1. READING SKILLS
WHAT ARE READING SKILLS?
Reading skills enable readers to turn writing into meaning and achieve the goals of
independence, comprehension, and fluency.
Reading skills are specific abilities which enable a reader:
to read the written form as meaningful language
to read anything written with independence, comprehension and fluency, and
to mentally interact with the message.
Here are some kinds of reading skills:
Word attack skills let the reader figure out new words.
Comprehension skills help the reader predict the next word, phrase, or sentence
quickly enough to speed recognition.
Fluency skills help the readers see larger segments, phrases, and groups of words
Critical reading skills help the reader see the relationship of ideas and use these in
2. reading with meaning and fluency.
HOW TO IMPROVE READING SKILLS
Orientation vs Project Reading
In school, the purpose of reading is usually to help you pass a test or complete an assignment. In
business, it is usually either to orient yourself to new material or to help you solve a problem.
Orientation reading involves reading as a wandering generality. In this mode, you are looking for
the unexpected. Orientation reading is also useful for building vocabulary and acquiring basic
concepts useful for communicating with team members.
Since there is no feedback loop to tell you when you are done, it is important to set time limits
when reading in orientation mode. In several industries today, there is far more information in
trade journals and books than most people have time to read. To spend too much time reading
general trade information is to risk not getting anything done.
On the other hand, if you are reading to solve a problem, you know it's time to stop reading when
the problem has been solved--when you've gathered enough information to take the necessary
actions to solve the problem, or complete the project you are working on.
Orientation mode is where high level scanning is most useful. A thorough survey of the
infoscape will help you zero in on the most useful sources of information when you begin to
solve a specific problem.
In summary, both styles of reading are useful. The difference is in how you schedule your time.
Orientation reading is done for specific fixed periods of time. Project reading is done only when
the problem is solved, and sometimes it is difficult to know how long that will take.
Reading Groups of Words at Each Glance
It turns out that our eyes can only take in information when they are stopped. What feels like
continuous motion is actually move-stop-read-move-stop-read, etc. You can easily verify this by
sitting face to face with a partner, holding up a book and watching their eyes as they read. The
key is to minimize the number of stops by maximizing the number of words you see at each stop
as shown in Figure 6.1.
3. The person who uses the first eye movement pattern is actually looking at every word, one at a
time. The person who uses the second is still looking at every word, but in groups. The person
who uses the third eye movement pattern "notices" only a few key words and does so by reading
both horizontally and vertically at the same time.
"But the first reader is going to comprehend the material much better than the third!" you may be
thinking. Possibly, is my reply. If the third reader actually uses all three eye movement patterns,
using the slower patterns very selectively, then he has a better chance of investing his mental
energies on the material of most relevance to him.
Figure 6.1. Three eye movement patterns.
"The art of becoming wise is the art of knowing what to overlook." William James
The smart reader is one who uses the third technique to scan the entire book (overview) or
chapter (preview), and then comes back and uses some combination of the first two techniques to
further explore the sections of most relevance.
Getting to both the second and third levels requires a visual reading strategy. You must silence
subvocalization and learn to "trust your eyes". This involves shifting your mental reading process
from "see->say->understand" to just "see->understand". One way to make this leap is to build up
your visualization muscle using the exercises suggested in Chapter 3 and later on in this chapter.
One way to stop subvocalizing (saying words in your head while reading) is to increase the rate
at which your eyes move across the page to the point where it is impossible to subvocalize. This
means switching your reading strategy to a point whereby you notice gulps of words at each eye
resting point. These gulps sometimes involve pulling words from multiple lines. When I did this
recently, I noticed that I was still understanding what I was reading but in a different way. I
4. caught myself thinking: "But now I'm not really reading." In other words, part of my mind still
believed that the definition of reading was to look at every word and sound it out in my mind.
Reading More Selectively
The underlying principle is this:
As the amount of information increases in a given area, there is an increasing need for the ability
to scan that information at a high level and to be highly selective of the areas you choose to study
When I read anything, my objective is not to look at every word and picture as fast as I can.
Rather, it is to identify and understand useful ideas as efficiently as possible, and then to either
transfer this information to long term memory or note it for future reference.
Imagine arriving at a large lake and being told that somewhere in the water there is a buried
treasure. To find that treasure, you could either put on your trunks and go for a swim, or jump in
a high speed boat with radar programmed to detect the presence of anything resembling the
treasure. This would allow you to do a fairly quick pass over the entire lake, noting areas that
look promising, and then go back to each promising location, drop anchor, and go for a dive.
You are much more likely to find the treasure because you will have eliminated huge portions of
the lake very quickly.
When it comes to reading, your subconscious mind is your radar, and it is "programmed" when
you invest time "self-communicating" the outcome you are trying to create.
Of course, when it comes to reading selectively, the most important thing is to make sure you are
swimming in the right lake! Any time I'm presented with an information rich environment, such
as a bookstore or a trade convention like COMDEX, I invest time up front getting clear on my
goals, and then do some high speed scans over the entire terrain before diving into a single book
or booth. It often takes discipline to finish the complete scan before stopping at an extremely
promising location. Ray Dolby, inventor of Dolby noise reduction, encourages would-be
inventors not to jump at the first solution because sometimes the really elegant solution is right
around the corner.
