Some of the various purposes for reading include: How you read should be determined in part by what you read.Reflective readers read a textbook, for example, using a different mindset than they use when reading an article in a newspaper.
My information is derived principally from the written statements of the school committees of the respective towns — gentlemen who are certainly exempt from all temptation to disparage the schools they superintend.
The result is that more than 11/12ths of all the children in the reading classes do not understand the meanings of the words they read; and that the ideas and feelings intended by the author to be conveyed to and excited in, the reader’s mind, still rest in the author’s intention, never having yet reached the place of their destination." (Second Report to the Massachusetts Board of Education, 1838) In general, then, we read to figure out what authors mean.
Our reading is further influenced by our purpose for reading and by the nature of the text itself.
For example, if we are reading for pure pleasure and personal amusement, it may not matter if we do not fully understand the text.
Skilled readers do not read blindly, but purposely. Their purpose, together with the nature of what they are reading, determines how they read.
They read in different ways in different situations for different purposes.All knowledge exists in “systems” of meanings, with interrelated primary ideas, secondary ideas, and peripheral ideas.Imagine a series of circles beginning with a small core circle of primary ideas, surrounded by concentric circles of secondary ideas, moving outward to an outer circle of peripheral ideas.Thus, when we understand core historical ideas, we can begin to think historically.When we understand core scientific ideas, we can begin to think scientifically.Of course, reading has a nearly universal purpose: to figure out what an author has to say on a given subject. The author has previously translated ideas and experiences into words.We must take those same words and re-translate them into the author’s original meaning using our own ideas and experiences as aids.Considering the Author’s Purpose In addition to being clear about our own purpose in reading, we must also be clear about the author’s purpose in writing. For example, if you read a historical novel to learn history, you would do well to read further in history books and primary sources before you conclude that what you read in the historical novel was accurate.Where fact and imagination are blended to achieve a novelist’s purpose, fact and imagination must be separated to achieve the reader’s pursuit of historical fact.Furthermore, reflective readers read a textbook in biology differently from the way they read a textbook in history.Having recognized this variability, we should also recognize that there are core reading tools and skills for reading any substantive text, some of which will be the focus of this and our next few our columns. Think about what adjustments you would make in your reading given the differing purposes of these writers: To read productively, your purpose in reading must take into account the author’s purpose in writing.