“Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.”
– Sir Francis Bacon in his essay, On Reading
Reading of all kinds of text most definitely encourages one to be ready for everything. Successful people have always drawn their best learnings in life and profession from deep reading of books. Their collections included fiction to serious non-fiction which deals with human nature and psychology as much as environment and topics of future developments.
The key words are deep reading and critical books. What is deep reading? It is the not same as reading for academic performance or reading for information through skimming or scanning. There are many ways of reading and many books to read. Even story books help the readers fire imagination and lead to developing a critical mind, leading us to develop deep thinking through deep reading. So, what matters is choosing a book that interests and influences oneself to develop leadership skills for 21st century like self-directedness, passion and perseverance, excellence, grit, resilience, growth mindset, critical thinking, problem solving, and risk-taking.
There are different kinds of readers ranging from light readers to voracious readers and from slow readers to quick readers. There are readers who read and forget and then there are those who read and annotate and apply their learnings in their life. Bacon says, “some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” Deep reading is not mere reading and making notes but identifying the key concepts from your readings and applying meaningfully in one’s own context.
If reading is so beneficial to all and especially beneficial to teachers, how does one develop this habit? How does one identify the right book? How does one develop the skill of reading?
How does one become a Deep Reader?
If you have set the goal of developing yourself through deep reading, begin with blocking a quiet time for reading every day and pick a book that interests you or is recommended to you by another ‘reader’ or if it matches with your life goal. Identifying a easy read book like Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach to begin with. Such a reading does not require summarizing as the language is simple and easy to understand. Write a quick reflection at the end of the reading to the question – what is the bigger idea or message that the author is trying to communicate? What can I learn from this book? How can I use the key ideas from this book in my life? These questions can trigger a thought process for deep understanding of the concepts underlying the surface level meaning. A repeat of the reading is suggested for finding more answers and more questions that trigger changes in thinking and introspection.
And then, the rigour can be further developed for a thriving life with deep reading, deep thinking and contemplation.