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“Loving to read as a strategist”. Episode 9. What is to read.

Today´s composition is about how to define reading, from the point of view of a corporate strategist. Let´s start.

Il etait un fois”. An exercise watercolor 7 x 5 inches.
Paper Fabriano Traditional White 300GSM, Painted with Holbein pigments. Photo source inspiration:

Popular definitions of reading.
From the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to read means to “receive or take in the sense of (letters, symbols, etc.), especially by sight or touch or to learn from what one has seen or found in writing or printing” (1). Invariably, then, if we google the term “what is reading”, the first definition that comes up from the Google web search algorithm is “Reading is a multifaceted process involving word recognition, comprehension, fluency, and motivation” (2). If we scroll a bit down below our Google search screen, then we will find the following definition of reading: “Reading is defined as a cognitive process that involves decoding symbols to arrive at meaning, it is an active process of constructing meanings of words… Reading is a thinking process. It allows the reader to use what he or she may already know, also called prior knowledge. During this processing of information, the reader uses strategies to understand what they are reading, uses themes to organize ideas, and uses textual clues to find the meanings of new words” (3). And finally, if you still give a benefit of doubt to Wikipedia, you will find the first repeated definition plus some other elements: “Reading is the process of taking in the sense or meaning of letters, symbols, etc., especially by sight or touch. For educators and researchers, reading is a multifaceted process involving such areas as word recognition, orthography (spelling), alphabetic, phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, and motivation” (4). This last definition of reading in Wikipedia includes an agglutination of 4 dictionaries: Merriam-Webster, Oxford, Cambridge, and Collins English Dictionary. 

Do you think that these popular definitions of reading are enough for our analysis? I do hope by now, you’re convinced that our answer is no. Because the simplest definition that we can find in any dictionary, or by scrolling in Google is not how we have taught you to define terms. It is just the beginning. Looking for definitions in the dictionary gives you a glimpse or an indication of what might be our first approximation. It is just our starting point, but it is never our last word. So let´s continue a step further.

Towards an integral definition of reading.
Let´s initiate today´s journey towards a definition of “reading” by following the latter self-explanatory slides that define “reading” in such different manners than what we get on the wild Internet. Whatever we find on the Internet is like the pre-literate level when it comes to valid academic research. It is the vox-populi or popular versions of whatever topic you wish to investigate. Then once we read real textbooks, academic blogs, or academic papers from people who hold careers in the discipline of the subject, we also need to discern who is behind the paper or the blog. Who holds a career literacy of well-known trajectory (either as a self-taught or as a practitioner in the field). And even then, as with tweezers, we are required to explore well-grounded sources, worthy of our academic reading. I always deliberate with myself on how to find sources of reference which could be at least knowledgeable and proficient enough. The references that I have used to write the meaning of reading in this chapter, are at least coming from reading-literacy specialists, and I do hope you can learn as much as I have enjoyed including them today.  I do believe these definitions of reading are enormously appreciated. Please remember I am not a reading specialist. And I don´t belong to any reading nation commission either, which all countries must have, in an obligatory way. I am just a corporate strategist and state-of-the-art theorist. So, we need to filter, discern, choose, and rely on the reading experts’ views to figure out how are we going to compose our own definition of “reading” at the end of this article.

Crucial elements to consider when defining what is to read.
Regardless of the last decade’s noise of digital reading literacy, we have gone to the traditional framework sources. Why? Because it doesn´t matter what digitalization can provide (in terms of flashy visual elements) if we do not have a good traditional reading concept. Many new pro-digital authors (as of the year 2000), have been writing papers, books, and academic blogs that uphold and support digital literacy, without even a minimum of consideration for the excellent traditional readers. With all my respect for their innovative domains, it is so obvious that digital reading is hurting our brains, and only those who have spent at least 25 years under digital reading pressure are able to say it with boldness and certainty. Because we feel it. We see it daily. We know it under our skin. So, our first crucial element to consider when defining what is to read is to dismiss those pro-digital reading sources of references. Our rationale is firm. It is strict. And we do not accept those promising discoveries, regardless of the decent will of the authors who have done those research experiments. Why? Because digital experimentation towards reading is so new (less than 25 years), in terms of a scientific perspective, this represents nothing in terms of our timing context. Whatever these researchers are observing and offering to us are simply the first experiments of at least several future centuries period for which we will then and only then find out if digital literacy is right or not.  After Gutenberg´s print-press discovery, the domain of reading began to take form as an object of research in our civilizations. And it took 530 years to arrive to the first Report of the Commission on Reading in 1985 in the USA. In consequence, it is irresponsible (I am talking as a corporate strategist) for me to offer any type of critical assessment or judgment about digital literacy (which is just in the gestation period at the moment).

A second element to consider when we want to define “reading” is linked to the first one: sticking my research to what we already know and comprehend (with causes and effects), and not to what still is uncertain. The third element in defining what is to read comes attached to our philosophy as corporate strategists: the multidimensional different components linked to each other when refining definitions with integrity, our philosophy of looking at the concept from different intellectual multidisciplinary workings that humans can do simultaneously (skills, abilities, capabilities, competencies, strategies, and many factors that affect or improve or lessen reading as literacy). And the fourth element is our brain. Reading is accomplished in our wisdom headquarters house, and our brain performs multiple activities at the same time, all interconnected in between; so that is why reading can´t be defined in isolation but considering at least the new developments in the field of neuropsychology and brain new developments in learning, before accepting to consider the madness of the digital literacy entrance into our lives.

