• Importance Of Reading Essay

Importance of Reading Essay

500+ words essay on reading.

Reading is a key to learning. It’s a skill that everyone should develop in their life. The ability to read enables us to discover new facts and opens the door to a new world of ideas, stories and opportunities. We can gather ample information and use it in the right direction to perform various tasks in our life. The habit of reading also increases our knowledge and makes us more intellectual and sensible. With the help of this essay on the Importance of Reading, we will help you know the benefits of reading and its various advantages in our life. Students must go through this essay in detail, as it will help them to create their own essay based on this topic.

Importance of Reading

Reading is one of the best hobbies that one can have. It’s fun to read different types of books. By reading the books, we get to know the people of different areas around the world, different cultures, traditions and much more. There is so much to explore by reading different books. They are the abundance of knowledge and are best friends of human beings. We get to know about every field and area by reading books related to it. There are various types of books available in the market, such as science and technology books, fictitious books, cultural books, historical events and wars related books etc. Also, there are many magazines and novels which people can read anytime and anywhere while travelling to utilise their time effectively.

Benefits of Reading for Students

Reading plays an important role in academics and has an impactful influence on learning. Researchers have highlighted the value of developing reading skills and the benefits of reading to children at an early age. Children who cannot read well at the end of primary school are less likely to succeed in secondary school and, in adulthood, are likely to earn less than their peers. Therefore, the focus is given to encouraging students to develop reading habits.

Reading is an indispensable skill. It is fundamentally interrelated to the process of education and to students achieving educational success. Reading helps students to learn how to use language to make sense of words. It improves their vocabulary, information-processing skills and comprehension. Discussions generated by reading in the classroom can be used to encourage students to construct meanings and connect ideas and experiences across texts. They can use their knowledge to clear their doubts and understand the topic in a better way. The development of good reading habits and skills improves students’ ability to write.

In today’s world of the modern age and digital era, people can easily access resources online for reading. The online books and availability of ebooks in the form of pdf have made reading much easier. So, everyone should build this habit of reading and devote at least 30 minutes daily. If someone is a beginner, then they can start reading the books based on the area of their interest. By doing so, they will gradually build up a habit of reading and start enjoying it.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Importance of Reading Essay

What is the importance of reading.

1. Improves general knowledge 2. Expands attention span/vocabulary 3. Helps in focusing better 4. Enhances language proficiency

What is the power of reading?

1. Develop inference 2. Improves comprehension skills 3. Cohesive learning 4. Broadens knowledge of various topics

How can reading change a student’s life?

1. Empathy towards others 2. Acquisition of qualities like kindness, courtesy

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Reading is Good Habit for Students and Children

 500+ words essay on reading is good habit.

Reading is a very good habit that one needs to develop in life. Good books can inform you, enlighten you and lead you in the right direction. There is no better companion than a good book. Reading is important because it is good for your overall well-being. Once you start reading, you experience a whole new world. When you start loving the habit of reading you eventually get addicted to it. Reading develops language skills and vocabulary. Reading books is also a way to relax and reduce stress. It is important to read a good book at least for a few minutes each day to stretch the brain muscles for healthy functioning.

reading is good habit

Benefits of Reading

Books really are your best friends as you can rely on them when you are bored, upset, depressed, lonely or annoyed. They will accompany you anytime you want them and enhance your mood. They share with you information and knowledge any time you need. Good books always guide you to the correct path in life. Following are the benefits of reading –

Self Improvement: Reading helps you develop positive thinking. Reading is important because it develops your mind and gives you excessive knowledge and lessons of life. It helps you understand the world around you better. It keeps your mind active and enhances your creative ability.

Communication Skills: Reading improves your vocabulary and develops your communication skills. It helps you learn how to use your language creatively. Not only does it improve your communication but it also makes you a better writer. Good communication is important in every aspect of life.

Get the huge list of more than 500 Essay Topics and Ideas

Increases Knowledge: Books enable you to have a glimpse into cultures, traditions, arts, history, geography, health, psychology and several other subjects and aspects of life. You get an amazing amount of knowledge and information from books.

Reduces Stress: Reading a good book takes you in a new world and helps you relieve your day to day stress. It has several positive effects on your mind, body, and soul. It stimulates your brain muscles and keeps your brain healthy and strong.

Great Pleasure: When I read a book, I read it for pleasure. I just indulge myself in reading and experience a whole new world. Once I start reading a book I get so captivated I never want to leave it until I finish. It always gives a lot of pleasure to read a good book and cherish it for a lifetime.

Boosts your Imagination and Creativity: Reading takes you to the world of imagination and enhances your creativity. Reading helps you explore life from different perspectives. While you read books you are building new and creative thoughts, images and opinions in your mind. It makes you think creatively, fantasize and use your imagination.

Develops your Analytical Skills: By active reading, you explore several aspects of life. It involves questioning what you read. It helps you develop your thoughts and express your opinions. New ideas and thoughts pop up in your mind by active reading. It stimulates and develops your brain and gives you a new perspective.

Reduces Boredom: Journeys for long hours or a long vacation from work can be pretty boring in spite of all the social sites. Books come in handy and release you from boredom.

Read Different Stages of Reading here.

The habit of reading is one of the best qualities that a person can possess. Books are known to be your best friend for a reason. So it is very important to develop a good reading habit. We must all read on a daily basis for at least 30 minutes to enjoy the sweet fruits of reading. It is a great pleasure to sit in a quiet place and enjoy reading. Reading a good book is the most enjoyable experience one can have.

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Why is Reading Important for Your Growth?

Updated: November 22, 2022

Published: September 8, 2019

Why Read copy

Want to escape without traveling anywhere? Looking to learn about a specific subject? Interested in knowing what it was like to live in the past? Reading can provide all of this and more for you! For anyone who wonders, “why is reading important?” we’re here to share the many reasons.

Yet, there are also some people who read because they are told they must for school. If you fit into that last categorization, then it may be useful to understand the many benefits of reading, which we will uncover here. We’ll also share why people read and what makes it so important.

Now all you have to do is….keep reading!

reading is useful essay

The Many Benefits of Reading

Beyond reading, because you have to, the importance of reading cannot go unnoticed. Reading is of great value because it provides the means by which you get to:

Strengthens Brain Activity

Reading gets your mind working across different areas. For starters, it involves comprehension to process the words you read. Beyond that, you can use your analytical abilities, stimulate memories, and even broaden your imagination by reading words off a page.

Reading is a neurobiological process that works out your brain muscles. As you do so, you can help to slow down cognitive decline and even decrease the rate at which memory fades. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have even found that reading reduces the level of beta-amyloid, which is a protein in the brain that is connected to Alzheimer’s. Who knew that reading could have physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits?

Boosts communication skills

Both reading and writing work to improve one’s communication skills. That’s why if you’re looking to become a better writer, many of the suggestions that you come across will include reading more. Reading can open your eyes, literally and figuratively, to new words. Try this next time you read: if you come across any words you read that you don’t know, take a moment to look them up and write them down. Then, remember to use your new words in your speech so you don’t forget them!

Helps Self-Exploration

Books can be both an escape and an adventure. When you are reading, you have the opportunity to think about things in new ways, learn about cultures, events, and people you may have never otherwise heard of, and can adopt methods of thinking that help to reshape or enhance your identity. For example, you might read a mystery novel and learn that you have a knack and interest in solving cases and paying attention to clues.

Makes One Intellectually Sound

When you read a lot, you undoubtedly learn a lot. The more you read, you can make it to the level of being considered “well-read.” This tends to mean that you know a little (or a lot) about a lot. Having a diverse set of knowledge will make you a more engaging conversationalist and can empower you to speak to more people from different backgrounds and experiences because you can connect based on shared information. Some people may argue that “ignorance is bliss,” but the truth is “knowledge is power.” And, the more you read, the more you get to know! That’s why you can bet that any educational degree you choose to obtain will involve some forms of reading (yes, even math and computer science) .

