By the end of this lesson, you will to be able to:
1. Explain clearly the art of reading.
2. State the importance of reading.
3. Show interest in reading.
What is Reading?
In simple language, reading involves making meaning out of written texts. Different scholars have defined reading differently. Here are two of such definitions:
1. First, reading is a process of 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.
2. Reading is also said to be the process of constructing meaning from written texts. It is said to be a complex skill requiring the coordination of a number of interrelated sources of information.
This means that during reading, there is a dynamic interaction among:
1. The reader’s existing knowledge;
2. The information suggested by the text being read; and
3. The context of the reading situation.
This also means that when we read:
1. We try to make meaning from the text.
2. We run our eyes across and down the page, recognizing and understanding the words.
3. The meaning we get must be the message the writer wishes to put across.
4. We try to search the thoughts and feelings of the writer at the time of writing.
5. In certain cases, our ability to get what the writer thinks and feels depends on what we already know.
6. The understanding we get depends on the situations, environments, and circumstances presented in the text.
What does it mean to make meaning from a text?
Even definitions of reading that emphasize meaning indicate that reading is activated by print. The reader must be able to translate the written words into meaningful language. Virtually all four- and five-year-old children can communicate with and learn from oral language, but very few can read, because they lack the ability to identify printed words. While simply being able to recognize or “say” the printed words of text without constructing the meaning of that text is not reading, constructing meaning from written text is impossible without being able to identify the words.
The terms word identification, word recognition, and decoding are frequently used interchangeably. The new Literacy Dictionary defines both word recognition and word identification as “the process of determining the pronunciation and some degree of meaning of an unknown word”. For words that are in a reader’s meaning vocabulary, unlocking the pronunciation leads to the word’s meaning. If a printed word is not in a reader’s meaning vocabulary, word-identification skills may allow access to the word’s pronunciation, but not its meaning. Being able to arrive at the pronunciation of a printed word constitutes word identification in the most minimal sense. However, if the reader is unable to attach meaning to the word, then he or she has not read the word, since reading must end in meaning construction. This is why it is expedient that you make deliberate efforts to systematically build up a store of vocabulary for yourself as you read various forms of literature.
Building a store of vocabulary
Effective reading is linked to the student’s ability to recognize words in the context of a text or passage. The student must not just be able to identify the word; he must also be able to pronounce it correctly and know its meaning, preferably in a sentence.
There are several proven benefits in improving your vocabulary, but how should we go about learning new words in the most effective way? There are a number of vocabulary- building strategies that could help you to develop a strong vocabulary and keep improving it every day.
The following strategies will help you to enhance your vocabulary:
1. Read voraciously
It is undeniable that reading is the most effective way to get new vocabulary. When you read, you see words being used in context — and that makes it more effective than, for example, merely memorizing word lists. People with extensive vocabulary are usually constantly reading. New words are picked up by reading books, magazines and other publications. One way to develop an extensive vocabulary is to read publications covering various subjects. With context information surrounding each new word, there is a good chance of guessing the meaning of a word to understand the overall text. Finding out the meaning of words in such a way is the natural way of learning language. Besides, reading provides the best opportunity to get exposed to this natural way of learning. If you are not able to infer the meaning of new words when reading, it is probably because there are too many unknown words in the text. In that case, try reading easier materials. The key to good reading is making it a pleasurable activity; so do not be afraid of coming across unknown words, but make sure the text is appropriate for your reading level.
2. Be a friend of the dictionary
A dictionary is the first indispensable resource to improve your vocabulary. It is only by looking up a word in a dictionary that you will learn its precise meaning, spelling, alternate definitions, and find much more useful information about it. A thesaurus is also a valuable resource for learning, by finding connections between words, such as their synonyms and antonyms. Consider adding a good dictionary and thesaurus to your bookshelf. Here are some recommendations:
a. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary;
b. The New Oxford American Dictionary;
c. The Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus.
