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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.Our reading is further influenced by our purpose for reading and by the nature of the text itself.
The primary ideas, at the core, explain the secondary and peripheral ideas.
Whenever we read to acquire knowledge, we should take ownership, first, of the primary ideas, for they are a key to understanding all of the other ideas.
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).
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.We may simply enjoy the ideas that the text stimulates in us.This is fine as long as we know that we do not deeply understand the text.Some of the various purposes for reading include: How you read should be determined in part by what you read.Reflective readers read a textbook, for example, using a different mindset than they use when reading an article in a newspaper.Thus, when we understand core historical ideas, we can begin to think historically.When we understand core scientific ideas, we can begin to think scientifically.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.All knowledge exists in “systems” of meanings, with interrelated primary ideas, secondary ideas, and peripheral ideas.Imagine a series of circles beginning with a small core circle of primary ideas, surrounded by concentric circles of secondary ideas, moving outward to an outer circle of peripheral ideas.