It’s no wonder why you may see people reading by the pool, on the beach, or even on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Reading is a form of entertainment that can take you to fictional worlds or past points in time.

Imparts Good Values

Reading can teach values. Whether you read from a religious text or secular text, you can learn and teach the difference between right and wrong and explore various cultural perspectives and ways of life.

Enhances creativity

Reading has the potential to boost your levels of creativity. Whether you read about a specific craft or skill to boost it or you are reading randomly for fun, the words could spark new ideas or images in your mind. You may also start to find connections between seemingly disparate things, which can make for even more creative outputs and expressions.

Lowers Stress

If you don’t think that strengthening your brain is enough of a benefit, there’s even more good news. Reading has also been proven to lower stress as it increases relaxation. When the brain is fully focused on a single task, like reading, the reader gets to benefit from meditative qualities that reduce stress levels. 

reading is useful essay

A Look at the Most Popular Books

As we celebrate World Book Day, take a look at some of the most popular books of all time. These should give you an idea of what book to pick up next time you’re at a library, in a bookstore, or ordering your next read online.

  • The Harry Potter Series
  • The Little Prince
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • The Da Vinci Code 
  • The Alchemist 

The Gift of Reading

Whether you had to work hard to learn to read or it came naturally, reading can be considered both a gift and a privilege. In fact, we can even bet that you read something every single day ( this blog, for instance), even if it’s not a book. From text messages to signs, emails to business documents, and everything in between, it’s hard to escape the need to read.

Reading opens up doors to new worlds, provides entertainment, boosts the imagination, and has positive neurological and psychological benefits. So, if anyone ever asks or you stop to think, “why is reading important” you’re now well-read on the subject to provide a detailed response and share your own purpose of reading!

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📖Essay on Importance of Reading: Samples in 100, 150, and 250 Words

reading is useful essay

  • Updated on  
  • Apr 26, 2024

Essay on Importance of Education

Language learning requires four skills i.e. Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. It is an important part that eventually builds up the communication skills of a person. Reading will help in attaining knowledge of variable fields. It enhances the intellect of a person. Reading helps students to enhance their language fluency. Students must adopt the habit of reading good books. Reading books can also improve the writing skills. If you are a school student and searching for a good sample essay on the importance of reading then, you landed at the right place. Here in this blog, we have covered some sample essays on the importance of reading!

Table of Contents

  • 1 Essay on the Importance of Reading in 100 Words
  • 2 Essay on Importance of Reading 150 Words
  • 3 Essay on Importance of Reading 250 Words
  • 4 Short Essay on Importance of Reading

Essay on the Importance of Reading in 100 Words

The English language is considered the global language because it is the most widely spoken language worldwide. Reading is one of the important parts of acquiring complete knowledge of any language. Reading helps in maintaining a good vocabulary that is helpful for every field, whether in school, interviews , competitive exams , or jobs. 

Students must inculcate the habit of reading from a young age. Making a habit of reading good books will eventually convert into an addiction over time and you will surely explore a whole new world of information.

Being exposed to different topics through reading can help you look at the wider perspective of life. You will eventually discover a creative side of yours while developing the habit of reading.

Also Read: Essay on Gaganyaan

Essay on Importance of Reading 150 Words

Reading is considered an important aspect that contributes to the development of the overall personality of any person. If a person wants to do good at a professional level then he/she must practice reading.

There are various advantages of reading. It is not only a source of entertainment but also opens up the creative ability of any person. Reading helps in self-improvement, enhances communication skills, and reduces stress. It is one of the sources of pleasure and also enhances the analytical skills. 

Here are some of the best books to study that may help you enhance your reading skills:

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling .
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee .
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri .
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • The Great Gatsby

A person with good reading skills would be able to communicate with more confidence and shine brighter at the professional level. Reading is a mental exercise, as it can provide you with the best experience because while reading fiction, or non-fiction you use your imagination without any restrictions thereby exploring a whole new world on your own. So, Just Enjoy Reading!

Also Read: Communication Skills to Succeed at Work

Essay on Importance of Reading 250 Words

Reading is a language skill necessary to present yourself in front of others because without being a good reader, it’s difficult to be a good communicator. Reading books should be practised regularly. Books are considered a human’s best friend.

It is right to say that knowledge can’t be stolen. Reading enhances the knowledge of a person. There are numerous benefits of reading.

I love reading books and one of my all-time favorite authors is William Shakespeare. His work “As You Like It” is my favourite book. By reading that book I came across many new words. It enabled me to add many words to my vocabulary that I can use in my life.

Apart from this, there are many other benefits of reading books such as reading can help you write in a certain way that can impress the reader. It also enhances communication skills and serves as a source of entertainment . 

Schools conduct various competitions which directly or indirectly involve reading. Some such competitions include debate, essay writing competitions, elocution, new reading in assembly, etc. All such activities require active reading because without reading a person might not be able to speak on a specific topic.

All such activities are conducted to polish the language skills of students from the very beginning so that they can do good at a professional level.

In conclusion, in a world of technological advancement, you are more likely to get easy access to online reading material available on the internet. So, you must not miss this opportunity and devote some time to reading different kinds of books. 

Also Read: SAT Reading Tips

Short Essay on Importance of Reading

Find a sample of a short essay on importance of reading below:

Also Read: Essay on Social Issues

Reading is a good habit; It helps to improve communication skills; Good books whether fiction or non-fiction widen your imagination skills; You can experience a whole new world while reading; It helps you establish your professional personality; Reading skills help you interact with other people at a personal and professional level; Improves vocabulary; Reading novels is considered a great source of entertainment; It helps you acquire excessive knowledge of different fields; Reading is motivational and a great mental exercise.

Reading is important to build the overall personality of a person. It establishes a sense of professionalism and improves the vocabulary. Adapting a habit of reading books will help in expanding your knowledge and creativity.

Here are some of the best books for students to read: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; The Alchemist, The 5 AM Club, Rich Dad Poor Dad, etc.

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Essay About Reading

Reading is a crucial activity since it sharpens your mind and provides you with a wealth of information and life lessons. It improves your understanding of the environment around you. It keeps your brain engaged and nurtures creativity. Here are a few sample essays on the topic ‘reading’.

  • 100 Words Essay On Reading

Reading for pleasure is one of the simplest and most underrated forms of relaxation. It's a way to take a break from the world and lose yourself in another place, without ever having to leave your home. It's not just a mental escape. Reading can also be incredibly soothing for the body. When we read, our heart rate and blood pressure drop, and we actually experience a decrease in stress hormones. For me, reading is a way to recharge myself. I love losing myself in a good book, especially when I need some downtime. It's my favourite way to relax, and it never fails to help me unwind after a long day.

200 Words Essay On Reading

500 words essay on reading.

Essay About Reading

Reading has been a part of human existence since the beginning of time. It's one of the simplest and most natural ways to learn, and it's no wonder that so many people consider reading to be one of the most important things they can do. Reading offers a way to learn about the world and expand your horizons in a way that's both comfortable and safe. It's a great way to gain new perspectives without having to risk anything or make any compromises.

Benefits of Reading

There are many benefits of reading. For one, it can help improve your vocabulary. When you read, you're exposed to new words and different ways of using them. This can help you become a more articulate speaker and writer.

Reading also helps you learn about new topics and explore different points of view. You might not agree with everything you read, but that's okay. Reading allows you to consider arguments and opinions that differ from your own, and that can make you a more well-rounded thinker.

And finally, reading is just plain enjoyable. It's a great way to relax and escape from the world for a while. Whether you're reading fiction or nonfiction, biography or history, there's something for everyone in the world of books.

Though it seems like a simple enough activity, reading can actually offer a great deal of insight and understanding into different perspectives. When you read a book, you're not just absorbing the words on the page, you're also getting a glimpse into the mind of the author.

