What is Reading?
Somebody asked me: “What is reading? Define it”. I was dumbstruck at the stupidity of the question. I thought to myself: “What do you mean by how to read? As if I haven’t read a single word in my entire life”. It was, however, later revealed that I did not really know what is meant by reading until that day and like many of my peers had been reading incorrectly since I was a 3-year-old toddler.
It was one of my teachers who asked the whole class to define ‘reading’. Most of the definitions that came up had ‘saying a text aloud’ as the most common component of the practice we call reading. It came as a surprise when she unveiled that reading aloud or even moving our lips while reading is a practice used by kids, not adults. Reading aloud by definition is not reading. When reading aloud, we are using our aural system whereas reading is essentially an exercise of our eyes. Reading is done silently and is always accompanied by comprehension. Technically, being able to read words and decipher them is just one step into reading.
If reading aloud is not an appreciable practice, why do school teachers follow that?
In almost every school, teachers ask their students to stand up and read a particular text to the whole class. To some extent, the purpose behind calls for it. Sometimes, the teacher’s agenda is they want to improve the pronunciation of the students which is absolutely okay, but then it should not be called reading. The more appropriate term for this kind of activity would be ‘speaking’. At initial stages, reading aloud aims at helping students develop a connection between written and spoken text. Speaking activity is also employed as a strategy to develop speaking skills. So, teaching reading to children that way is not a problem, it is a requirement. But the same method cannot be applied to kids when they get a little older. Care should be taken so as not to let the habit of reading aloud solidify, or the students will keep reading wrongly till the final call from the grave comes.
Three steps to reading
There are three basic steps to reading. The first is to Read Aloud. The next is to Read Along. The final step is to Read Alone. As teachers or adults, our duty is to facilitate children’s successful advancement to the final stage because it is at this stage they will be called good readers in the true sense of the word.
Books for what minimum age are available in the market?
A layman answer might lie somewhere between 6 months and 2 years. But guess what? Books are available for 0-month infants. A common saying goes: ‘catch them young’. All those parents who want to instill reading habits in their children should start working at it from day one. For 0 – 6-month-old infants, black and white books are available. Colorful, captivating books are often recommended for six months old and above, to grab their attention and make friends with them. And then we have picture books with small sentences and phrases for older kids. Children should be acquainted with the feel and smell of a book initially with parental guidance, and gradually they will begin to love it. Did you know out of the 259 subskills of reading, holding a book and having a desire to touch a new book is one?
Role of mothers
Napoleon once said: “Give me an educated mother, I shall promise you the birth of a civilized, educated nation”.
Mothers can do a number of things to inspire their children’s interest in reading. If you are a mother, you can start giving them books when they are still in the cradle. It is a good idea to keep them busy with books. They should be let to play with books while you are bathing them. Remember, you are busy bathing, they need to do something too. Spend your free time reading to your kids. Read them bedtime stories. Cuddle them every now and then and read a good book together. By doing all this, you would be helping your child subconsciously associate the feelings of love, warmth, and comfort with reading. Today, if you thrust books onto them and thrash them for not getting good grades, reflect on your upbringing, and see if you ever made an attempt to befriend them with books. If your conscience tells you that you didn’t, the children are not to blame.
The need to read
We live in an era of technology which is marked by advancement in knowledge. With every passing moment, some new information is being added into the world’s treasure of knowledge. In colloquial terms, it is referred to as ‘Information Explosion’. According to a research conducted in the 80s, the shelf life of a book is 10 years after which time it will not be considered worth reading unless new editions come up. In such an age and time, it has become all the more important to become a speed reader.
How to become a speed reader?
Do you know how fast could you read? Some of you might be struck by the fact that John F. Kennedy could read as many as 1500 words in a minute, and George W. Bush 1200 words per minute. I myself know people who can read 1200 wpm.
We speak at an average rate of 133 wpm. This implies if I am reading aloud, my speed will be somewhere around this figure which is a poor reading speed. The speed of our thought is 17,000 wpm in a normal state of mind. Now imagine how many thoughts cross our mind while reading. This is precisely why we get distracted during slow reading and are unable to complete a single paragraph without zoning out. When the mind is working this fast, we need to train ourselves to read fast in order to avoid distractions and become a successful reader.
A question might arise here: ‘how could anybody read as fast as 1500 wpm?’. Well, there are techniques for reading. Good readers do not read from the first to the last word of a line. They read in chunks instead. To put it more simply: good readers read clusters of words together and not individual words. It might appear a little challenging to read in chunks in the beginning. You can start with two words at a time. Keep practicing reading pairs of words together in a line for a week or so. After you have practiced enough, move to three words in one go and later to five. Obviously, if you are reading five words in one glance, you would be reading much faster than the person who reads all words one by one. By the time that person completes five, you would have read twenty-five words. Once you acquire the ability to read in chunks, a time will come when you are able to read one line in a minute or even half a minute which means roughly around 600 to 1200 words. Wow! That’s really fast.
There are some useful courses available online where you can practice reading in chunks. But remember, it is a little laborious and like every strenuous task demands a good deal of patience. In a nutshell, success depends upon two variables: practice and patience.
We all must have heard the phrase ‘readers are leaders’. There is little doubt in the truthfulness of this phrase. Avid readers have an influential personality. They are the ones that are always looked up to. But at the same time, it is equally important to be a fast reader. If you too want to be an efficient reader, the best time to start working on your reading skills is now. Remember ‘it is never too late!’.
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