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Reading is More Than Fundamental

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How would you feel if one day you wanted to read and there was nothing to read?

Lost, is how I would feel. It would be virtually impossible for that to happen to me in my home because we are surrounded by books. And if there were no books, there are magazines and newspapers and there is always the Internet.

There is no excuse for one not to read, or to have reading material. Reading is far more than fundamental, it is essential if we are to grow and become all we can be.

For many, reading takes the place of a trip around the world. Reading exposes us to experiences we may never have the opportunity to physically enjoy. You may read while you sit, but reading the right book can move you - set your heart apace.

It happens to me quite often. I get really excited when I read…and I don’t read steamy novels. I like to read stories about people – biographies – short, insightful stories that tell of overcoming obstacles; stories that reveal how a person achieved success.

Through reading I discover how things are made and how they work. I am amazed at how simple some things can be – from the development phase – but then take on complex dimensions as they grow. The genius of creativity and entrepreneurialism delights me.
Reading is learning and learning is growing. Reading is a link to the world and that link is made through the written word.

The definition of reading makes the act of reading sound a bit scary. Here’s an example:

Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning (reading comprehension). It is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas. Like all language, it is a complex interaction between the text and the reader which is shaped by the reader’s prior knowledge, experiences, attitude, and language community which is culturally and socially situated. The reading process requires continuous practice, development, and refinement. (Source: Wikipedia®)

That definition almost takes the joy out of reading! “The reading process requires continuous practice, development, and refinement,” Well, maybe. But does it have to?

I think not. I recall when I was a young boy in the second grade; I sat next to a classmate named Lyndon Johnson. Lyndon was a voracious reader. He almost flunked out of second grade because he was always reading. Lyndon read while the teacher was teaching. What he was reading I have no idea. I don’t think it was in any way connected to Ms. Denton’s lesson. Lyndon certainly put in the practice necessary, according to Wikipedia, to become a great reader. But I doubt the refinement the online dictionary suggests is critical to reading well was part of Lyndon’s experience.

He was all of 7 years old and was reading for the sense of adventure that reading provided him. I am sure that Lyndon was transformed to another place and time; he was able to escape our classroom and live in another world; at least for a few hours of the day.

The sharing of ideas is well worth the time spent reading and then communicating what you have read to others who appreciate the shared experience of reading. Interesting conversations can be had over what is found in a book. Some people revel in the moment as they share their emotions over a passage. They want to know if someone else felt what they were feeling as they passed through the pages.

Who knew that there were so many forms of reading? There is sub vocalized reading; speed reading; proof reading; re-reading; structure-proposition-evaluation reading, which can be a lot of work when you consider that it is designed to have one read in three passes: 1) for the structure of the work, which might be represented by an outline; 2) for the logical propositions made, organized into chains of inference; 3) for evaluation of the merits of the arguments and conclusions.

Then there’s the survey-question-read-recite-review method often taught in public schools. And the multiple intelligence based methods, which draw upon the reader's diverse ways of thinking and knowing to enrich his or her appreciation of the text.

And finally, there’s the rapid serial visual presentation, or RSVP, which involves presenting the words in a sentence one word at a time at the same location on the display screen, at a specified eccentricity.

Who knew? I always thought reading was reading. I don’t like things to get too complicated and all of these alternate forms of reading present challenges to an activity that I like to engage in for enjoyment and escape. There are times when I read to learn; that is critical, but most often when I sit down or lay down to read I am trying to get away and find something new or find out about someone whose life is exciting and offers me a bit of whimsy.

And then there are times when I read for comprehension. I don’t like skimming. It is noted that when reading for comprehension you are digesting 200-400 words per minute; when skimming you’re slamming down 400-700 words per minute.

How can you taste what you’re reading at that rate? How many words are sinking into your brain, allowing you to go where the author wanted to take you?

You would need a seat belt and a crash helmet just in case you had an accident on the information highway!

I like the solitude that reading provides. It is interesting to note, scholars assume that reading aloud was a more common practice way back when and that reading silently was unusual. Look at us today; most of our reading is done silently, it appears to me. We read from digital devices, oftentimes small, personal devices, Nooks and Kindles and Smartphones with screens only large enough to accommodate a single reader.

There are those of us who still enjoy reading from printed materials. And there are the totally social readers who belong to book clubs. But most of our reading is done in the quiet of our own spaces.

Note too that reading in any form is supported here. It can’t hurt to read and to be informed. We need more of that activity. It is the best way, I think, to learn.

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Eric Von is a former radio talk show host and a publisher of Brain Brawn & Body ( You can contact Eric at


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Guest Tuesday, 23 January 2018