Written by Jamie, Adventurous Tutor & Pursuer of Grand Experiences! for Enhanced Prep
Reading is an inevitable part of every student’s journey. It’s a critical component of most traditional English classes and a necessary skill in other studies. Reading also appears on most standardized tests in some capacity, especially the PSAT, SAT, and ACT. But what exactly is reading, and why do we engage in it during some of the most critical years of our lives?
Any discussion of reading begins with defining the term language.
Language is a system of symbolic communication of vocal and written signs. It’s a crucial signifying practice in and through which the human subject becomes a social being. The act of reading involves the written aspect of language, but it often entails so much more than just taking in words on a page!
The written word in all of its forms is one of the most important avenues by which we view and understand the world around us. Whether the text is fiction or nonfiction, comprehending the meaning of the words and how they create a story helps us form our individual worldviews.
For example, as a reader, you can both bolster your knowledge of a particular subject and experience the world through the lens of others, including intrepid explorers, fictional characters, and great leaders. In this sense, reading allows us to develop both a cognitive part of our brain (learning about a certain subject) in conjunction with imagination (placing yourself in another person’s or character’s shoes). This can serve to cultivate empathy for those around us and also give us, quite basically, a sense of human understanding. Barack Obama once said the following about reading: “[Reading introduced me to] the power of words as a way to figure out who you are and what you think, and what you believe, and what’s important, and to sort through and interpret this swirl of events that is happening around you every minute.”
Reading enables anyone to visit the pyramids of ancient Egypt, fly beyond the galaxy, and visit alien life forms throughout the universe. Yet it also compels us to think, to imagine, to question, and, most importantly, to learn–about yourself! While English teachers aren’t necessarily urging their students to build their identities through the books they read, certain texts can serve as means of understanding one’s place in the universe.
True, the reading sections on the ACT and SAT may have a very different purpose. Standardized tests are more interested in a student’s ability to identify critical details, understand main ideas, and make logical inferences. Yet these skills are simply the foundation for experiencing what many of us here at Enhanced Prep call the “magic” of reading–it’s ability to influence who you are at the most fundamental level.
So, the next time you have to pick up a book for English class, take a pause. How might it change your world, even in the smallest way? It’s a question very much worth asking!