“Go throw your TV set away, And in its place, you can install A lovely bookshelf on the wall. Then fill the shelves with lots of books…”
-from the poem ‘Television’, by Roald Dahl
The reading habits of people are changing rapidly or rather, it seems to be waning. The hustle and bustle of daily life have seen people take a lesser interest in reading books. Shorter formats and bite-size social media snippets have dwindled attention spans and a lot of people either face a scarcity of time or focus. In the time one reads a story, they would have watched four videos on a social media site or on an OTT platform. While those are still great platforms to gain knowledge or lessen stress, reading still remains an important aspect of learning.
Why is reading important?
Reading books offers endless opportunities for exploring and learning new ideas.
Reading regularly from an early age helps build vocabulary.
A study by the University of Sussex in 2009 states that reading books only for six minutes reduces stress levels 68%.
Our brain can improve memory function. Thus, it is the perfect workout for the brain.
Reading can improve our ability to empathize if the book is well-written with deep emotional details and layers of characters.
Our brains are constantly trying to process, organize, and analyze information. Reading books helps us enhance these skills.
“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.” — W. Somerset Maugham
An eminent musician or writer does not become great in just a day, do they? They hone their skills over a period of time. Similarly, reading requires honing a few skills.
What skills can reading help build?
Decoding here means the ability to sound out words that we have heard before but haven’t read. This depends on a skill called phonemic awareness, or connecting individual sounds to letters. This is the knowledge of syllables, words, and sounds or phonemes. This is an important reading skill.
Having a good vocabulary is important to understand the meaning of words, definitions, and context. To hone this skill, reading all kinds of books is necessary.
For good reading comprehension, the reader needs to be fluent; they should be able to read with speed, accuracy, and understanding.
4. Sentence Construction and Cohesion
The reader should understand how a sentence is built, the connecting ideas in a sentence and between sentences. This is cohesion. Not only is it an important writing skill, but also an important reading skill. This helps in connecting ideas in the entire piece of writing.
5. Reasoning and Background Knowledge
While reading, the reader relates what they read to what they know. This helps in making inferences and drawing conclusions. So, it is important to have prior knowledge about the topic, or setting, or the world of the story or text, when we read.
6. Working Memory and Attention
Attention helps absorb information from the book. Working memory enables the retention of this information. These are part of the executive function skills. Also, while reading if a part is not being understood the reader should at once, stop, go back and re-read; thus gaining meaning and building knowledge during the process.
Reading comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading; it involves translating the text into mental representation. But how can we achieve this?
What are some great reading techniques?
Skimming involves gist reading; not reading each and every word. This just means going through the text to grasp the main idea. The attention is kept on the main theme of the text. This technique is used while reading a magazine or a newspaper or a non-fictional text.
Scanning is going through a piece of writing to get a particular piece of information. For this technique, the reader has to ignore irrelevant information or decorative descriptions.
3. Intensive Reading
This is a more time-consuming technique of reading. It involves the reader’s attention to detail. The meaning of the words, a sentence has to be understood.
4. Extensive Reading
This technique is for reading for pleasure, and not accuracy or fluency. If a reader does not like a text, they would not take up this method.
Mastery of reading is not achieved by reading at a fast speed. Racing through a book does not help with understanding and retention.
How can you improve reading comprehension?
Psychologists call the end of sentences and clauses wrap-ups. If more time is spent on these wrap-ups, the reader can retain more. So, after reading a sentence, pause, try to understand the concept or idea before moving on.
Visual aids help in reading all formats. Highlighting, color-coding, and other forms of active learning help in this process. Reading graphic novels and image-rich texts helps activate more visual sense.
Choose quiet surroundings. Optimizing the environment helps in more focus during reading. A calm and quiet space helps in reducing distractions.
Our relationship with reading comprehension changes during our lifetime. Therefore, one should keep mixing up reading various texts and genres.
“Read, read, read. Read everything–read trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read!”
Sanghita is actively engaged in recreating, designing, and developing engaging learning activities and course content.