is when one wants to concentrate on what’s on the pages but cannot seem to construe any significant meaning from the text or feels lost while reading a mere paragraph. Reader’s block can be extremely frustrating, specifically at this time when students are expected to read and prepare for the summer exams. Here are three tips for dealing with reader’s block.
1. Start small
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the way to push through a reader’s block is to read. There is no other alternative other than to start reading relatively small paragraphs or stories. The academic readings can be daunting at times. Those readings can be tackled in two ways: i) either reading for a short period such as 5-10 minutes or ii) setting targets of reading a couple of short paragraphs. The current consumption of social media guarantees endless scrolling limiting our attention span significantly. Thus, small targets help to function better in those limited times. In addition, it is helpful to keep the mobile devices away and to always write down key information to help dissect academic readings. Once the habit of reading is reinstalled, the number of pages or paragraphs can be gradually increased.
2. Read in a group
Reading in a group can be very effective specifically for academic readings. Much like the book clubs, reading in a group instils a sense of community. In this setting, an academic reading can be divided among the members of the group where each member will be responsible for explaining a specific segment of the article. Two things simultaneously happen in this activity: i) every member of the group gains a holistic idea of the reading and thus can summarise if needed, and ii) it takes the pressure off of a single person to complete the reading in its entirety — the fear of the latter often initiates the reader’s block in the first place. Being responsible to a group can also result in higher accountability and can ignite a sense of responsibility.
3. Take a break from academic reading
Taking a break from the academic reading for a while can be specifically helpful if you have tried both the methods mentioned above and are still in the process of recovery. I would highly recommend picking up your favourite non-academic reading/book during those times and taking a break from reading the heavy academic texts. Reading a favourite book can help achieve the flow in reading which can later be implemented into academic reading. For some people, taking a break from reading altogether and listening to relaxing music or doing soothing things can also be beneficial. All these activities help to get back to academic reading with a fresh mind that can concentrate better.
Other than these, reaching out to people is effective most of the time. If you are still struggling, reach out to your friends, peers, and last but not the least LSE LIFE. Together, we got this!