Chapter: English

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Critical reading

Critical readers are active readers. As they read a text, they ask questions, annotate passages, and take notes. They do not passively accept everything the author has to say or believe that the meaning of a text rests in the words on the page. Instead, they understand the role they must play as active interpreters of the text.

CRITICAL READING

 

Active, Not Passive

 

 

Critical readers are active readers. As they read a text, they ask questions, annotate passages, and take notes. They do not passively accept everything the author has to say or believe that the meaning of a text rests in the words on the page. Instead, they understand the role they must play as active interpreters of the text.

 

Meaning-Making

 

Critical readers understand that they must question and interpret what they read. Passive, uncritical readers believe that the meaning of a text rests in the words on the page. As readers, all they have to do is understand the literal meaning of the words and their job is done. Critical readers understand that no language is transparent--all language is interpreted. They make a conscious effort to monitor how they are interpreting a text’s meaning, actively seeking out other interpretations to better understand the material.

 

Interactive

 

Critical readers interact actively with texts they read and with other readers. They question the words on the page, look up definitions, draw connections between readings, talk with others about the texts. In short, they recognize the social, interactive nature of reading and knowledge.

 

Reflective

 

Critical readers think about their own reading process. Before, as, and after they read a text, they reflect on the activity itself. They try to understand how their own knowledge, feelings, and beliefs can influence their reading of a text. They try to identify effective and ineffective reading strategies. When they encounter difficult texts, they draw on their repertoire of past reading experiences to find a way to understand the material.

 

Analytical

 

Critical readers analyze the texts they read and their own thinking. They take little on face value.

 

Instead, they carefully analyze what they read to identify the author’s assumptions, biases, or logical fallacies. Through analysis, they come to a better understanding of the text’s strengths and weaknesses, its faults and limitations, its structure and intent.

 

Oppositional

 

Critical readers like to play devil’s advocate. They know how to read like a believer, but also read like a doubter. They ask tough questions about texts, even when they essentially agree with the writer’s

 

position. They have learned that through the critical, oppositional analysis of a text, they come to a better understanding of both the reading and their own thoughts.

 

Time your current reading speed.

 

Not only will timing help you to tell if you're improving, but it will also keep you motivated.

 

 

 

      You can break out a book and a stopwatch and either time how long it takes you to read a certain number of words on a page or find out how many words you read in a given amount of time.

 

      An easier way to time you is to take an online reading speed test. There are plenty of these available: just enter "reading speed test" in your search engine. Many of these have reading comprehension tests, as well, so you can see how well you understand what you're reading.

 

         Regardless of how you decide to time yourself, be sure to read at your normal speed during the timing, and time yourself on a few different pages - the average of your times should approximate your average reading speed.

 

Get rid of distractions.

 

Even if you think you read better when you have music playing or when you're in a crowded coffee house, you can probably increase your speed if you reduce distractions to a bare minimum. Try to find a solitary place to read, and turn off the TV, radio and cell phone.

 

         Even being in a room of people talking is distracting. If no solitary place is available, try using earplugs to block out any distractions around you.

 

Adjust reading speed depending on the material.

 

Often, we must trade off comprehension for speed, so an important part of increasing reading speed is deciding how thoroughly you need to comprehend a particular piece of writing. So before you even start reading, decide how fast you intend to go.

 

      If you're reading a newspaper article, chances are you just want to get the main ideas, and you can skim through the passages quite rapidly.

 

      If, however, you're reading a mathematics textbook or a demanding philosophical treatise - and you need to fully understand the material - you do not want to rush.

 

Learn to separate the wheat from the chaff with pre-reading.

 

No matter what you are reading, there is frequently a lot of "filler" that you can read quickly through or even skim over. With practice, you will be able to identify the most important parts of a book as you skim through it. When you get to such a passage, slow down.

 

         Before you begin a chapter or book, look over the entire piece very quickly. Try to find patterns of repeated words, key ideas, bold print and other indicators of important concepts. Then, when you actually do your reading you may be able to skim over large portions of the text, slowing only when you come to something you know is important.

 

 

Train yourself not to reread.