I have just described a rather left-brain approach to reading. Its complementary opposite is to
allocate some time looking for the unexpected. The key to this strategy is to set a specific time
limit, since we tend to ignore time when operating in right-brain mode. My experience suggests
that without the discipline of setting specific time limits for "right-brain" mode activities, there is
a tendency to avoid them in order to maintain personal ecology.
5. Layered Reading
In addition to using your subconscious mental radar, you can read books more selectively by
using a layered reading approach. Here are four phases that commonly show up in layered
Overview: Look over the entire book at the rate of 1 second per page to determine its
organization, structure and tone. Try to finish the overview in 5 minutes.
Preview: Should you decide to read further, preview the first chapter at the rate of 4
seconds per page. Pay particular attention to beginnings and endings such as the
introduction and conclusion, and the first sentences of paragraphs and sections. Mark key
sections with Post-it tabs or a yellow marker.
Read: If any part of the chapter warrants closer attention, go back and read it at whatever
speed seems appropriate.
Review: As discussed in the following section on memory, doing short reviews
periodically after reading new ideas can significantly increase the amount of detailed
information that makes it into long term memory.
There are several advantages to having seen every page of a document. It partially eliminates the
intimidation of the unknown. It is also much easier to comprehend material at rapid speeds when
your eyes have already seen the material twice, even if only briefly. And lastly, your right brain
is a lot happier about the whole situation because it has at least some idea of the context or
overall picture in which the material is being presented.
Saying that someone has one reading speed is like having a car that only goes one speed.
Different material calls for different speeds. Layered reading is about being flexible in the
strategy you use to extract useful ideas from written material.
Here are some additional suggestions for reading more selectively:
Focus on key words and ignore filler words. As discussed in the previous chapter, most
of the meaning in sentences is transferred by a few key words. Many times it is
unnecessary to read all the "is's" and "the's".
Skip what you already know. As you transfer more and more knowledge from an area
into long term memory, the sections you can skip will become larger and thus accelerate
your journey along the compound learning curve.
Skip material that doesn't apply to you.
Skip material that seems particularly confusing and come back to it if necessary after
reading other sections. Books are linear while their subject matter is often multi-
6. dimensional. As Hannah Arendt put it, "Nothing we use or hear or touch can be
expressed in words that equal what we are given by the senses." It may be far easier to
understand the material in light of information that follows. Giving your subconscious
time to incubate the material might help as well.
CRITICAL READING STRATEGIES
1. Previewing: Learning about a text before really reading it.
Previewing enables readers to get a sense of what the text is about and how it is organized before
reading it closely. This simple strategy includes seeing what you can learn from the headnotes or
other introductory material, skimming to get an overview of the content and organization, and
identifying the rhetorical situation.
2. Contextualizing: Placing a text in its historical, biographical, and cultural contexts.
When you read a text, you read it through the lens of your own experience. Your understanding
of the words on the page and their significance is informed by what you have come to know and
value from living in a particular time and place. But the texts you read were all written in the
past, sometimes in a radically different time and place. To read critically, you need to
contextualize, to recognize the differences between your contemporary values and attitudes and
those represented in the text.
3. Questioning to understand and remember: Asking questions about the content.
As students, you are accustomed to teachers asking you questions about your reading. These
questions are designed to help you understand a reading and respond to it more fully, and often
this technique works. When you need to understand and use new information though it is most
beneficial if you write the questions, as you read the text for the first time. With this strategy,
you can write questions any time, but in difficult academic readings, you will understand the
material better and remember it longer if you write a question for every paragraph or brief
section. Each question should focus on a main idea, not on illustrations or details, and each
should be expressed in your own words, not just copied from parts of the paragraph.
4. Reflecting on challenges to your beliefs and values: Examining your personal responses.
The reading that you do for this class might challenge your attitudes, your unconsciously held
beliefs, or your positions on current issues. As you read a text for the first time, mark an X in the
margin at each point where you feel a personal challenge to your attitudes, beliefs, or status.
Make a brief note in the margin about what you feel or about what in the text created the
7. challenge. Now look again at the places you marked in the text where you felt personally
challenged. What patterns do you see?
5. Outlining and summarizing: Identifying the main ideas and restating them in your own
Outlining and summarizing are especially helpful strategies for understanding the content and
structure of a reading selection. Whereas outlining reveals the basic structure of the text,
summarizing synopsizes a selection's main argument in brief. Outlining may be part of the
annotating process, or it may be done separately. The key to both outlining and summarizing is
being able to distinguish between the main ideas and the supporting ideas and examples. The
main ideas form the backbone, the strand that holds the various parts and pieces of the text
together. Outlining the main ideas helps you to discover this structure. When you make an
outline, don't use the text's exact words.
Summarizing begins with outlining, but instead of merely listing the main ideas, a summary
recomposes them to form a new text. Whereas outlining depends on a close analysis of each
paragraph, summarizing also requires creative synthesis. Putting ideas together again -- in your
own words and in a condensed form- shows how reading critically can lead to deeper
understanding of any text.
