Improve your reading skills with these online courses
I’ve always read a lot of books, but there were years of my life when I didn’t feel like I got as much out of them as I could have.
I decided that the main problem was that I regularly read a book in a day or two, which left little time for it to imprint on my long-term memory. I have absolutely no idea if this is how brains/fingerprints work, but it made sense to me. So, in an effort to live longer with one book, I started reading multiple books at once and flipping through them. Currently, I am actively reading nine books.
People who usually read one or two books at a time are often appalled by this, and I understand. Their first question is how do I keep all these books straight, to which I used to say, “The same way you keep track of the dozen TV shows you’re in the middle of.” Of course, now with streaming and fewer shows dropping an episode a week, it’s an outdated line that doesn’t have the impact it once had.
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed reading several books at once, but I don’t know if it really improved my retention. I know that talking about a book while I’m reading it or shortly after reading it helps me retain it longer, just like writing a review. Unfortunately, I currently don’t have anyone in my life who would like to hear me talk for five hours a day about every twist or bob and weave in the book I read.
So I decided to get serious in the new year and find out: Could I actually read harder? Could I retain more, understand better or read faster? I searched high and low for the best online reading courses to see if they had the answers.
Gotham Writers: Reading Fiction
Gotham Writers offers two courses in fiction reading, one focusing on “spheres” and the other on “sight and voice.” Each lasts six weeks, the first five of which are devoted to the analysis of a short story. The sixth week is devoted to the analysis of a novel.
The purpose of this course is to prepare writers by showing them how to read like a writer. One of the most common tips you receive as a writer is to “read, read, read,” so it makes sense that this reading course is for writers. It’s $319 + registration fee.
Udemy: Improve your reading speed and comprehension
Billed as “Not for students who just want to ‘read fast and get it over with'”, Improving your reading speed and comprehension aims to do it all. Personally, I’m wary of speed-reading because it seems like it would make my retention problem worse, but according to these people, you can read quickly and super-understand at the same time. $45
Skillshare: Reading: how to read a book!
This Skillshare class Reading: How to read a book! starts by explaining to the viewer why they should want to read more and better and, over the course of 14 lessons, gets to the heart of the matter to find books you love, remember what you read, and apply what you read. $8+ per month for a wide range of Skillshare courses.
ReadingHorizons: Adult Reading Program
The ReadingHorizons Adult Reading Program is for those who want to read faster and better understand what they read, while gaining confidence in their reading skills. There’s also a kids’ option, making it a great choice if you and your kids want to improve your reading together. $199+
MasterClass: Reading and Writing Poetry with Billy Collins
MasterClass brings you Reading and Writing Poetry, the first course from former American Poet Laureate Billy Collin. It starts you off with some exercises to get you writing your own poem, but quickly moves on to the joy and importance of reading poetry. If you want to read better to write poetry better, then this course is for you. $180 per year to access hundreds of master classes.
Harvard University: Reading Homer’s Odyssey
If you’re generally a fairly strong reader but struggle with the classics, this course on reading Homer’s Odyssey taught by a Harvard professor will show you how to understand Homeric language and meter and also give you information about the poem. Although this course is specific to The Odyssey, what you learn here could surely be used to read other epic poems of his generation. Starting at $960.
Wondrium: Great American Short Stories: A Guide for Readers and Writers
I haven’t always been the biggest fan of most short story collections. I usually feel like if the story and the characters are good, I want more time with them, and if I’m glad a story ends after 20 pages, well, that’s usually not good sign. Over the years, that opinion has changed, thanks to news wizards like ZZ Packer and Randall Kenan.
If you feel like you’re not getting as many short stories as you could be, I recommend you check out this class which describes itself as a guide for short story readers and writers, and then check out 8 of the best short stories. Collections. $12.50+ per month to access all Wondrium (formerly Great Courses) courses.
It’s great to live in a time when we can find a course on virtually any subject and take it home without getting out of our night clothes, but then again, we also live in a time when we have tiny computers that beep from our pockets every day, begging for our attention. Maybe my next goal should be to write a course summary on how to end a toxic phone relationship.