The following passage comes from What Do You Care What Other People Think? by Richard Feynman. It's a collection of stories from his life and curious adventures.
We had the Encyclopedia Britannica at home. When I was a small boy he [Feynman's father] used to sit me on his lap and read to me from the Britannica. We would be reading, say, about dinosaurs. It would be talking about the Tyrannosaurus Rex, and it would say something like, "This dinosaur is twenty-five feet high and its head is six feet across."
My father would stop reading and say, "Now, let's see what that meant. That would mean that if he stood in our front yard, he would be tall enough to put his head through our window up here" (We were on the second floor.) "But his head would be too wide to fit into the window." Everything he read to me he would translate as best he could into some reality.
I learned from my father to translate: everything I read to try and figure out what it really means, what it's really saying.
The most important step to learning is to understand what it truly means. Make learning a reality! If you're reading about the scientific revolution, make a timeline with all the dates of discoveries or lives of influential scientists to see which lives overlapped. You could even try mapping where each discovery took place. Any action that makes learning abstract concepts into something tangible will bode better for your knowledge (and subsequently everyone else!)
How do we make learning a reality?