 

Most people frequently stop and skip back to words or sentences they just read to try to make sure they understood the meaning. This is usually unnecessary, but it can easily become a habit, and many times you will not even notice you're doing it.

 

• One exercise to help you avoid rereading is to take a sheet of paper or

 

index card and drag it down the page as you read, covering each line once you've read it. Try to drag the card in a steady motion; start slowly, and increase your speed as you feel more comfortable.

 

 

Practice and push yourself.

 

While you may see some gains in speed the moment you start using these tips, speed reading is a skill that requires a lot of practice. Always push yourself to your comfort level and beyond - if you end up having to reread a section, it's not a big deal. Keep practicing regularly.

 

Have a clear purpose for reading.

 

Know what you want to get from a book before you start reading. Are you reading for pleasure (doing what pleases you) or for information?

 

•If you're reading for information, set your purpose, which will either be

 

to find specific information, or

 

 

           to discover its message, what it's about.

 

            Have a SMART purpose for your reading. In business, people are often

 

            told to set a 'SMART' goal or purpose. This applies to reading too.

 

            SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Real (WIIFM),

 

            Time-bound (or timely)

 

SKIMMING READING

 

Skimming to get an overall impression.

 

Skimming is useful when you want to survey a text to get a general idea of what it is about. In skimming you ignore the details and look for the main ideas. Main ideas are usually found in the first sentences of each paragraph and in the first and last paragraphs. It is also useful to pay attention to the organization of the text.

 

As reading is an interactive process, you have to work at constructing the meaning of the text from the marks on the paper. You need to be active all the time when you are reading. It is useful, therefore, if you need to read the text in detail, before you start reading to activate the knowledge you have about the topic of the text and to formulate questions based on this information. Skimming a text for gist can help you formulate questions to keep you interacting with the text.

 

Skimming a text using first lines of paragraphs.

 

In most academic writing, the paragraph is a coherent unit, about one topic, connected to the previous and next paragraphs. Paragraphs are organized internally and the first sentence of each paragraph is often a summary of, or an introduction to, the paragraph. You can therefore get a good idea of the overall content of a text by reading the first sentence of each paragraph. This should help you get a feeling for the structure of the text. In many cases that will be enough, but if it isn't, you will now have a good idea of the structure of the text and you will find it easier to read in detail. Familiar texts are easier to read.

 

As reading is an interactive process, you have to work at constructing the meaning of the text from the marks on the paper. You need to be active all the time when you are reading. It is useful, therefore, if you need to read the text in detail, before you start reading to activate the knowledge you have about the topic of the text and to formulate questions based on this information. Skimming a text using first lines of paragraphs can help you formulate questions to keep you interacting with the text.

 

Skimming a text using first and last paragraphs.

 

In most academic writing, the text is organized clearly with an introduction and a conclusion. The introduction gives you an idea of what the text is going to be about and the conclusion shows that this is what it has been about. You can therefore get a good idea of the overall content of a text by reading the first and last paragraphs of a text. This should help you get a feeling for the content of the text. In many cases that will be enough, but if it isn't, you will now have a good idea of the content of the text and you will find it easier to read in detail. Familiar texts are easier to read.

 

As reading is an interactive process, you have to work at constructing the meaning of the text from the marks on the paper. You need to be active all the time when you are reading. It is useful, therefore, if you need to read the text in detail, before you start reading to activate the knowledge you have about the topic of the text and to formulate questions based on this information. Skimming a text using first and last paragraphs can help you formulate questions to keep you interacting with the text.

 

Skimming a text, using section headings.

 

 

In some academic writing, the text is organized through the use of headings and sub-headings. You can therefore get a good idea of the overall content of a text by reading the headings and sub-headings first. This should help you get a feeling for the content and organization of the text. In many cases that will be enough, but if it isn't, you will now have a good idea of the content of the text and you will find it easier to read in detail. Familiar texts are easier to read.

 

As reading is an interactive process, you have to work at constructing the meaning of the text from the marks on the paper. You need to be active all the time when you are reading. It is useful, therefore, before you start reading to activate the knowledge you have about the topic of the text and to formulate questions based on this information. The title, sub-titles and section headings can help you formulate questions to keep you interacting with the text.


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