TO THE STUDENTS
ON HOW TO READ
This book will try to teach you how to read well. It will delight you and instruct you at the same time.
The course in reading divides itself into four phases: namely, extensive reading, intensive reading, oral reading, and reading for special skills.
Extensive reading involves wide and fast reading, covering much material. Extensive reading is best done when the material is easy and interesting.
· Finding enjoyment
o Extensive reading is often enjoyable. As the child reads more, he develops wider and more varied interests. In time he will go on his own to look for things to read which give him pleasure. Much of what he will be selected because he finds enjoyment in reading them.
Intensive reading, of course, also affords enjoyment, but it is usually done under guidance.
· Reading with speed
o Wide reading of easy material develops speed. Speed in reading involves skill in fixation and eye movement. It takes a long time to correct wrong habits formed in early years. A simple, non-technical rule to follow in order to develop speed is to practice reading every day under time pressure; that is, we should actively try to read faster than is our habit. It has been proved that fast readers also understand more than slow readers.
The intensive reader looks for hidden meanings, for details, for fine distinctions. He may try to get the central idea or the “point,” or he may try to grasp details and organize them. In brief, intensive reading is careful reading.
o Since not everything is important for our purpose, we should develop the ability to go over reading material so as to look for words, names, figures, dates, etc., which are scattered among thousands of words. The aim is not to read every word, not even every page. This type of reading is skimming. It is very useful, especially when we try to verify facts.
· Getting the “point”
o Not everything in a selection is important. We should develop the ability to look for the central thought or the “point.” We may not find joy reading a story unless we see the “point.” In argument, we try to drive home an idea, so as to score a “point.” The good reader should develop the ability to get the main idea in a passage. This needs slow, careful reading. It is a useful habit to develop so that we can study our lessons well.
· Grasping details
o On the other hand, getting the central idea may not be enough. We should also develop the ability to get lesser ideas which support the central idea. In other words, we should be able to grasp details.
o To do this, we should read slowly. Sometimes it may be necessary to go over a passage more than once. This is another skill often used in studying lessons.
· Organizing and outlining
o If we know how to get the point and how to grasp details, we can learn to organize. Organizing means arranging and classifying. Some ideas or details are of equal importance; they are coordinate. Some ideas or details are not so important and are therefore classified under another; these are subordinate. If we think clearly enough so we know which ideas or details are coordinate and which are subordinate, we can outline. We should, of course, know the accepted form of the outline. Knowing how to organize and outline is another useful study skill.
· Reading between the lines
o To read between the lines means to get meanings that are not stated directly but are merely suggested. For example, a homesick poet may say, “ O Kiang too deep for pooling!” That little line suggests the poet’s homesickness, his distance from home, etc. Reading between the lines means also making inferences and drawing conclusions. When we look for causes and effects, we make inferences or draw conclusions.
· Reading critically
o Not everything in print is important and not everything is true. We should learn to see if statements are accurate, if conclusions are warranted by the facts, if the author is intentionally trying to deceive the reader. We should be able to detect propaganda. In poems and stories, we should be able to see if the emotions are real, if the characters are true to life, and the situations can be believed. We should be able to do all these if we read critically.
· Reading sympathetically
o There are pieces that appeal to our emotions; we should try to feel with the author. There are pieces that appeal to imagination; we should try to imagine with the author. In brief, we should cooperate with the author in order that we may appreciate his work. Unless we do this, we can never get any joy in words that appeal to our emotions and our imagination. This is different from reading critically; here, we try to be sympathetic so we can appreciate. Later, we can also be critical, but not during the reading for appreciation.
· Reading to convey meaning
o In order to read well orally, we should first study a piece and get its meaning. The meaning refers not only to the thought but also to the feeling or the mood conveyed. Some pieces, especially poetry, do not have any thought; they merely communicate a feeling or a mood.
After getting the meaning by reading intensively, we try to convey the meaning through the voice. We do this through correct emphasis, correct pausing, correct inflection. While reading, we should “feel” the piece or else our reading will sound false. Nobody can read well orally who does not understand or feel what he is reading.
READING TO DEVELOP SPECIAL SKILLS
· Building one’s vocabulary
o It is not possible to read much unless we know enough words. Through reading, we learn the meanings of words in context; that is, by studying what a sentence means, we can often guess or infer the meaning of an unfamiliar word. Thus, as we read our vocabulary grows. But we can not always rely on context. Often we have to consult the dictionary. The ability to use a dictionary is a useful study skill and a very valuable habit to cultivate. There are, of course, other ways of building a vocabulary.
· Other special skills
o There are other skills useful in reading which are not described here. For example, there is the ability to use the index of a book, the ability to read maps and graphs, the ability to use references and other facilities of a good library, etc. All these are useful and should be developed, but to develop them we need more than one book. In fact, we need a whole library.