You can see the world through their eyes, and explore different cultures and lifestyles without ever having to leave your home. You can also gain an understanding of different issues and topics that you may not have otherwise been exposed to.

Different Ways To Read More

If you want to read more, there are some strategies you can use to help fit reading into your day. First, one of the most helpful things you can do is to set aside an hour each day for reading. This will help to ensure that you have time for reading consistently. You can also try making it a priority in your daily routine, such as doing it right before bed or right after you wake up in the morning.

Another helpful strategy is to find a book that piques your interest and keep it with you wherever you go. Having a book close by will make it easier for you to grab a few minutes to read here and there throughout your day. You could even try joining a local book club or starting one with friends if socialising while reading appeals to you.

Finally, try setting goals for yourself and challenge yourself by committing to reading more than you would normally think possible in a given period of time. Book clubs can be great for this too as they often have monthly challenges which can be motivating and fun!

Why It's Important To Read Regularly

Reading books is an important activity that can have many positive effects on one's life. First and foremost, reading has been proven to create more empathy in people. It is well known that those who read more books tend to be more empathetic, understanding others’ perspectives better. This means that reading can help not just our own personal growth, but also how we interact with other people, particularly strangers.

Not only this, but reading books can help us learn new skills and gain knowledge quickly. It is often said that knowledge is power, and reading can be a great source of both specialist knowledge as well as general knowledge about the world. Reading also helps us express ourselves better by teaching us new words and improving our grammar skills.

Overall, regular reading has multiple benefits for the individual reader and for society in general. As such it should be encouraged for all ages of the population, who can each get something valuable out of it.

It can be hard to find the time to read, but the benefits of reading are undeniable. Reading can help you learn new things, it can help you relax and de-stress, and it can even help improve your memory. So, if you're looking for a way to improve your life, start reading more books.

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  • Reading is a Good Habit Essay

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An Essay On Reading Is A Good Habit

Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing (L-S-R-W) are the four skills of language learning. These are the set of four capabilities that allow an individual to comprehend and use a spoken language for proper and effective interpersonal communication. Reading is considered as one of the best habits anyone can possess. Reading helps a great deal in building our confidence, reduces stress and puts us in a better mood. It also develops our imagination and provides us with a fortune of knowledge. It is rightly said that books are our best friend as reading helps build up our wisdom and thinking capabilities. By developing the habit of reading, one can gain confidence in learning any language. The interest in reading, like any other habit, comes with time. Once a person starts reading, it becomes a part of habit and he/she starts to explore a whole new world.

Reading good books has a plethora of advantages. The habit of reading broadens our horizons and helps us become a better person in life. It also helps in developing a fresh viewpoint of life. The more we read, the more we fall in love with reading. It helps to develop vocabulary and language abilities. Reading is also one of the best ways to reduce anxiety as it provides relaxation and recreation. A book puts us in a better mood and allows us to have a strong imagination. At the end of a hectic and stressful day, all we need is a good book to help us rejuvenate and momentarily escape from the realities of life. 

The habit of reading must be inculcated in children from a young age. Reading is a great habit from the learning point of view as it boosts the understanding of language, improves vocabulary, helps in improving speaking and writing skills, etc. While reading a book, the plot and its characters hover in our imagination. It is said that reading builds imagination power more than any other form of activity. Anyone who has good reading skills shows indication of higher intelligence as reading helps to broaden our wisdom and knowledge to a great extent. It not only boosts our confidence but personality too. 

One of the most beneficial habits one can have is reading. It expands your creativity and provides you with a wealth of information. Reading helps you create confidence and improve your attitude, thus books are your best friend or partner. When you start reading every day, you'll discover a whole new world of information.

When you make it a practice to read every day, you will become addicted to it. Reading can help you develop cognitively and offer you a fresh perspective on life. Good novels can have a great impact on people and lead you down the correct path in life. The more time you spend reading, the more you will fall in love with it. The more time you spend reading, the more you will fall in love with it. Reading can help you improve your vocabulary and linguistic skills. Reading can help you unwind and de-stress.

Reading boosts your creativity and gives you a greater grasp of life. Reading also encourages you to write, and if you do so, you will undoubtedly fall in love with the craft. If you want to create excellent habits in your life, reading should be at the top of your list because it is essential to a person's general growth and development.

Good books will always point you in the right direction. The following are some of the advantages of reading books:

Self-improvement: Reading can help you think more positively. Reading is important because it molds your thinking and provides you with a wealth of information and life lessons. Books will help you have a better understanding of the world around you from a new perspective. It keeps your mind active, healthy, and helps you be more creative.

Communication Skills: Reading increases your vocabulary, enhances your language skills, and improves your communication skills. It teaches you how to be more creative with your thoughts. It not only improves your communication skills, but it also helps you improve your writing skills. In every element of life, effective communication is essential.

Increases your Understanding: Books provide you a foundational understanding of civilizations, customs, the arts, history, geography, health, psychology, and a variety of other topics and elements of life. Books provide an unlimited amount of information and wisdom. 

Reduces Stress: Reading a good book transports you to another world and helps you escape the stresses of everyday life. There are a number of beneficial impacts on your mind, body, and soul that aid with stress relief. It keeps your mind healthy and powerful by stimulating your brain muscles to perform efficiently.

Great Pleasure: Anyone who reads a book for pleasure does so. They delight in reading and gain access to a whole new universe. When you begin reading a book, you will become so engrossed in it that you will not want to put it down until you have finished it.

Enhances your Imagination and Creativity: Reading enhances your imagination and creativity by transporting you to a realm of imagination and, in some ways, increasing your creativity. Reading allows you to examine life from several perspectives. You generate inventive and creative thoughts, visions, and opinions in your mind while reading books. It encourages you to think outside of the box, imagine, and use your imagination.

Enhances your Analytical Abilities: Active reading allows you to gain access to a variety of viewpoints on life. It aids in the analysis of your thoughts and the expression of your opinions. Active reading brings new ideas and thoughts to mind. It activates and alters your brain, allowing you to see things from a different perspective.

Boredom is Lessened: Despite all the other social activities, long-distance travel or a protracted vacation from work can be tedious. In such instances, books come in handy and keep you from being bored.

Reading books adds knowledge and plays a great role in education. Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, we get to learn a great deal from books. It exposes us to the outer world which helps acquire sensibility and understanding of different social subjects. It is therefore very important to develop a good reading habit. We should all read daily for at least 30 minutes to enjoy the wonderful beneficial perks of reading. It is a great happiness to live in a calm place and to enjoy the moments of reading. Reading a good and informative book is one of the most rejuvenating and enthusiastic experiences a person can have. 

One must inculcate the habit of reading. Reading is said to be a great mental exercise. Reading also helps us release boredom. Reading allows us to sleep better. Hence, we must develop the habit of reading books before bedtime. Even in this digital age where any information is just a click away, reading has its own charm. The benefits of reading are irreplaceable as the detailed knowledge it provides is unmatched to anything we read on the internet. Happy reading!

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FAQs on Reading is a Good Habit Essay

1. Why is the habit of reading so important?

Reading is important as it develops our thinking capacity and gives important life lessons. Reading molds our personality and makes us a better person. It also enhances our creativity and keeps our minds healthy and active. Reading improves communication and vocabulary skills. Whenever you try to speak in front of everyone, you are unable to speak proper English. This habit of speaking fluent English can only be corrected with the help of reading books regularly and speaking in English with your peers.

2. Why is the habit of reading declining?

The habit of reading is gradually declining. The advent of the internet is often described as the reason behind the changing habits of reading. Nowadays, most people go to the internet for information rather than reading books. The deterioration in reading habits can also lead to a decline in the world’s cultural development. Hence, people should give reading the importance it deserves. Accordingly, people are becoming lazier and not wanting to read as they find it a waste of time. The students nowadays find newspapers to be boring and they perceive mobile applications of new channels to be the ultimate source of news information.

