As you’re reading this line, aren’t you also wondering how it is that you read? What processes go into this complex cognitive skill? How do your brain and eyes collaborate so smoothly that you can understand what I’m saying right now?
There’s no need to creep you out any further. Let’s take a deeper look into what goes into this cognitively outstanding process.
Just a matter of decoding symbols?
So you know what reading is; it’s essentially making sense of symbols strung together to get the meaning.
You’re reading to extract information you can then use to communicate and share further.
But you’re also reading for entertainment, whether it’s a super hero comic, an Internet meme, poetry, or a Booker-prize-awarded novel.
However, what’s so unique about reading is that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The reader has an active role in which – through experiences, knowledge, and sociocultural habitat – the reader shapes the words they read and interprets them, perhaps differently than the next person will read and interpret the same words.
What skills go into reading?
Well, I’m glad you asked! That’s because there are four crucial skills that allow you to read what we’re now saying.
Language Acquisition and the Ability to Read At Sublexical and Lexical Level
Sublexical reading is the process of recognizing what symbols and strings of symbols sound like, just by looking at them. Using phonics to achieve this skill is one way to go about it.
When you master sublexical reading it’s time for lexical reading. In this process, you go beyond what words sound like and move on to what these words signify. In other words, you move from phonological awareness to semantic and pragmatic knowledge of how these symbols work together. Depending on the order and context in which they occur, they can mean or signify different things.
For example, it’s context and pronunciation that help you properly decode this sentence when you hear it and properly interpret “read” as the act of having read in the past and not the color “red”.
“Bill read that his favorite movie is not available in his town.”
In the case below, context helps you know that the word “nail” refers to the hard endings on top of your fingers and toes and not the metallic, thin pieces used mostly in construction projects.
“Her nails were badly bitten because of all the stress she was experiencing while waiting outside the OR.”
Apart from language acquisition, in which reading is both a process to acquire language and improve upon your reading skill, reading also requires a certain level of critical analysis, imagination and creativity.
If you’re reading poetry literally you’re missing the point and might feel perplexed or misled by the time you’re done reading the piece. If you’re reading a technical report, you need to apply critical knowledge in order to interpret the numbers on the paper into actionable advice.
You might not realize it but being able to read is a great human achievement that, along with our ability to write, laid the basis for our civilization’s progress.
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