What Happened to Critical Reading?
Thanks to all the advancements in technology, we now have greater access to books. Book lovers no longer have to wait for centuries just for their latest eye candy to hit the stands. No need to wait for days before you could borrow a book from the library. But if you look closely, such advent seemed to lead to the rapid thinning out of critical readers. Gone are the days where a person would choose to read a book because of its inspiring content. Gone are the days where the greatest thing that happened to vampires is Bram Stoker and Anne Rice. Gone are the days where a book is appreciated because of it’s moral or immoral value. Whatever happened to critical reading?
Critical Reading – is a process where a person reads in order to understand the deeper, larger meaning of a material. During this process, the reader attempts to analyze, reflect and evaluate the moral value of the material. He tries to see the world from the author’s perspectives by interpreting the text and adding its meaning to the elements of the society where the text is most applicable.
It’s quite hard to determine the primary reason for critical reading decline. Most experts say that the decline was caused by the same technological advancements that made the books more available. After all, when you have to choose between reading a book and going online or playing video games, why not go for the fun alternative?
Other experts think that the reason for critical reading decline is the pop culture’s habit of constantly falling in and out of bandwagons. (One minute it’s Harry Potter, the next it’s the vampires.)
Some blame the sudden popularity of self-publishing. Now that any individual who claims to have a talent in writing can self-publish a book, the readers’ expectations are becoming lower. What critics would once pronounce as an atrocity is now easily proclaimed as a work of genius.
Personally, I think that if there’s anyone to blame, it’s the people. Many people profess their love for reading yet fail to act on it. Many claim to have a budding interest on a certain bestseller but never find the time to do something about it. Instead, they just wait for the movie version of the book. And when they finally watch the movie, it becomes easier for them to make excuses like “I already watched the movie. I don’t see how reading the book will make a difference.”
Well guess what. It does make a difference. A big, big difference. And I’m not just saying this because I believe in the adage that the book is always better than the movie. Trust me. It’s not like that all the time. And if you only had the heart to pick up the book and read, you’ll understand what I’m saying.
Critical reading is already thinning out. Right now, it’s pointless to find the root of the problem. It’s a waste of time and energy. Instead, why don’t we do something to start nurturing this skill? Stop blaming technology. Stop pointing your fingers at these self-published authors. Stop lecturing the youth about the evils of joining the pop culture’s bandwagon. Do something. Read a book. And while you’re at it, make sure you’re not just trying to breeze through the text just to get it over it. Think while you’re reading. And keep on reading while you’re thinking. It’s not rocket science really.
Critical Reading Strategies
Contextualizing: When you read, you tend to view the text through your own eyes and experiences. This is great when you’re reading a book which is set in the contemporary times. But if you’re reading a book which is set in the past, you have to make sure you are really ready to dive into the book’s setting. Being able to recognize the difference between a book’s setting from the present times is a great way for you to understand the premise of a book.
Questioning: There are cases where reading a book makes you ask questions. This process can happen in the early stages of reading – when a book was able to capture your attention. Making an effort to put these questions into writing could significantly increase your level of understanding of the book. This practice is quite hard to get into but once you get the hang of it, you will see how big a difference it makes in your reading.
Reflecting: There are times when a thought-provoking book manages to challenge your belief. Instead of letting this go, sit back and analyze what the book made you feel. Ask yourself why the book made you feel this way. Try to defend your belief by subjecting yourself into a mental debate where you and the author must justify both your beliefs.
Summarizing: Summarizing a book by noting down its highlights is a great way for you to see the patterns of belief that the author is trying to establish. This will also help you in extracting the main idea or message of the book.
Evaluating: Now that you have had the time to absorb the book, it is time for you to evaluate and decide whether the author’s assertions are acceptable or not. Attack each assertion savagely. Find loopholes in the author’s arguments. And then decide if the author managed to convince you or not.
Comparing: Sometimes, comparing one author’s work from another can help you gain a better understanding of the book. By comparing related material, you will be able to distinguish the author’s writing style as well as his/her level of awareness about the issue he discussed in the book.
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