3. What are the difficulties you will face if you don’t read?

If a student is unwilling to read and speak English or any other languages they intend to learn, then he or she will never be able to be creative and innovative in their approach to any other aspect of life. Reading opens up with the mind of the people and leads them to understand the concept of vocabulary and innovation. A lot of students struggle with their vocabulary and grammar. All of this is just done to help the students improve their speaking ability and experience. If you don't read then you won't be able to write good English literature answers in school as you won't be able to manage the content well.

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Benefits of Reading: Positive Impacts for All Ages Everyday

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  • May 26, 2023

Girl reading book on sofa

From apps to social media to Netflix to video games, there are so many ways to fill your free time that it can be hard to decide what to do. It’s also easy to overlook one of the most fulfilling and beneficial pastimes ever created. Let’s look at the main benefits of reading and how you can highlight them to your child.

What are the main benefits of reading books?

Benefits of reading before bed.

  • Benefits of reading to children

Benefits of reading out loud

Why is reading important.

  • Does listening to audiobooks have the same benefits?

What are the benefits of reading fiction?

What are the benefits of reading poetry, it’s a gym for your brain.

The act of reading is a remarkable mental feat and reading comprehension uses a lot of your brain power. When you’re thumbing through a novel you’re building a whole world of people, places and events in your mind and remembering it all as you follow the story. This gives your imagination and memory a thorough workout and strengthens networks in various other parts of your brain too. 💪

If you’re reading a non-fiction book you’re also getting an in-depth experience of a subject full of facts and details that you need to hold in your mind to follow the arguments of the writer. 

It’s well known that your memory improves with use as new memories are created and connected to older ones, making them stronger and easier to recall. Scientists have even found that the other parts of the brain activated by reading can continue to improve days after you’ve stopped reading, meaning even just a little bit of reading can go a long way. 

It improves your focus

From Insta stories to tweets to TikTok videos, information is being packaged into ever smaller chunks and researchers believe our attention spans are getting shorter. However, being able to concentrate on one thing for long periods and ignore distractions is essential for school and for work. Reading is an excellent way to improve your concentration skills and the more you read, the better you’ll be able to focus. 🔍

It expands your vocabulary

Reading expands your vocabulary more than any other activity. A rich vocabulary allows you to understand the world in a more sophisticated way. Reading is also great for your grammar skills and lets you communicate your thoughts and ideas more accurately in all areas of your life. 

It’s an education

Reading is the key to knowledge. Reading non-fiction books means you can learn about any subject you choose in as much detail as you want. Fiction allows you to learn about how other people all over the world live their lives and to put yourself in their shoes. This is a great way to improve your empathy and learn to approach other people with an open mind. 

It helps your problem-solving skills

Reading fiction is also fantastic preparation to learn how to solve various types of problems you may not yet have encountered in your own life. You get the chance to follow the characters through all kinds of situations and find out how they deal with challenges big and small. 

Maybe they make the right choices or maybe they don’t, either way, the writer has put a lot of thought and consideration into their story and you can always learn something from a character’s experiences. 🧩

It’s good therapy

Reading about difficult situations characters or real people experience can be hugely beneficial as well. It can be useful to read both fiction and non-fiction books about something you’re going through. Books can act as a type of therapy and help you to feel less alone in your situation. 

This bibliotherapy has proven effective in helping people deal with issues such as depression or other mood disorders. The NHS even prescribes books to help people through its Reading Well programme! 

Books offer the best value-for-money entertainment anywhere! There’s no expensive equipment to buy, no tickets to pay for and no monthly subscription fee. All you need is a library card for your local branch and you’re good to go! 

Your nearest library probably has tens of thousands of different books available, so you’re sure to find a title to hook you. If they don’t have something in particular you're looking for, you can even ask the librarian to order it from another library. 

Some libraries even offer ebooks on loan which you can add to your ereader or tablet 🏛️

It’ll inspire your child

If your children regularly see you reading you’ll be setting a good example. Children tend to copy what they see their parents do and they’ll soon be joining you storybook in hand for some quiet time you can enjoy together. 

It’s great for stress

It’s not most people’s first idea of a relaxation technique, but reading does an awesome job of helping you manage stress. According to research, reading can lead to a lower heart rate and blood pressure and a calmer mind and just six minutes of reading can bring your stress levels down by more than 66%. 

It helps you live longer!

If you still need another reason to commit yourself to read more, how about this: reading can actually help you live longer! Researchers discovered that those who read for half an hour a day had a 23% chance of living longer than people who didn’t read very much. In fact, readers lived around two years longer than non-readers! 🌳

teenager-reading-book

So, if we’ve convinced you that you and your family need more reading in your lives, when is the best time to do it? Well, reading at bedtime allows you to kill two birds with one stone. 

It helps you get a good night’s sleep

Despite its importance, many of us don’t follow good sleep hygiene and spend the hours before bedtime staring at screens big and small, leading to difficulty falling asleep and affecting the quality of our slumber. The NHS found that one in three of us experience poor sleep. 

Choose to read an actual book before bedtime instead of checking your social media or watching Netflix and you can look forward to a better night’s rest. Reading fiction is a good way of relaxing the body and calming your mind and preparing for bed and has been shown to be as relaxing as meditation. 💤

It calms your child

If you treat your child to story time and read to them just before they go to bed you’ll discover that it’s perfect for calming them down and getting them in the right mood for sleep. As a bonus, they’ll get used to sitting still and concentrating on one thing for a long time.

  Benefits of reading to children

  Children can eventually enjoy all the benefits of reading mentioned above but whether they are too small to read much themselves or they just enjoy listening to you tell them a story, they can get some extra value out of the experience if you read to them regularly yourself. 

It gives them a love of learning

If you start by reading to your child you can get them hooked on books and start a habit that will last them throughout their lives and repay your investment over and over again. Children who learn to read for pleasure will go on to enjoy greater academic success throughout their education according to research. 👩🏽‍🎓

It gives them a head-start

Even if your little one is a toddler who isn’t ready to start reading storybooks by themselves, you can give their literacy skills an early boost and teach them to read by reading to them yourself. They might not understand everything but they’ll pick up enough to get the idea. Let them see the words on the page as you read and encourage them to turn the page when you get to the last word. 

By reading to them you’ll be helping them follow the natural rhythms of language, practise their listening skills and expose them to vocabulary they might not get to hear in their day-to-day lives.  

It brings you together

Time spent reading to your child is a wonderful chance to create some beautiful, cosy, loving memories together and strengthen your bond. It will become something like a regular adventure you and your child can look forward to doing together and will remember all your lives. 👩‍👦

It also gives you lots to talk about later and you can have enjoyable discussions about the characters, plots, dilemmas and mysteries you discover during your reading time. 

Even when your child starts to read for themselves, you don’t need to stop your shared storytime. You can swap it up, with them taking on the role of the reader as you listen or you can take turns reading to each other. 

  You’ve probably been taught that the best method of reading is in silence. However, research has found that quiet reading isn’t actually always the better option and that there are in fact some benefits of reading out loud. 📢

It helps you understand

It turns out that speaking as you read can help you understand texts better. You probably read aloud more than you realise. If you’ve ever received a slightly convoluted message or email or you’ve tried to read confusing legal jargon, you’ve probably found yourself repeating the words out loud to more clearly understand what was meant. ✅

It helps you remember

Or perhaps you’ve tried to memorise a phone number or the lines of a speech and you automatically started to say the information aloud to help you remember. 

Psychologists call this the “production effect” and have discovered that these tactics do actually help people remember things more easily, especially children. 📚

Research from Australia showed that children who were told to read out loud recognized 17% more words compared to children who were asked to read silently. In another study, adults were able to identify 20% more words they had read aloud. 