6. Evaluating an argument: Testing the logic of a text as well as its credibility and emotional
All writers make assertions that they want you to accept as true. As a critical reader, you should
not accept anything on face value but to recognize every assertion as an argument that must be
carefully evaluated. An argument has two essential parts: a claim and support. The claim asserts
a conclusion -- an idea, an opinion, a judgment, or a point of view -- that the writer wants you to
accept. The support includes reasons (shared beliefs, assumptions, and values) and evidence
(facts, examples, statistics, and authorities) that give readers the basis for accepting the
conclusion. When you assess an argument, you are concerned with the process of reasoning as
well as its truthfulness (these are not the same thing). At the most basic level, in order for an
argument to be acceptable, the support must be appropriate to the claim and the statements must
be consistent with one another.
7. Comparing and contrasting related readings: Exploring likenesses and differences between
texts to understand them better.
Many of the authors we read are concerned with the same issues or questions, but approach how
to discuss them in different ways. Fitting a text into an ongoing dialectic helps increase
understanding of why an author approached a particular issue or question in the way he or she
8. THE IMPORTANCE OF EFFECTIVE READING
Reading skills serve as a foundation for writing. Developed and mastered, effective reading skills
give people the opportunity to learn new information about the world, people, events, and places,
enrich their vocabularies, and improve their writing skills.
Reading enriches the inner world of a person, improves grammar and spelling.
Through reading people learn to understand different ways of thinking and feelings of
other people, become more flexible and open-minded.
Avid readers not only read and write better than those who read less, but also process
information faster. The research presented by the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology
proves that poor readers have poorer short-memory functions.
As a result, avid readers have a broader outlook, are quicker to analyze facts and find
connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.
A reader has better skills for comprehending, analyzing, understanding, responding, and,
finally, learning from what he or she reads.
As a result, it is easier for good readers to get used to new and unfamiliar circumstances or ideas.
They are easier to communicate with, and have higher chances to succeed in both professional
and personal life.
HOW TO ENCOURAGE READING SKILLS
As every parent knows, reading is an important skill that all children should develop in order to
have a bright future. We use reading in almost every aspect of our daily life and even without
using it, reading opens up a world of possibilities for everyone.
It can be a world that is filled with colorful characters, amazing vocabulary and spectacular
whimsies and it can be a world that encourages learning, and creativity. Reading is so important
9. that many parents are often worried about reading skills before their child has even reached the
age of reading.
Surprisingly, reading skills are one of the few developmental skills that can occur over a large
range of age groups. At one time, we tended to focus on reading development occurring during
the first few years of formal school education. Sure, children enjoyed a good story but they
weren’t ready to read, were they? The answer is that some children are more than ready to read
at ages as young as three while others tend to wait until they are about 7.
Another important part of that answer is that although formal reading education begins during
the early years of school, the foundation for reading occurs from the time your baby is born until
that fateful day when she picks up a book and reads it.
So what are some ways that you can encourage reading in your child? Experts throughout the
years have had tons of advice on encouraging reading skills and although many of the steps that
they promote do work, parents should not have to feel overwhelmed when it comes to
encouraging reading in their children. Instead, they should just focus on the three steps outlined
below and if they desire, they can build from there. After all, everything needs a strong
foundation to be successful.
Provide the material:
One of the best ways to encourage reading is to actually provide the material. A home that
doesn’t have books is not going to send a message to the children residing in it that reading is an
important part of life. Make sure you have lots of books available to your children and make
most of them age appropriate; however, make sure you have a few that are just above their
current reading ability and age level. This aspires a continual growth in both interests and skills
and your child won’t plateau as much as he would with only age appropriate materials being
When you provide the material, it is important to take the time to actually offer it. Make a habit
of reading with your child for about 15 minutes per day. This can be a story at bed time but it can
also be a story during unplanned periods of time. An impromptu story time makes reading into a
fun and leisure activity that can be enjoyed whenever the mood hits. Make sure that you start
reading to your child in infancy to ensure a lifetime love of reading. If you are reading to your
child, try your hand at some chapter books. This helps increase attention spans and keeps not
only your child but yourself interested in reading.
One of the best ways to encourage reading in your child is to read yourself. This does not mean
reading only magazines and newspapers but it should also mean opening up a novel or two a
month. If your child sees you reading, he or she is more likely to emulate you and begin reading
10. as well. It is very important for boys to see their father reading since a love of reading is
something that is rarer in boys than it is in girls.
Pursue topics of interest:
Lastly, when you are encouraging reading in your child, it is important to really pursue topics of
interest. Children thrive when they are learning and there is no limitations towards cracking open
a book to discover new facts about a subject. This also teaches your child many other skills, such
as cross referencing, vocabulary building, and researching skills that will aid them in school.
When you are pursuing topics of interest, give and take conversations, especially about facts
found in books, will help in raising the interest and this will lead to more research. And we all
know what more research means; more reading.
Encouraging your child to read is not always an easy task but if you start at a young age, you will
feel confident that your child will have a life time filled with reading.