For online dictionaries, there are many free options with great extra features. Even if you already have a good dictionary in print, you cannot miss having a good online dictionary at your disposal. Note the following examples:
a. OneLook: Has a reverse lookup function (get the word from its definition) and works as a ―meta-dictionary‖, showing you definitions from other major online dictionaries. I recommend you try OneLook and explore its results to decide which dictionary you prefer;
b. Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary: this is also a useful alternative ;
c. Ninjawords: It searches the free dictionary Wiktionary. What makes this site interesting is that you can look up multiple words simultaneously. Moreover, the results pages can be bookmarked – making them good personal reference pages;
d. Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus: This give you the opportunity to view related words represented in a visual map format;
e. Answers.com, Dictionary.com, The Free Dictionary and many others: All of them are good resources – try each one at least once to help you make up your mind.
3. Use the word or lose it
Do not settle after you learn a new word by reading it or looking it up in the dictionary: these are good starts, but it is by using the new words that you truly commit them to your long-term memory. Repetition is good.
One of the best ways to increase vocabulary is through repetition. Throughout the day, continually repeat a word you are trying to learn to embed it within your memory. You can also write down a word multiple times on a piece of paper to memorize it. Another strategy you can use is to memorize new words by creating a sentence with the new word in it. Be creative and try to use your newly learned words in as many ways as possible:
a. Write them down;
b. Say them aloud, i.e. pronounce them to yourself;
c. Create sentences with them, mentally and in writing;
d. Try to use them in a conversation;
e. Discuss them with friends.
It is also important to be aware of your own language style: every time you catch yourself saying common or non-specific words such as ―nice‖, try coming up with richer and more precise expressions instead.
4. Learn one new word a day
If you learn just one new word every day, you will soon notice they add up pretty quickly. What makes this strategy stand out is that it can be used by anyone, no matter how busy one’s schedule is. You can also learn to enjoy growing your vocabulary by committing yourself to learning at least one new word each day. There are many websites that provide free word-of-the-day services, delivering them in many formats – such as e-mail and even text messages sent to your cell phone. These have already been listed in point 2, above.
5. Understand the true meaning of words
By deeply understanding words, you can make your vocabulary grow exponentially. Instead of just memorizing words, try to really understand them by looking at their etymology, word roots, prefixes and suffixes. At least half of English words are derived from Greek and Latin roots, so there are enormous benefits in being familiar with them. For instance, when you understand that the prefix ―ortho ‖ means straight or right, you start to find connections between seemingly unrelated words, such as orthodontist (a specialist who straightens teeth) and orthography (the correct, or straight way of writing).Understanding the logic behind words always pays off in terms of learning and recalling.
Consider the examples: ―breakfast‖ meaning ―interrupt the night’s fast‖; or ―rainbow‖ meaning ―bow or arc caused by rain‖: while these meanings may be trivial to native English speakers, having such insights about words, foreign or otherwise, is not only exciting but helpful.
6. Maintain a personal lexicon
By keeping a personalized list of learned words, you will have a handy reference you can use to check these words later. It is very likely you will want to go back and refresh your memory on recent words, so keeping them in your own list is more efficient than going back to the dictionary every time. Keep a vocabulary book.
Even if you never refer back to your lexicon again, writing words down at least once will greatly enhance your ability to commit them to your permanent memory. Another excellent learning aid is to write an original sentence containing the word — and using your lexicon to do that is a great way of enforcing this habit. You can also add many other details as you see fit, such as the date you first came across the word or may be a sequential number to help you reach some word quota you define.
There are many ways you can keep your personal word list. You could have a vocabulary book in which you have about four columns: the date, the word/ phrase, meaning and sentence example. A page in your vocabulary book could look like this:
|13/09/2015||Explore||To examine something completely or carefully in order to find out more about it||These ideas will be explored in the next lecture.|
The aim of these businessmen was to explore further opportunities for investment in the country
|14/9/2015||Antiquity||These ideas will be explored in the next lecture.|
The state of being very old or ancient; something that dates from ancient times.
|The pyramids in Egypt have been there from antiquity|
In the chart above, you will notice that there are four columns. This first from the left indicates the date the word was first learnt. Next is the word to be learnt. The third column indicates the meaning of the word as found in the dictionary and/ or context. The last column shows examples of sentences in which the word has been used. By having a predefined place you use to capture the words you come across, you can process them much more efficiently. Practising this regularly will help you learn new words quickly.