The theory is that because reading aloud is an active process it makes words more distinctive, and so easier to remember. 🧠

Why read? 

Reading is the most effective way to get information about almost everything and is the key ingredient in learning for school, work and pleasure. On top of this, reading boosts imagination, communication, memory, concentration, and empathy. It also lowers stress levels and leads to a longer life. 

Does listening to audiobooks have the same benefits as reading books?

It can be hard to concentrate for a long time and the experience of reading. With a real book you can quickly scan your eyes back over the page to reread what you’ve missed, this isn’t so easy with an audiobook. A psychology study showed that students who read material did 28% better on a test than those who heard the same material as a podcast. 

Reading fiction is a useful way to develop your empathy, social skills and emotional intelligence. Fictional stories allow you to put yourself in other people's shoes and see things from various perspectives. In fact, brain scans show that many of the parts of the brain you use to interact with other people are also activated when you’re reading fiction. 

Poetry is the home of the most creative, imaginative and beautiful examples of language and allows you to connect those powerful lines to real emotions all of us feel. Poetry is also efficient and a good poet can reveal deep ideas with a simple phrase. Reading poetry can also inspire your creativity and write some expressive verse of your own! 

Reading is something most of us have been doing all our lives and as a result, we can easily take it for granted, but it’s a great all-around experience for your mind and spirit. So, it's really worth digging out your library card and finding books you and your child can read together. 

If your child is having problems with reading, here at GoStudent we have education experts on standby to give you and them a helping hand in improving their literacy skills or any other learning challenges they need support with. Schedule a free trial lesson with GoStudent today!

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2a. Critical Reading

An introduction to reading in college.

While the best way to develop your skills as a writer is to actually practice by writing, practicing critical reading skills is crucial to becoming a better college writer. Careful and skilled readers develop a stronger understanding of topics, learn to better anticipate the needs of the audience, and pick up sophisticated writing “maneuvers” and strategies from professional writing. A good reading practice requires reading text and context, which you’ll learn more about in the next section. Writing a successful academic essay also begins with critical reading as you explore ideas and consider how to make use of sources to provide support for your writing.

Questions to ask as you read

If you consider yourself a particularly strong reader or want to improve your reading comprehension skills, writing out notes about a text—even if it’s in shorthand—helps you to commit the answers to memory more easily. Even if you don’t write out all these notes, answering these basic questions about any text or reading you encounter in college will help you get the most out of the time you put into your reading. It will also give you more confidence to understand and question the text while you read.

  • Is there  context  provided about the author and/or essay? If so, what stands out as important?

Context in this instance means things like dates of publication, where the piece was originally published, and any biographical information about the author. All of that information will be important for developing a critical reading of the piece, so track what’s available as you read.

  • If you had to guess, who is the author’s intended  audience ? Describe them in as much detail as possible.

Sometimes the author will state who the audience is, but sometimes you have to figure it out by context clues, such as those you tracked above. For instance, the audience for a writer on  Buzzfeed  is very different from the audience for a writer for the  Wall Street Journal —and both writers know that, which means they’re more effective at reaching their readers. Learning how to identify your audience is a crucial writing skill for all genres of writing.

  • In your own words, what is the  question  the author is trying to answer in this piece? What seems to have caused them to write in the first place?

In nonfiction writing of the kind we read in Writing 121, writers set out to answer a question. Their thesis/main argument is usually the answer to the question, so sometimes you can “reverse engineer” the question from that. Often, the question is asked in the title of the piece.

  • In your own words, what’s the author’s  main   idea or argument ? If you had to distill it down to one or two sentences, what does the author want you, the reader, to agree with?

If you’ve ever had to write a paper for a class, you’re probably familiar with a thesis or main argument. Published writers also have a thesis (or else they don’t get published!), but sometimes it can be tricky to find in a more sophisticated piece of writing. Trying to put the main argument into your own words can help.

  • How many  examples  and types of  evidence  did the author provide to support the main argument? Which examples/evidence stood out to you as persuasive?

It’s never enough to just make a claim and expect people to believe it—we have to support that claim with evidence. The types of evidence and examples that will be persuasive to readers depends on the audience, though, which is why it’s important to have some idea of your readers and their expectations.

  • Did the author raise any  points of skepticism  (also known as counterarguments)? Can you identify exactly what page or paragraph where the author does this?

As we’ll see later when the writing process, respectfully engaging with points of skepticism and counterarguments builds trust with the reader because it shows that the writer has thought about the issue from multiple perspectives before arriving at the main argument. Raising a counterargument is not enough, though. Pay careful attention to how the writer responds to that counterargument—is it an effective and persuasive response?  If not, perhaps the counterargument has more merit for you than the author’s main argument.

  • In your own words, how does the essay  conclude ? What does the author “want” from us, the readers?

A conclusion usually offers a brief summary of the main argument and some kind of “what’s next?” appeal from the writer to the audience. The “what’s next?” appeal can take many forms, but it’s usually a question for readers to ponder, actions the author thinks people should take, or areas related to the main topic that need more investigation or research. When you read the conclusion, ask yourself, “What does the author want from me now that I’ve read their essay?”

Reading Like Writers: Critical Reading

Reading as a creative act.

“The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him life; it went out from him truth. It came to him short-lived actions; it went out from him immortal thoughts. It came to him business; it went from him poetry. It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The American Scholar”

  • Consider the  discourse community  when you read and write in your college classes
  • Analyze any reading for  text and context
  • Read like a writer so you can write for your readers

illustration of a worm and an apple on top of a stack of two books.

By the end of this lesson, you’ll be able to apply the concept of  discourse community  to honing your college-level critical reading skills.

Good writers are good readers, so let’s start there. When you can confidently identify the  audience, context, and purpose of a text —position it within its discourse community—you’ll be a stronger, savvier reader.

Strong, savvy readers are more effective writers because they consider their own audience, context, and purpose when they write and communicate, which makes their writing clearer and to the point.

So the goal of this lesson is to help you read like a writer!

The Savvy Reader

Good writers are good readers! And good readers. . .

man reading a book

  • get to know the author
  • get to know the author’s community + audience
  • accurately summarize the author’s argument
  • look up terms you don’t know
  • “listen” respectfully to the author’s point of view
  • have a sense of the larger conversation
  • think about other issues related to the conversation
  • put it in current context
  • analyze and assess the author’s reasoning, evidence, and assumptions

Why read critically?  While the best way to develop your skills as a writer is to actually practice by writing, practicing critical reading skills is crucial to becoming a better writer. Careful and skilled readers develop a stronger understanding of topics, learn to better anticipate the needs of the audience, and pick up writing “maneuvers” and strategies from professional writing.

Reading Like Writers

How do you read like a writer?  When you read like a writer, you are practicing deeper reading comprehension. In order to understand a text, you are reading not just what’s  in  it but what’s  around  it, too: text and context.

Practice: Reading Like Writers

In-class discussion : Advertisements are helpful for practicing reading like writers because advertisers make deliberate choices with text and images based on audience (target consumer), context (where they are reaching them), and purpose (buy this product).

  • But I’m not trying to sell a product! How can I use my newfound understanding of audience, context, and purpose to improve my writing?

It’s true! You aren’t selling a product. You aren’t (I hope) trying to manipulate your audience. You aren’t relying on discriminatory assumptions or stereotypes to appeal to your audience. But when you write, let’s say, an essay, you are asking readers to “buy into” your point of view. The goal doesn’t have to be for them to agree with you; it can be for your readers to respectfully consider, understand, or sympathize with your point of view or analysis of an issue.  The point is you’re thinking of your reader when you write, and that will make your writing process smoother and your writing clearer.

Writing for Your Readers

When you write for your readers, you. . .

