Guess what everyone? I have this amazing skill that I am so incredibly proud of, and I have to share it with you. I think it’s something so many people think they can do but don’t really grasp the nuances of this amazing skill. It’s something I believe
I know how to read.
It may seem like a skill a lot of people have in their arsenal. Most people have a reading ability of some sort. You ask an average person on the street if they have gone to school, and if they have, chances are they likely have at least some comprehension. While illiteracy is still an unfortunate problem in the world, we have become better at teaching people the fundamentals of reading.
But, is it really reading?
Sure, we know how to comprehend and pronounce the squiggles on the pages of books, but it’s what we do with this information that really determines if we can truly read the story unfolding before our eyes.
…And I know how to read, really read.
Reading is a skill I have been developing since I was a child. Books have been a part of my life since I was about three years old. Back then, I merely learned to determine that the little squiggles on the plastic pages of the kids book I was reading meant that some kid name Jane had a dog. I read the sentence, looked at the corresponding picture on the page, and understood what it meant. Jane had a dog. Yet, looking back, I never seemed to question this information.
What do I do with the information about this little girl and her canine companion?
We teach children how to make sense of the squiggles on the pages of texts, but do we teach them what it means? Is it still reading if all we’re doing is showing them the literal definition of words? What does information the sentences we teach them to read mean once we are able to teach them the definitions of the words?
What do the words mean beyond their most obvious meanings?
To add to all of this, as an undergrad, I learned there are multiple ways a text can be read. Literary theory is a weird course of study if you haven’t had to take any of the courses. Basically, English majors are instructed to read texts differently through a wide variety of lenses to suit their own needs. The description of a sentence like “the door is red” could mean a hundred different things depending on the perspective taken. This muti-perspective reading ability is a valuable skill because it allows for the ability to better interpret a situation as the person is searching for the meaning of words beyond their surface level definitions.
Now, I ask, do you really know how to read?
…by the way, there’s also the most obvious interpretation of the red door that English professors never allow their students to use: THE DOOR IS OF A RED SHADE!!!