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Some of the various purposes for reading include: How you read should be determined in part by what you read.
In this and the next few articles we focus on some of the fundamentals of close reading.
We explain what it means to think through a text using theory of close reading at the core of the reading process.
Core or primary ideas are the key to every system of knowledge. They are the key to retaining what we learn for lifelong use.
We should relate the core ideas we learn within one discipline to core ideas in other systems of knowledge, for knowledge exists not only in a system but also in relation to all other systems of knowledge.
Few are able to accurately mirror the meaning the author intended. They unintentionally distort or violate the original meaning of authors they read.
As Horace Mann put it in 1838:"I have devoted especial pains to learn, with some degree of numerical accuracy, how far the reading, in our schools, is an exercise of the mind in thinking and feeling and how far it is a barren action of the organs of speech upon the atmosphere.Learning to think within one system of knowledge helps us learn to think within other systems.For example, if in studying botany, we learn that all plants have cells, we should connect this idea to the fact that all animals have cells (which we learned in studying biology).To read well requires one to develop one’s thinking about reading and, as a result, to learn how to engage in the process of what we call close reading.Students not only need to learn how to determine whether a text is worth reading, but also how to take ownership of a text’s important ideas (when it contains them).My information is derived principally from the written statements of the school committees of the respective towns — gentlemen who are certainly exempt from all temptation to disparage the schools they superintend.The result is that more than 11/12ths of all the children in the reading classes do not understand the meanings of the words they read; and that the ideas and feelings intended by the author to be conveyed to and excited in, the reader’s mind, still rest in the author’s intention, never having yet reached the place of their destination." (Second Report to the Massachusetts Board of Education, 1838) In general, then, we read to figure out what authors mean.This requires the active use of intellectual skills.It requires command of the theory of close reading as well as guided practice based on that theory.To do this, we must learn how to read books for their core ideas and for their system-defining function.Mastering any set of foundational ideas makes it easier to learn other foundational ideas.