  • Learn from your reading and communication experience:  What makes texts work? How are ideas conveyed clearly?
  • Analyze the writing situation:  What are the goals and purpose for a writing project? Who is your audience?
  • Explore and play as you draft:  What are different ways to respond? Can you use a better word or phrase?
  • Consider your audience:  What might a reader expect to see? What does your reader need to understand your point of view? What questions might a reader have?

poster on a wall that reads "ask more questions"

Writing as a process of inquiry

Just as you want your readers to take you seriously, you want to approach texts with an open and curious mind. Whatever the topic, it was important enough for this person to want to write on it. While we don’t have to agree with the point someone is making, we can respect their opinion and appreciate reading a different perspective.

Approach reading and writing in college in a learning zone.  Be open, be curious, ask questions, seek answers. Share, stretch, experiment.

Guides and Worksheets

  • Use this guide for any of your college reading!
  • Learn a basic study skill–annotating or taking notes on your readings

Critical Reading Guide: Text + Context

Title of the text:                                                                                  Author:

Reading the text: Comprehension

Main idea . In one sentence, summarize the main point or argument of the text.

Claim . Identify one claim in the text.

Key points . Paraphrase a key point, example, or passage that interested you.

Evidence . In your own words, describe 1-2 compelling examples or pieces of evidence that support the point/argument of the text.

Conclusion . What is the ultimate takeaway the text gives us on the topic/issue?

Personal experience . What is your experience of the topic? Have you had problems related to it?

Vocabulary . What is a word or phrase in the text you didn’t know? Look it up. What does it mean?

Inquiry . What is one thing you need more information about? Or, what is one question you have about the content of the text?

Reading for context: Rhetorical analysis

The author . Do an internet search on the author. What did you find out?

Ethos . Do you trust the author on the topic/issue? Why or why not?

Container . When and where was the text first published? Who will read/see it?

Audience . How does the author address or appeal to their readers? What tone does the author use in the text?

Bias . What knowledge, values, or beliefs does the author assume the reader shares?

Types of evidence . What types of evidence does the author use? Types of evidence include facts, examples, statistics, statements by authorities (references to or quotes from other sources), interviews, observations, logical reasoning, and personal experience

Structure . How does the author organize the text?

Purpose . What question does the author seek to answer in the text? In other words, why do you think they wrote this piece?

Mark-up Assignment: The Savvy Reader Practice

The object is to fill the empty space of the margins with your thoughts and questions to the text. By reading sympathetically (reading to understand what the writer is saying) and critically (reading to analyze and critique what the writer is saying), you are reading mindfully and creatively. You are finding those passages that you are drawn to, asking questions that you have, and beginning to develop your reaction, response, and ideas about a topic or issue. It’s a useful tool in the “getting started” phase of the writing process. Learning how to read effectively will be an invaluable skill in your college career and beyond because it means engaging in a task actively rather than passively.

Choose 1-2 paragraphs from READING X to fully annotate. This passage should be one that interests you, i.e. seems important, confusing, and/or prompted agreement, disagreement, or questions for you.

  • Circle any word you think is crucial for the passage, including ones you cannot easily define.
  • Underline phrases or images you think crucial for the meaning of the passage/essay.
  • Put a bracket around ideas or assertions you find puzzling or questionable.
  • Then write notes around the margins of the passage defining these terms, identifying the important ideas, or raising questions with the bracketed phrases. For each item you have circled, underlined, or bracketed, there should be a margin note. For this assignment, your margin notes should be substantive: they should meaty statements and full questions.

Photocopy or clear, legible photograph of paragraphs with your annotations or type up the paragraphs and annotate.

Writing as Inquiry Copyright © 2021 by Kara Clevinger and Stephen Rust is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Academic Reading Strategies

Completing reading assignments is one of the biggest challenges in academia. However, are you managing your reading efficiently? Consider this cooking analogy, noting the differences in process:

Taylor’s process was more efficient because his purpose was clear. Establishing why you are reading something will help you decide how to read it, which saves time and improves comprehension. This guide lists some purposes for reading as well as different strategies to try at different stages of the reading process.

Purposes for reading

People read different kinds of text (e.g., scholarly articles, textbooks, reviews) for different reasons. Some purposes for reading might be

  • to scan for specific information
  • to skim to get an overview of the text
  • to relate new content to existing knowledge
  • to write something (often depends on a prompt)
  • to critique an argument
  • to learn something
  • for general comprehension

Strategies differ from reader to reader. The same reader may use different strategies for different contexts because their purpose for reading changes. Ask yourself “why am I reading?” and “what am I reading?” when deciding which strategies to try.

Before reading

  • Establish your purpose for reading
  • Speculate about the author’s purpose for writing
  • Review what you already know and want to learn about the topic (see the guides below)
  • Preview the text to get an overview of its structure, looking at headings, figures, tables, glossary, etc.
  • Predict the contents of the text and pose questions about it. If the authors have provided discussion questions, read them and write them on a note-taking sheet.
  • Note any discussion questions that have been provided (sometimes at the end of the text)
  • Sample pre-reading guides – K-W-L guide
  • Critical reading questionnaire

During reading

  • Annotate and mark (sparingly) sections of the text to easily recall important or interesting ideas
  • Check your predictions and find answers to posed questions
  • Use headings and transition words to identify relationships in the text
  • Create a vocabulary list of other unfamiliar words to define later
  • Try to infer unfamiliar words’ meanings by identifying their relationship to the main idea
  • Connect the text to what you already know about the topic
  • Take breaks (split the text into segments if necessary)
  • Sample annotated texts – Journal article · Book chapter excerpt

After reading

  • Summarize the text in your own words (note what you learned, impressions, and reactions) in an outline, concept map, or matrix (for several texts)
  • Talk to someone about the author’s ideas to check your comprehension
  • Identify and reread difficult parts of the text
  • Define words on your vocabulary list (try a learner’s dictionary ) and practice using them
  • Sample graphic organizers – Concept map · Literature review matrix

Works consulted

Grabe, W., & Stoller, F. L. (2002). Teaching and researching reading. Harlow: Longman.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout (just click print) and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

If you enjoy using our handouts, we appreciate contributions of acknowledgement.

reading is useful essay

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1.1 Reading and Writing in College

Learning objectives.

  • Understand the expectations for reading and writing assignments in college courses.
  • Understand and apply general strategies to complete college-level reading assignments efficiently and effectively.
  • Recognize specific types of writing assignments frequently included in college courses.
  • Understand and apply general strategies for managing college-level writing assignments.
  • Determine specific reading and writing strategies that work best for you individually.

As you begin this chapter, you may be wondering why you need an introduction. After all, you have been writing and reading since elementary school. You completed numerous assessments of your reading and writing skills in high school and as part of your application process for college. You may write on the job, too. Why is a college writing course even necessary?

When you are eager to get started on the coursework in your major that will prepare you for your career, getting excited about an introductory college writing course can be difficult. However, regardless of your field of study, honing your writing skills—and your reading and critical-thinking skills—gives you a more solid academic foundation.

In college, academic expectations change from what you may have experienced in high school. The quantity of work you are expected to do is increased. When instructors expect you to read pages upon pages or study hours and hours for one particular course, managing your work load can be challenging. This chapter includes strategies for studying efficiently and managing your time.

The quality of the work you do also changes. It is not enough to understand course material and summarize it on an exam. You will also be expected to seriously engage with new ideas by reflecting on them, analyzing them, critiquing them, making connections, drawing conclusions, or finding new ways of thinking about a given subject. Educationally, you are moving into deeper waters. A good introductory writing course will help you swim.

Table 1.1 “High School versus College Assignments” summarizes some of the other major differences between high school and college assignments.

Table 1.1 High School versus College Assignments

This chapter covers the types of reading and writing assignments you will encounter as a college student. You will also learn a variety of strategies for mastering these new challenges—and becoming a more confident student and writer.

