To do better you have to be more interested in what you are reading. One thing you can do is learn a little about the author and the times he in which he lived. When he (or she) wrote a book or poem, it was intended for the people of his time, not ours. So learn something about what was going on in the world when the work was written.
Take Charles Dickens, for instance. He wrote during the birth of the industrial revolution. He used literature as a way of speaking out against the horrors of the London of his times. What was happening in the 1850's? See what I mean?
If you like history, think of literature as a way of knowing what people were thinking during a period you in which you are interested.
Finally, avail yourself of critical writings. These are usually written by literary scholars who can explain the work you are studying. There is an abundance of these online. Just type in the name of the book, short story or poem or the name of the author, and you'll find them easily.
Reading well and comprehending what you read is very important. It can broaden your horizons and leave you with memories that you would not otherwise have. Do some reading this summer. Read one good classic and then research it thoroughly. Get in the habit of reading. You'll be a better person for it, I promise.
Regardless of the novel or play you are studying, read it completely through once without worrying about character, plot, foreshadowing, etc. etc. Just enjoy it. Take note (either mentally or on paper) of your reactions and emotions.
Then, if you have to, go back and respond to the questions being asked either in the textbook or by your teacher.
Reading for pleasure is more important than reading for grades.
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