Developing the nuances of reading
EFFICIENT READING skills transform children into students. However, academic reading is significantly different from the reading that we do in everyday life. We read for different reasons acquiring information, being the most obvious but also hidden are reasons like getting away from yourself into a world of imagination and wandering. We read fiction and biography, poetry, travel and detective books the list for reading and the supply of materials are endless. Real-life reading has often been called "Orientation reading", used for self-development, acquiring vocabulary, basic concepts, skills and just for the pleasure of reading.
When we are young, we are taught to read to a level of competence, which approximates to a grade four. Unfortunately, teaching stops at school before going on to the advanced skill, the effective utilisation of which can be significantly increased while maintaining equal comprehension or even increasing it substantially. The average adult reading speed varies between 250 and 350 words per minute on non-fiction material. A good reading would be about 500-700 words and even up to 1000 per minute. What makes the difference is the desire to improve, using new techniques and practice. It is safe to say that all of us can double our reading speeds while maintaining equal or achieving greater comprehension.
Active reading advocates highlighting, underlining and reading word by word as it were. This method helps the mind in focussing and is useful for emphasising and reviewing. Underlining is best done on photocopies. The key to the difference in reading styles lies in eye movement. Our eyes take in the information when they are stopped. What seems to be continuous motion is a, move-stop-read- move-stop-read process.
The most effective method is to reduce "eye stops" to a minimum while maximising the number of words you see at each stop. We need to shift our mental process from see-say-comprehend, to see-comprehend, which, as a visual reading strategy requires the elimination of sub-vocalisation or saying the word in your mind. We must learn to read in "gulps" and trust our eyes. To stop sub-vocalisation it is necessary to increase the rate at which your eyes move across the page to the point where sub-vocalisation becomes impossible. The gulps of words you take in involve pulling out words from multiple lines and you say to yourself, "this is not reading," because our mind is set in a way we were taught in primary school. What is important for an adult is to develop multiple reading strategies, appropriate to the material and your requirement. The most important thing to know when you pick up material is to ascertain what you want from it, because, this should determine how you will read it, i.e., what reading strategy you will adopt. This becomes especially necessary, with the information boom. The easiest to handle is the daily mail, which at cursory glance will tell you what you can junk. Newspapers and magazines are read with a little more attention. These are usually classified as
(1) news which gives us an overview of occurrences, typically concentrating on the most interesting;
(2) opinion pieces which have the summaries in the introduction and concluding paragraphs and
(3) features which provide entertainment, help or information with the most important part in the body of the article.
A more serious document requires layered reading an overview of the contents, a preview of sections in the selected chapter, the reading itself, followed by a review. The more you look at the page, the easier it is to remember the layout and illustrations that contribute to a totality of comprehension, understanding and remembering. Typically, technical information is less friendly than others. It is often complex, requiring background information. In the case of medical information, transcripts should take into account the complexity of words from medicines, diseases and procedures. Instructional manuals and product literature is often badly written. The ideal formula is based on word and sentence length at levels, which in order to be comprehensible and not condescending, is best at about class four level. The reader must assess who the document has been written for and access the information s(he) requires from the pages of contents, indexes and glossaries.
Adjusting reading styles and reading speed is like adjusting the speed of your car to the roads and traffic
Decrease the speed if:
* materials are unfamiliar
* structure of sentences and paragraphs are difficult
* concepts are unfamiliar
* information is detailed
Increase the speed if:
material is simple with not many ideas and easy vocabulary
there are unimportant examples and familiar details explained
there are restatements
Good reading habits are accompanied with a better overall understanding of all subjects in the language of reading, effective drawing of inferences and conclusions, making connections and anticipating appropriately. Regular reading leads to improved vocabulary and gives a better command over the language reading is the most basic of all basics.
LAKSHMI RAMESHWAR RAO
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