Fake Reading vs. Real Reading.  Our content of slide number 6 shows a meaningful comparison of what is fake, a mockup paper flower and an authentic and genuine natural flower. David Heddendorf (5) shows us a contrast in his interpretation of why real reading refills and replenishes, in comparison to reading that isn’t reading.  His narrative captivated me, not just because I could relate to his thoughts as an author, but he shook my head, when he describes the contrast, with a nostalgic appraisal: we all have forgotten what real reading can be.

Reading is not a skill; it is a lifetime multidimensional set of competencies. When I was approaching the action of defining reading, my first critical reasoning, after reading so many authors was: I can´t believe that reading is a skill. It can´t be so simple. So I started to dig, to ask myself more questions, to go back in time to when I was a teenager, to the moment in which I was able to devour a 750 pages book in 8 non-stopping hours, and I enjoyed it with all my soul. I asked myself, what has changed in us, that we have lost reading as a source of joy? What has changed, Dear Lord that, even before the digital newspapers, none of us (myself included) weren´t reading newspapers?. And I landed into thinking that reading is a lifetime learning competence, it can´t be defined as a skill, because there are multiple skills intertwined that trigger us to read. Thereafter, in my quest to find answers to my questions above, I found humbly that Mark Sadoski (6), wrote a chapter about the fundamental competencies of reading, and that notion snapped everything to me. Reading is a non-ending set of competencies lived by experience (and practice) that requires from us special attention, to be pampered over time. If the digitalization of our learning is killing our desire to read, something is wrong. It can´t be adequate. Don´t you see it so clearly? Ask any of the avid readers or bookworms from Generation X who stopped literacy by turning off reading several years ago. Please.

A corporate strategist’s definition of reading. Please, visit slides 7 and 8 before continuing to read our definition of reading. I have added new elements to what Mark Sadoski (6) has written. So let´s proceed:
“To read is a continuum of three fundamental competencies: decoding, comprehension, and response that are fueled and/or affected or impacted by other inherent skills, attitudes, emotions, values, cultural practices, motivations, strategies, and contexts”. All these components are integrated in-between them (as a net) because of the existence of the language. In addition, slide 9 offers us a mirror of matching and harmonizing consistency with other authors who include the characteristics of good reading: “Reading (Literacy) is a constructive, integrative, and critical process situated in social practices. It can be fluent as it is shaped by language processes and contexts. It is strategic and disciplinary. It entails motivation and engagement, and it is a continuously developing set of practices”(7).

Different levels of Reading. We have added a view from William Powell about the levels of literacy (9). A very interesting opinion of the distinguishable levels of reading. See slide number 11. Nevertheless, be certain that we will visit several categorizations about the kinds of reading later. For us, real reading should be careful and profound, otherwise, we land into fake reading or browsing or scanning or skimming or scrolling, but we aren´t reading.

We will stop here. The next installment will be episode number 10: “How do we learn to read”.

Learning to read is to learn to writeIllustrative and non-commercial image.

Strategic Music Section.

Music Reading chill-outs

A good reader usually has been blessed with a good reading instructor. Why aren´t good reading instructors nowadays? Is it a lack of curiosity or not? Are digital tools killing curiosity in teachers too? The action of reading well is an active process of “constructive meaning”, “creative thinking”, “curiosity”, “investigation mindset”, “monitoring by test-error”, “explorative joy” and “critical reasoning”.  We have already diagnosed what is the meaning of constructive meaning and creative thinking.  Today we will explore the distinguishing quality of an excellent reading instructor: curiosity. To be curious means to ask ourselves tons of questions and search for answers.

How many times do we have teachers that punish students for asking questions? By killing the inquisitiveness of wondering, teachers are also destroying the cycle of the reading continuum: Decode-Comprehension-Response. That is why a good teacher that has comprehended that good reading is the pivotal and ultimate cornerstone of learning, is demanded to spur the reading set of competencies with curiosity. “This stimulation requires more than instruction and training, or specific habits or strategies. It comes by drill lessons and practice” (8). If we can use classical relaxing music to help us to go back to reading. Let´s use it, please.

Today´s music is played by Yo-Yoma.

The album: Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone (Full Album). A collection of cello music that we hope you can enjoy vastly.

See you next Friday 14th of October, with the tenth episode of the saga “Loving to read as a strategist: how do we learn to read”. Thank you for reading to me.

“Loving to Read as a Strategist”. Illustrative and non-commercial image. Giphy source from Nazaret Escobedo

Sources of reference are utilized today. All the references are included in each of the slides, otherwise, it is my own cognition production.







7. Frankel, K.; Becker, B.; Rowe, M.; Pearson, D. “From What is reading to what is literacy?”. The Journal of Education. Vol. 196. No. 3. 2016. pp 7-17

8. Zirbes, L.; “Spurs to Reading Competence”. The Reading Teacher. Vol. 15. no. 1. 1961. pp.14-18

9. Powell, W. ” Levels of Literacy”. The Journal of Reading. Mar. 1977. Vol 20. No. 6. pp.488-492

Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY. Nevertheless, most of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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