Throughout this chapter, you will follow a first-year student named Crystal. After several years of working as a saleswoman in a department store, Crystal has decided to pursue a degree in elementary education and become a teacher. She is continuing to work part-time, and occasionally she finds it challenging to balance the demands of work, school, and caring for her four-year-old son. As you read about Crystal, think about how you can use her experience to get the most out of your own college experience.

Review Table 1.1 “High School versus College Assignments” and think about how you have found your college experience to be different from high school so far. Respond to the following questions:

  • In what ways do you think college will be more rewarding for you as a learner?
  • What aspects of college do you expect to find most challenging?
  • What changes do you think you might have to make in your life to ensure your success in college?

Reading Strategies

Your college courses will sharpen both your reading and your writing skills. Most of your writing assignments—from brief response papers to in-depth research projects—will depend on your understanding of course reading assignments or related readings you do on your own. And it is difficult, if not impossible, to write effectively about a text that you have not understood. Even when you do understand the reading, it can be hard to write about it if you do not feel personally engaged with the ideas discussed.

This section discusses strategies you can use to get the most out of your college reading assignments. These strategies fall into three broad categories:

  • Planning strategies. To help you manage your reading assignments.
  • Comprehension strategies. To help you understand the material.
  • Active reading strategies. To take your understanding to a higher and deeper level.

Planning Your Reading

Have you ever stayed up all night cramming just before an exam? Or found yourself skimming a detailed memo from your boss five minutes before a crucial meeting? The first step in handling college reading successfully is planning. This involves both managing your time and setting a clear purpose for your reading.

Managing Your Reading Time

You will learn more detailed strategies for time management in Section 1.2 “Developing Study Skills” , but for now, focus on setting aside enough time for reading and breaking your assignments into manageable chunks. If you are assigned a seventy-page chapter to read for next week’s class, try not to wait until the night before to get started. Give yourself at least a few days and tackle one section at a time.

Your method for breaking up the assignment will depend on the type of reading. If the text is very dense and packed with unfamiliar terms and concepts, you may need to read no more than five or ten pages in one sitting so that you can truly understand and process the information. With more user-friendly texts, you will be able to handle longer sections—twenty to forty pages, for instance. And if you have a highly engaging reading assignment, such as a novel you cannot put down, you may be able to read lengthy passages in one sitting.

As the semester progresses, you will develop a better sense of how much time you need to allow for the reading assignments in different subjects. It also makes sense to preview each assignment well in advance to assess its difficulty level and to determine how much reading time to set aside.

College instructors often set aside reserve readings for a particular course. These consist of articles, book chapters, or other texts that are not part of the primary course textbook. Copies of reserve readings are available through the university library; in print; or, more often, online. When you are assigned a reserve reading, download it ahead of time (and let your instructor know if you have trouble accessing it). Skim through it to get a rough idea of how much time you will need to read the assignment in full.

Setting a Purpose

The other key component of planning is setting a purpose. Knowing what you want to get out of a reading assignment helps you determine how to approach it and how much time to spend on it. It also helps you stay focused during those occasional moments when it is late, you are tired, and relaxing in front of the television sounds far more appealing than curling up with a stack of journal articles.

Sometimes your purpose is simple. You might just need to understand the reading material well enough to discuss it intelligently in class the next day. However, your purpose will often go beyond that. For instance, you might also read to compare two texts, to formulate a personal response to a text, or to gather ideas for future research. Here are some questions to ask to help determine your purpose:

How did my instructor frame the assignment? Often your instructors will tell you what they expect you to get out of the reading:

  • Read Chapter 2 and come to class prepared to discuss current teaching practices in elementary math.
  • Read these two articles and compare Smith’s and Jones’s perspectives on the 2010 health care reform bill.
  • Read Chapter 5 and think about how you could apply these guidelines to running your own business.
  • How deeply do I need to understand the reading? If you are majoring in computer science and you are assigned to read Chapter 1, “Introduction to Computer Science,” it is safe to assume the chapter presents fundamental concepts that you will be expected to master. However, for some reading assignments, you may be expected to form a general understanding but not necessarily master the content. Again, pay attention to how your instructor presents the assignment.
  • How does this assignment relate to other course readings or to concepts discussed in class? Your instructor may make some of these connections explicitly, but if not, try to draw connections on your own. (Needless to say, it helps to take detailed notes both when in class and when you read.)
  • How might I use this text again in the future? If you are assigned to read about a topic that has always interested you, your reading assignment might help you develop ideas for a future research paper. Some reading assignments provide valuable tips or summaries worth bookmarking for future reference. Think about what you can take from the reading that will stay with you.

Improving Your Comprehension

You have blocked out time for your reading assignments and set a purpose for reading. Now comes the challenge: making sure you actually understand all the information you are expected to process. Some of your reading assignments will be fairly straightforward. Others, however, will be longer or more complex, so you will need a plan for how to handle them.

For any expository writing —that is, nonfiction, informational writing—your first comprehension goal is to identify the main points and relate any details to those main points. Because college-level texts can be challenging, you will also need to monitor your reading comprehension. That is, you will need to stop periodically and assess how well you understand what you are reading. Finally, you can improve comprehension by taking time to determine which strategies work best for you and putting those strategies into practice.

Identifying the Main Points

In college, you will read a wide variety of materials, including the following:

  • Textbooks. These usually include summaries, glossaries, comprehension questions, and other study aids.
  • Nonfiction trade books. These are less likely to include the study features found in textbooks.
  • Popular magazine, newspaper, or web articles. These are usually written for a general audience.
  • Scholarly books and journal articles. These are written for an audience of specialists in a given field.

Regardless of what type of expository text you are assigned to read, your primary comprehension goal is to identify the main point : the most important idea that the writer wants to communicate and often states early on. Finding the main point gives you a framework to organize the details presented in the reading and relate the reading to concepts you learned in class or through other reading assignments. After identifying the main point, you will find the supporting points , the details, facts, and explanations that develop and clarify the main point.

Some texts make that task relatively easy. Textbooks, for instance, include the aforementioned features as well as headings and subheadings intended to make it easier for students to identify core concepts. Graphic features, such as sidebars, diagrams, and charts, help students understand complex information and distinguish between essential and inessential points. When you are assigned to read from a textbook, be sure to use available comprehension aids to help you identify the main points.

Trade books and popular articles may not be written specifically for an educational purpose; nevertheless, they also include features that can help you identify the main ideas. These features include the following:

  • Trade books. Many trade books include an introduction that presents the writer’s main ideas and purpose for writing. Reading chapter titles (and any subtitles within the chapter) will help you get a broad sense of what is covered. It also helps to read the beginning and ending paragraphs of a chapter closely. These paragraphs often sum up the main ideas presented.
  • Popular articles. Reading the headings and introductory paragraphs carefully is crucial. In magazine articles, these features (along with the closing paragraphs) present the main concepts. Hard news articles in newspapers present the gist of the news story in the lead paragraph, while subsequent paragraphs present increasingly general details.

At the far end of the reading difficulty scale are scholarly books and journal articles. Because these texts are written for a specialized, highly educated audience, the authors presume their readers are already familiar with the topic. The language and writing style is sophisticated and sometimes dense.

When you read scholarly books and journal articles, try to apply the same strategies discussed earlier. The introduction usually presents the writer’s thesis , the idea or hypothesis the writer is trying to prove. Headings and subheadings can help you understand how the writer has organized support for his or her thesis. Additionally, academic journal articles often include a summary at the beginning, called an abstract, and electronic databases include summaries of articles, too.

For more information about reading different types of texts, see Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” .

Monitoring Your Comprehension

Finding the main idea and paying attention to text features as you read helps you figure out what you should know. Just as important, however, is being able to figure out what you do not know and developing a strategy to deal with it.

Textbooks often include comprehension questions in the margins or at the end of a section or chapter. As you read, stop occasionally to answer these questions on paper or in your head. Use them to identify sections you may need to reread, read more carefully, or ask your instructor about later.

