Four factors that influence your reading skills

Posted on 23 October 2017 by Nick Chubb

Many of us take reading for granted, but around 5-million adults in the UK are illiterate, meaning they have reading and writing levels below what would be expected of an 11-year-old. Reading and writing aren’t just important skills for work, they are key to living a fulfilled life. For adults, and particularly seafarers, it can be very difficult to improve those skills if they are lacking, partly because of stigma, but mainly because it’s not easy to improve without help.

If you struggle with reading it’s possible you have a specific learning difficulty, you can learn more about specific learning difficulties here. Whether you have a specific learning difficulty or not, everything written below still applies.First things first, the key to

First things first, the key to improving your reading is to make sure you actually spend time reading. It’s a skill like any other, and requires many thousands of hours to become truly proficient; you should set aside time in the day every day to sit down and read. Once you are reading every day, there are a few factors that will influence how quickly you will improve:

Challenging Text

The only way to truly improve in any discipline is to challenge yourself. If for example, you want to get stronger, you don’t need to just lift weights, you need to lift progressively more weight over time. Reading is no different. If you read something that you find challenging but you’re able to make progress then you’re at the right level. If you’re not able to make any progress then you should try to find something a little more simple, if it’s too easy then you need to find something more challenging.

If you want help finding material at the right level head over to your local library or adult education centre, they will be able to help you get your hands on books that are right for you. If it’s not possible to get to a library talk to us and we will do our best to help.

Engaging Text

There’s nothing worse than a boring book! As well as making sure you read material that challenges you, you need to make sure you’re reading material that interests you. One of the joys of reading is that it allows you to spend hours indulging in and learning about your passions. Whether it’s cars, gardening, or ships, there are special interest magazines on almost any subject, and there are literally millions of blog entries posted every day on every subject imaginable.

When you find material that genuinely interests you, reading becomes a joy and an addiction. Once reading becomes a joy you will improve far quicker than you ever could have imagined otherwise.

The right tools

A few years ago if you wanted to read you needed to pick up a newspaper or a book. You can still do those things, but for the vast majority of us, we spend more time reading from a screen than from anywhere else. Whether it’s work email, instant messenger, or news bulletins, technology has radically altered how we read but is often overlooked as a barrier to improving.

Most reading nowadays happens on a screen
Most reading nowadays takes places on a screen

If you’re not able to properly use your phone/pc/tablet it can stop you from making progress with reading. Equally, if you can’t use a PC the benefits of being great at reading will be limited. As you improve your reading make sure you’re also improving your skills with the tools you need to reap the benefits. If you’re a technophobe start spending some time surfing the internet, if you’re a millennial who grew up surrounded by screens try a real book or purchase a newspaper.


Purpose is probably the most important factor when it comes to improving your reading. You can equip yourself with the right tools, and be surrounded by fascinating, challenging text but if you’re not motivated to put the hard work in, you’re not going to improve.

We’ve talked about motivation a lot in this blog, but if you want to be successful you need to understand why you need to improve. It might be to do with work, it might be that you want to read your kids a bedtime story, it might be for personal fulfilment; whatever it is, you need to have a clear understanding of your motivations before you get started. Reading can be difficult, and there will be days when you feel like you’re hitting your head against a brick wall but as long as you don’t give up and remember why you’re trying to improve it will be worth it.

We love books at Marine Society, we think they are key to seafarer welfare and development. At any one time we’ve got around 20,000 books on ships all over the world through our ship library service and we’ve always got a great selection of maritime-related and technical books available through our bookshop. If you want any advice on improving your reading just get in touch with us in the comments below or by email.