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Thinking About Reading

07/11/2011

 

 

We cannot understate the importance of literacy in our daily lives.  It may sound trite, but it is still true that in an Information Age reading and writing are essential survival skills.  And we would sound silly if we suggested that literacy skills were a product of nature as opposed to nurture. To most people it is obvious that literacy is a learnable skill.  It is unfortunate, however, that we have a lazy habit of attributing success to nature as opposed to nurture.  And while this habit does not necessarily apply to the basic competency of reading, it does apply to what we do with that information after it has been retrieved.  We know that reading is a learnable skill but we fail to categorize thinking about that information in the same way.

We think via automatic pilot most of the time. Our thinking is informed by the habits we’ve developed or skills we’ve learned implicitly.  If we go to university we are taught, usually implicitly, a set of thinking skills that emphasize criticism, analysis, and data gathering.  Critical thinking is a useful thinking skill set, but by itself does not address the generative dimensions of thinking.  Generative components of thinking include tools for directing attention to the development of creativity, purpose, and operancy.  Directing our attention towards these other dimensions is where thinking and reading grows legs.  Edward de Bono has written over a dozen books on the topic of thinking.  Six thinking hats and lateral thinking are just a few concepts he has invented. 

More often than not we skim the surface of whatever we read to save time by filtering the hundreds of emails, ads and news articles that come our way daily.  Given the way we live, we don’t always have time or energy to think.  And sometimes reading is good for an escape from a reality where maybe we have to too much think about.  But if we systematically apply different thinking tools to our reading and expand our skill set, we will not only better comprehend what we read; like a sculptor, we will be able to take the raw materials and transform them.

In the next blog posts I will explore different thinking tools that can be used to really get the most out of what you read.  We will explore intensive reading, and really look between the lines, words and letters.