Deep Reading

Reading takes place all around us everyday, and by everyone.

We read when we look at the alarm clock first thing in the morning. We are surrounded by newspapers, advertising, television, street signs and many other examples too numerous to mention. About the only thing that doesn't involve reading in our lives today is the radio (except the dial, of course).

Reading is one way that we take in linguistically what others have recorded by way of the written word. Reading and writing are intimately connected and one process cannot be divorced from the other. What has been written was meant to be read. We can't listen to what has been written. Because of this, writers incorporate punctuation in their writings as a way to help us process the series of letters (and numbers) that have been set down on the page. When we recite aloud or read silently, punctuation helps us to organize the text into meaningful ideas. For more on punctuation, click here.

One must be aware that while reading can be an intensely private activity, when an author chooses to write, the intended audience is often unknown and may (hopefully) consist of millions of readers. This fact may help to account for some of the magic felt when a reader experiences the feeling that the author is "talking directly to me" and "has been where I've been". This is not an uncommon experience. Literature that endures over centuries may do so precisely because of this intimate connection.

We can be thankful that everyday reading and writing doesn't demand such excellence or intimate precision. Most of what we read daily is required for the ordinary chores we find ourselves engaged in. It is done unconsciously, as a matter of course, for the most part and it is only when we read for study or relaxation that we might be aware of the ongoing processes involved.

The context of what is presented to us in any language is critical to understanding the message that the author is trying to convey. Just the word, "Stop" said in a car conveys a much different meaning than the same word, "Stop", said while we are taking an exam or adding an ingredient to a recipe. When the author of a text is trying to convey a message, she chooses appropriate language (and punctuation) for her communication. Capitalized text for example, will trigger different reactions depending on the register. Immediacy, importance and simple rudeness are the respective messages conveyed by capitalizations in street signs, recipes and e-mails. These reactions are all quite different and the author needs to be aware of the effects of written conventions on the message sent.

All this may be very interesting but before we go any further, ask yourself this question: Do I read every word when I am reading a schedule, a summary or any other document that outlines important information?

The answer to this question is probably, NO! We often don't have time nor is it really necessary to read each and every word carefully. When you read in your native language and when you read in English, the skills are the same. Below are four very broad discriptions of ways of reading to extract pertinent information in our daily lives.

Skimming is used to quickly read the most important information. Finding general information is important. You are trying to discover the 'gist'. Skim newspaper headlines, titles of magazine articles and Business and/or Travel brochures.

Scanning is used to find a particular piece of information. Finding specific details is your goal. Scan schedules and catalogues, meeting plans as well as the TV or movie section of a newspaper.

Intensive reading is used when we read to find specific and detailed informatiuon in shorter texts. Accuracy is emphasized and it is important that you understand every word, number and/or fact. We read intensively when we read accounting, insurance or legal documents. Oftentimes we need to read and reread the document. Ask questions if you don't understand everything.

Extensive reading is used when we want to find broad, general understandings of subjects. It includes reading longer texts and can be for pleasure, general knowledge or business procedures. Examples of types of extensive readings are novels, history books, magazine articles and business strategies. It is not necessay to understand every word. Sometimes we can guess the meaning of vocabulary. One legitimate reason to read extensively is for pleasure. The author of these pages is a devout reader and encourages language learners to practice their reading skills for enjoyment. Further information on Extensive Reading can be accessed at the bottom of this page.



Last Updated: November 28, 2016

November 28, 2016