Thursday, June 12, 2014
The Importance of Being an Engaged Critical Thinking Reader
Last week I considered the importance of reading for pleasure in building inner creativity. For developing our overall mind we need a diversity of reading. Reading for learning and self-development should be an aspect of our weekly reading habits. In this reading we need to activate our critical thinking. The activation process begins with an intentional choice to be engaged with a habit of reading.
Our level of engagement in reading begins when we are young. I read an article recently by Brozo, Shield, & Topping, (2007) on the engagement in reading. They were focusing in on a study by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) done back in 2000 & 2003. It was discouraging to see overall reading scores of American 15 year old students behind that of Finland, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Korea, Japan and Sweden. In the particular area of reading engagement the U.S. was in 20th place. Sad to say from what I see on the college level and within the populace I would say it is lower today.
The PISA definition of reading was stated as: “the capacity to identify and understand the role that reading plays in the world, to make well-founded judgments and to use and engage reading in ways that meets the needs of the individual’s life as a constructive , concerned and reflective citizen.” Wouldn’t the country be better off if we had a populace engaged in that type of reading?
The importance of engaged readers are seen in the study that shows that better readers have improved comprehension skills, improved vocabularies, do better in testing and have higher high school grade point averages than those who are not interested in reading. Of course this reading does not have a payoff just for young people. Engaged readers continue as readers in their adulthood as well keeping their minds active. The engaged reader as seen in the study reads a diversity of material, magazines, fiction for pleasure reading, non-fiction for learning, as well as reading on the web for learning and enjoyment. Sounds like the creation of a Bookhead, which my daughter calls me.
So the choice to be an engaged reader aids in a reader who reads a diverse style of reading. Within non-fiction and magazines, for the purpose of learning from reading, requires what Elder & Paul term “Close reading”. This is purposeful and reflective critical thinking reading. They make an important statement, “Every book we read is a potential teacher… When we take the core ideas of those readings into our minds through careful reading, we can productively use them in our lives.” (Elder & Paul). I have mentioned in my book how lifelong learning is a part of the Living More Than OK lifestyle. Learning from reading is vital to lifelong learning.
Critical thinking in reading is reading driven by seeking to understand what the author is saying and engaging in a conversation with the author as you go through the book. With this close reading approach the mind is not wandering over the pages but is reflecting and thinking while reading. You may not agree with the author on everything but reading critically allows for understanding another’s point of view and realizing where the author is coming from with his or her worldview.
Close reading is the mind being active and not passive. Many people I believe think books are boring as they were taught to passively “just read the words” instead of actively reading for ideas, concepts, and observing the creativity of the story. It is the active engagement that moves the act of reading into an activity to impact and challenge the thought life of the reader. As you read have a mindset of what can I take away from this material to improve my life in some manner. I know that is my hope as people read my book, Living More Than OK, that they gain some positive take-aways to improve their lives.
Think through your level of engagement in reading. Do you have a library card from your local public library? If not stop what you are doing right now and go to your local library and get one. Ok maybe I am being too pushy. Read the rest of my blog then go get it! It is just that a local library is an excellent place to provide a way for the family to be engaged in reading. Going back to the initial PISA study, they found that access to students having diverse reading materials at home was more important than the economic level of families. This reminds me of the story of Dr. Ben Carson. He grew up poor in the Ghetto area of Detroit. They did not have plenty of reading materials at home so his mother had him and his brother go to the library each week to pick out books to read. That was one turning point key in his life. You don’t have to become a full bookhead even though I wish more people would. Still understand there is no better way to improve the mind and keep an active mind; so do build some diverse reading into your weekly schedule.
Reflection – What is your level of engagement in reading as a weekly activity? Do you see reading as a passive or active activity? Check out your local library and see what books are available in interest areas that are important to you. Encourage young people in your life to see that reading is an active activity for their good.
Brozo, William, Shield, Gerry & Topping, Keith, (2007). Engagement in Reading: Lessons Learned from Three PISA Countries. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 51 (4) 304-315
Elder, Linda & Paul, Richard (2004). Critical Thinking … and the Art of Close Reading. Journal of Developmental Education. 27(3), 36-37