7. Follow a process
To make vocabulary improvement a permanent habit in your everyday life, you should make it as habitual, automatic and tightly integrated in your daily workflow as possible – otherwise you will not do it when your days get too busy.
8. Play and have fun
Engaging in group activities and playing games are useful in any kind of learning, but particularly effective for language-related learning. You can gather your family and friends and play word games together.
It is not easy to come up with your own word activities. You may, for example, try your own variation of Word Game: at a specific day of each week, a different person brings a new word to the meal. The person reads the word, defines it, and the others must come up with a sentence using the word.
If you do not have time or do not want to engage in group activities, there are numerous options of word games in the Internet. You can either play them when you’re bored, or integrate them in your daily routine, such as playing a quick game after lunch, for example. Consider the following recommendations:
Merriam Webster’s Daily Word Game; Merriam Webster’s Daily Crossword; Word Games on Yahoo! Games.
9. Take advantage of every resource you can
The Internet is a gold mine of resources for vocabulary building. There are plenty of vocabulary applications you can try. There are also many vocabulary- related books you can explore. The point is that you’re only limited by your willingness to learn; let curiosity be your guide and you will never run out of resources to learn from.
Do something different from your daily routine: hunting, fishing or blogging – any activity that is not a part of your normal life can become a great way to learn new words, as every niche has its own jargon and unique ways of communicating. Read different books and magazines than the ones you are used to. Watch foreign-language movies. Take up new hobbies, hang out with different people.
By doing things out of the ordinary you will not only improve your vocabulary but also make your life much more interesting.
Forms of reading
Reading can be done either aloud or silently. News readers, for example, read aloud. Students read silently when they are in the library.
a. Reading aloud
Reading aloud is one of the most important things that children can engage in. This is because reading loud builds many important foundational skills, introduces vocabulary, provides a model of fluent, expressive reading, and helps children recognize what reading for pleasure is all about.
We read aloud when we want others to hear what we read. What we read in this case can be the news, a letter, a story, minutes of a meeting or a speech.
b. Silent reading
When we read silently we get a better understanding of what we read. Also, we are able to form mental pictures of the ideas and events presented in the text.
• Provide a picture of a student reading in a library.
Reasons why we read
There are three main reasons why people read. We read:
1. For information. For example, we read our English textbook for information on verbs. We may also read information from our tablets or computers on the internet.
2. For pleasure. For example, we read story books to entertain ourselves.
3. To learn to use a language effectively. For example, we read our English textbooks to learn idioms, figures of speech and new vocabulary.
Benefits of reading
Let us now look at some of the specific reasons why you are encouraged to read. When you read:
1. You learn new words. You see the same word again and again and the different ways in which it is used.
2. You learn appropriate expressions in the language.
3. You become familiar with the rhythm of English. Over time, it will start to feel natural and you will notice when a sentence or phrase does not sound right.
4. You improve on your other language skills.
5. You develop a good way to learn to spell words.
6. You improve your pronunciation skills as you listen to yourself reading.
Reading is a complex activity in which the reader works to make sense of a text, not just from the words and sentences on the page, but also from ideas, memories and knowledge evoked by those words and sentences. Therefore, we can conclude on the following:
1. Reading is an interaction between the text and the reader
2. Reading involves making meaning out of the text we read.
3. We read for information, get additional knowledge and also for pleasure.
4. Reading helps develop the language skills.
William Foli Garr, (Rev.) M.Phil.
Prosper Kwesi Agordjor, M.Phil.
John Tetteh Agor, Ph.D.
Modestus Fosu, Ph.D.