Reading Courses


Both the Harvard Course in Reading and Study Strategies and Strategic Reader, an online version of that live mini-course, help students read more mindfully, efficiently, and effectively.  These reading courses are designed for students, professionals, and others who feel overwhelmed by the volume and complexity of their reading or find that they are not getting what they need out of their reading. 

Both courses address ten core topics:
Developing Awareness
Reading with Questions  Discerning Structure Making Sense Creating a Summary Evolving as a Reader Monitoring Your Understanding Identifying Text Functions Trusting Your Wits Minding Your Memory

More information about the Harvard Course in Reading and Study Strategies is below.  (The Frequently Asked Questions below apply to both courses and include a description of how the two courses differ.)

For more information about Strategic Reader, including a special promotion with five months of free access to the course, click here.

Harvard Course in Reading and Study Strategies

This non-credit mini-course course consists of five class sessions over one week and is offered several times each year.

Advance registration is required. Dates and times may change; please check back for up-to-date information.

Spring 2019 Session:  February 25 to March 1, 2019 (registration not yet available)

Course Overview

Through practical exercises, Guided Eye Movement (GEMTM) videos, and class discussion, the Reading Course can help you develop a sense of control and confidence in your reading and studying; expand your repertoire of active reading approaches; improve your reading comprehension and memory; and approach your reading strategically and purposefully with a sense of flexibility and judgment. The course explores reading approaches such as:

  • developing an awareness of how you read
  • understanding how to read with questions
  • discerning text structure and functions
  • monitoring your understanding
  • trusting your wits and creating comprehension
  • improving concentration and memory
  • evolving as a reader

Taught since the 1940s, the course has been continuously renovated to blend tried-and-true study strategies with the latest research in cognition, reading, and learning.  The principles and strategies of active learning addressed in the course can be applied to intellectual and creative work more generally, to promote your sense of agency, focus, and effectiveness in your learning.

Registration and Fees

Advance registration is required. Please read the following before registering.

Cost and Payment

Payment is required upon registration. Currently enrolled Harvard students may term bill; Harvard Extension School students and others pay by credit card.
$25 for Harvard College and GSAS degree candidates
$75 for Harvard Extension School degree candidates
$150 for all others

Financial Aid

Harvard College students on financial aid will receive a term bill credit on their term-billed course fee in proportion to their Harvard financial aid package. For more information, Harvard College students may contact the Financial Aid Office,, and other Harvard students may contact their program director or dean.

Cancellation Policy

The cancellation deadline is the start of the second class meeting: after this deadline, you will not be eligible for a refund.  To cancel, contact the BSC by phone (617-495-2581), by email (, or by stopping by 5 Linden Street during our regular office hours. If you termbill, you will receive a full refund. If you pay by credit card, you will receive a refund of your registration fee minus a $5 administrative fee.


Registration information for upcoming Reading Course sessions will be posted here when it becomes available. 

If you need assistance, please contact the BSC at 617-495-2581 or


Frequently Asked Questions

Is there homework?
There is no homework other than to transfer and practice the strategies you learn in the course on your own reading and studying.

Is the course just for Harvard students?
No. The course is open to anyone interested in reading more efficiently and effectively – students, educators, professionals, etc.

Is this a “speed reading” course?
No.  Improving reading efficiency is not just a matter of moving one’s eyes more quickly over the pages; it is a matter of using one’s mind more actively and one’s attention more judiciously.  This course equips students to read more efficiently (in terms of both speed and comprehension) by reading more purposefully and strategically.

Does the course help with all kinds of reading?
The course is primarily oriented toward the kind of “inquiry-driven” writing most common in academic and professional settings; that is, texts that raise a question, present arguments or observations, and offer a conclusion.  Many of the course strategies, however – such as discerning text structure, monitoring one’s comprehension, and summarizing as you read – are easily adaptable to a wide variety of texts in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

Does the course teach a particular method for reading?
The course doesn’t teach one best way to read; rather it helps students develop a whole toolkit of reading strategies. A common assumption is that reading word-by-word from beginning to end is the only proper way to read, and so reading more efficiently must mean doing that, only faster.  But in college and beyond, the kind of materials we read and our purposes for reading become more varied and complex, so our approaches to reading also need to become more varied and complex. Linear word-by-word reading is an appropriate and effective approach for some materials or purposes, but it doesn’t serve well as our only strategy.

What’s the difference between the live reading course and the online one?
Harvard students who served as beta-testers and completed both the live Harvard Course in Reading and Study Strategies and the online Strategic Reader say that, although both courses achieve the same purposes, the nature and experience of each course is different:

  • Strategic Reader offers flexibility, convenience, and extensive practice. Students take the online course at their own pace, at times and places of their own choosing. Strategic Reader offers many practice readings, half in Guided Eye Movement (GEMTM) video format and half in a self-guided format.
  • The Harvard Course in Reading and Study Strategies offers structure, in-person interaction, and individual support. The course takes place live, on the Harvard campus, so it offers the structure of meeting at a specific time, in a specific place, for a specific duration. It includes fewer Guided Eye Movement (GEMTM) videos and self-guided practice readings, but it offers real-time, face-to-face classroom interaction with an instructor and fellow students and also provides for after-class office hours.

​​​​​​​Students can opt to take either course or both courses.


The Hollis Owl

The owl represThe Hollis Owlented here[1] is based on an ink-and-wash drawing commissioned by Thomas Hollis V (1720-1774) from the Italian artist Giovanni Baptiste Cipriani, c.1760.  Hollis used the Cipriani drawing to create a gold imprint for the red leather bindings of books that Hollis contributed to the Harvard University library.

Today, the main University library computer system is named HOLLIS (Harvard OnLine Library Information System) in honor of Thomas Hollis V, and many of the books that he donated to the College are still here, almost three centuries later, in the collections of Houghton Library -- with the owl clearly stamped in gold on their red leather bindings. It is said that when Thomas Hollis acquired a book for inclusion in the Library which he thought was valuable to read, but with which he did not necessarily agree, he would position the owl stamp upside down – an early indication of a commitment to critical reading and thinking that remains part of the foundation of a liberal arts education today.

In adopting the Hollis owl as a logo for the Reading Course, we hope to honor what it means to be a wise reader; to seek and find wisdom through reading as well as to approach our reading wisely, with a mindfulness, purpose, and active engagement.

[1]Design by Joe Morris, JOEM Design. All rights reserved by President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Session for Non-Native English Readers

Every year, typically in the fall, the BSC offers a Reading Course session tailored to students for whom English is not a native language.  The ESL session discusses the nature of American expository styles and academic integrity in the U.S. educational setting, in addition to covering the regular Reading Course curriculum. Proficiency in English at the university level is a prerequisite.