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How We Read is Far More Significant than What We Read

All Reading is Not Equal: 

First of all, we must come to some sort of agreement regarding our definition(s) of ‘reading.’ School does not have the monopoly on reading, despite the general consensus that imposes the idea that school is responsible for teaching reading. In fact, much of school reading practice(s) go against the reading we do on our own time, the kind of reading every parent wants for their child, every community wants for their citizenry. 

The introspective kind of reading that creates us from the inside out must come before the analysis type of reading that high school teachers wish for their students, but ‘school’ reading actually hinders introspection with its emphasis on the teacher’s right and wrong answers rather than ‘justifying’ their answers which is a higher level concept. This low-level reading renders most children uninterested in reading, unmotivated to learn through reading, and actively avoidant of any reading beyond ‘survival’ reading. In fact, when we teach ‘survival’ reading for 9 years and then the high school teacher begs his students to ‘analyze’ we are literally setting our children up for failure. Imagine eating chicken nuggets and grilled cheese sandwiches with Velveeta cheese and 99 cent bread your entire life and then tested on the intricacies of lobster bisque with sourdough bread and Swedish butter or bourbon braised lamb shanks with winter fruits or coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon…you get my point.

Let’s define our idea of reading so we can be more purposeful in our schools as well as our homes, because let’s face it, our parents went to the same schools our present day students attend and the teachers went there too and we all do not agree on what ‘reading’ is. So, for the sake of discussion, we’re going to narrow it all down. 

4 Levels of Reading

  1. Pre-survival

  2. Survival

  3. Introspective 

  4. Transformative

Level 1: Pre-survival 

In this state, the person does NOT possess the ability to navigate the literacy of their life/school/job in such way that helps them to maintain their status for their age (e.g. they cannot ‘read’ like the average child their age, they are not ‘passing’ their classes, they cannot do the assigned work, they cannot read the labels, instructions, the manual in order to perform the task, etc.).

Level 2: Survival

In this state, the person possesses the ability to navigate the literacy of their life/school/job in such way that helps them to maintain their status for their age (ie, they can ‘read’ like the average child their age, they are ‘passing’ their classes, they can do the assigned work, they can read the labels, instructions, the manual in order to perform the task, etc.). Someone on this level can answer questions based on text. These people ‘read’ for enjoyment and to confirm their thoughts. They can maintain story lines, understand plot structures, identify themes, and connect dots, and they may have an advanced degree.

Level 3: Introspective

In this state, the person thinks deeply about what they’ve read, they question the author, they question their previous knowledge, they seek to learn new information and wrestle these new thoughts with their previous thoughts. These readers have agency when they read, they want to learn new vocabulary, they want to ‘think’ and ‘feel,’ and they definitely, definitely change their minds. Ultimately, these people challenge their own thoughts.

Level 4: Transformative 

In this state, these readers seek books in order to create themselves. They seek a variety of text and read for the desire of transformation. They know the world of books is unlimited and they seek unlimited knowledge in order to fill their mind, their heart and soul as much as humanly possible in the time they have available. 


Let’s Back Up a Bit

A few months ago I wrote an article about the revelation that Maslow never put his hierarchy into a pyramid. For 70 years, teacher colleges have used this post-Maslow pyramid with ‘physiological’ as the base which communicates a deficit mindset modus operandi for teachers regarding the marginalized students they serve. To tap into millions of teachers’ compassion by stating a child must have these needs met BEFORE teaching them, made it so many teachers have lowered the academic bar for these same children they claim to be helping. 

But that’s only part of the problem. 

Another aspect that continues to disrupt the literacy of our ‘pre-survival’ students is the ‘intervention’ methods made to help them. A pre-survival reading problem cannot be treated with the same pre-survival energy. We do not treat road rash by rubbing the wound roughly with alcohol, we do not treat an under-watered tree by over watering. 

Sigh. 

As the queen, Maya Angelou said, “When we know better, we must do better.”


Moving Forward in 2024

How we implement the literacy method is more important than which method we implement.  That being said, Books Save Lives incorporates HOW we implement our VISCERAL Method while implementing our VISCERAL Method. 

Let me explain. 

Take, for instance, any text: the Bible, the Quran, the Torah, Where the Wild Things Are, Wuthering Heights, the Color Purple, etc. 

  1. If we point to any text from any of those books and we focus our attention on letters and sounds then that’s where our understanding lies: Letters and sounds.

  2. If we point to any text from any of those books and we focus our attention on specific words, phrases, passages, and what they ‘mean’ then that’s where our understanding lies: Words, phrases, passages have specific meanings.

  3. If we point to any text from any of those books and we focus our attention on specific words, phrases and passages and we suggest that these words and phrases and passages have meaning, but that we cannot be 100% sure what that meaning is, but attempting to understand the meaning the author intended while simultaneously determining what those words, phrases and passages mean to us then that is where our understanding lies: What we think is important and what others think is important too and this gives us perspective. 

  4. If we point to any text from any of those books and we focus our attention on specific words, phrases and passages and we suggest that these words and phrases and passages have meaning far beyond as well as subliminally in between what the author intended and if we look closely and carefully we too may see beyond the written words then that is where our understanding lies: We need to look deeply within ourselves to find hidden, deeper meaning. 


Want to know more? What to learn how to create readers where you work? In your home? In your community? Reach out. We can help. #BooksSaveLives 

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