Even when a text does not have built-in comprehension features, you can actively monitor your own comprehension. Try these strategies, adapting them as needed to suit different kinds of texts:

  • Summarize. At the end of each section, pause to summarize the main points in a few sentences. If you have trouble doing so, revisit that section.
  • Ask and answer questions. When you begin reading a section, try to identify two to three questions you should be able to answer after you finish it. Write down your questions and use them to test yourself on the reading. If you cannot answer a question, try to determine why. Is the answer buried in that section of reading but just not coming across to you? Or do you expect to find the answer in another part of the reading?
  • Do not read in a vacuum. Look for opportunities to discuss the reading with your classmates. Many instructors set up online discussion forums or blogs specifically for that purpose. Participating in these discussions can help you determine whether your understanding of the main points is the same as your peers’.

These discussions can also serve as a reality check. If everyone in the class struggled with the reading, it may be exceptionally challenging. If it was a breeze for everyone but you, you may need to see your instructor for help.

As a working mother, Crystal found that the best time to get her reading done was in the evening, after she had put her four-year-old to bed. However, she occasionally had trouble concentrating at the end of a long day. She found that by actively working to summarize the reading and asking and answering questions, she focused better and retained more of what she read. She also found that evenings were a good time to check the class discussion forums that a few of her instructors had created.

Choose any text that that you have been assigned to read for one of your college courses. In your notes, complete the following tasks:

  • Summarize the main points of the text in two to three sentences.
  • Write down two to three questions about the text that you can bring up during class discussion.

Students are often reluctant to seek help. They feel like doing so marks them as slow, weak, or demanding. The truth is, every learner occasionally struggles. If you are sincerely trying to keep up with the course reading but feel like you are in over your head, seek out help. Speak up in class, schedule a meeting with your instructor, or visit your university learning center for assistance.

Deal with the problem as early in the semester as you can. Instructors respect students who are proactive about their own learning. Most instructors will work hard to help students who make the effort to help themselves.

Taking It to the Next Level: Active Reading

Now that you have acquainted (or reacquainted) yourself with useful planning and comprehension strategies, college reading assignments may feel more manageable. You know what you need to do to get your reading done and make sure you grasp the main points. However, the most successful students in college are not only competent readers but active, engaged readers.

Using the SQ3R Strategy

One strategy you can use to become a more active, engaged reader is the SQ3R strategy , a step-by-step process to follow before, during, and after reading. You may already use some variation of it. In essence, the process works like this:

  • Survey the text in advance.
  • Form questions before you start reading.
  • Read the text.
  • Recite and/or record important points during and after reading.
  • Review and reflect on the text after you read.

Before you read, you survey, or preview, the text. As noted earlier, reading introductory paragraphs and headings can help you begin to figure out the author’s main point and identify what important topics will be covered. However, surveying does not stop there. Look over sidebars, photographs, and any other text or graphic features that catch your eye. Skim a few paragraphs. Preview any boldfaced or italicized vocabulary terms. This will help you form a first impression of the material.

Next, start brainstorming questions about the text. What do you expect to learn from the reading? You may find that some questions come to mind immediately based on your initial survey or based on previous readings and class discussions. If not, try using headings and subheadings in the text to formulate questions. For instance, if one heading in your textbook reads “Medicare and Medicaid,” you might ask yourself these questions:

  • When was Medicare and Medicaid legislation enacted? Why?
  • What are the major differences between these two programs?

Although some of your questions may be simple factual questions, try to come up with a few that are more open-ended. Asking in-depth questions will help you stay more engaged as you read.

The next step is simple: read. As you read, notice whether your first impressions of the text were correct. Are the author’s main points and overall approach about the same as what you predicted—or does the text contain a few surprises? Also, look for answers to your earlier questions and begin forming new questions. Continue to revise your impressions and questions as you read.

While you are reading, pause occasionally to recite or record important points. It is best to do this at the end of each section or when there is an obvious shift in the writer’s train of thought. Put the book aside for a moment and recite aloud the main points of the section or any important answers you found there. You might also record ideas by jotting down a few brief notes in addition to, or instead of, reciting aloud. Either way, the physical act of articulating information makes you more likely to remember it.

After you have completed the reading, take some time to review the material more thoroughly. If the textbook includes review questions or your instructor has provided a study guide, use these tools to guide your review. You will want to record information in a more detailed format than you used during reading, such as in an outline or a list.

As you review the material, reflect on what you learned. Did anything surprise you, upset you, or make you think? Did you find yourself strongly agreeing or disagreeing with any points in the text? What topics would you like to explore further? Jot down your reflections in your notes. (Instructors sometimes require students to write brief response papers or maintain a reading journal. Use these assignments to help you reflect on what you read.)

Choose another text that that you have been assigned to read for a class. Use the SQ3R process to complete the reading. (Keep in mind that you may need to spread the reading over more than one session, especially if the text is long.)

Be sure to complete all the steps involved. Then, reflect on how helpful you found this process. On a scale of one to ten, how useful did you find it? How does it compare with other study techniques you have used?

Using Other Active Reading Strategies

The SQ3R process encompasses a number of valuable active reading strategies: previewing a text, making predictions, asking and answering questions, and summarizing. You can use the following additional strategies to further deepen your understanding of what you read.

  • Connect what you read to what you already know. Look for ways the reading supports, extends, or challenges concepts you have learned elsewhere.
  • Relate the reading to your own life. What statements, people, or situations relate to your personal experiences?
  • Visualize. For both fiction and nonfiction texts, try to picture what is described. Visualizing is especially helpful when you are reading a narrative text, such as a novel or a historical account, or when you read expository text that describes a process, such as how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Pay attention to graphics as well as text. Photographs, diagrams, flow charts, tables, and other graphics can help make abstract ideas more concrete and understandable.
  • Understand the text in context. Understanding context means thinking about who wrote the text, when and where it was written, the author’s purpose for writing it, and what assumptions or agendas influenced the author’s ideas. For instance, two writers might both address the subject of health care reform, but if one article is an opinion piece and one is a news story, the context is different.
  • Plan to talk or write about what you read. Jot down a few questions or comments in your notebook so you can bring them up in class. (This also gives you a source of topic ideas for papers and presentations later in the semester.) Discuss the reading on a class discussion board or blog about it.

As Crystal began her first semester of elementary education courses, she occasionally felt lost in a sea of new terms and theories about teaching and child development. She found that it helped to relate the reading to her personal observations of her son and other kids she knew.

Writing at Work

Many college courses require students to participate in interactive online components, such as a discussion forum, a page on a social networking site, or a class blog. These tools are a great way to reinforce learning. Do not be afraid to be the student who starts the discussion.

Remember that when you interact with other students and teachers online, you need to project a mature, professional image. You may be able to use an informal, conversational tone, but complaining about the work load, using off-color language, or “flaming” other participants is inappropriate.

Active reading can benefit you in ways that go beyond just earning good grades. By practicing these strategies, you will find yourself more interested in your courses and better able to relate your academic work to the rest of your life. Being an interested, engaged student also helps you form lasting connections with your instructors and with other students that can be personally and professionally valuable. In short, it helps you get the most out of your education.

Common Writing Assignments

College writing assignments serve a different purpose than the typical writing assignments you completed in high school. In high school, teachers generally focus on teaching you to write in a variety of modes and formats, including personal writing, expository writing, research papers, creative writing, and writing short answers and essays for exams. Over time, these assignments help you build a foundation of writing skills.

In college, many instructors will expect you to already have that foundation.

Your college composition courses will focus on writing for its own sake, helping you make the transition to college-level writing assignments. However, in most other college courses, writing assignments serve a different purpose. In those courses, you may use writing as one tool among many for learning how to think about a particular academic discipline.

Additionally, certain assignments teach you how to meet the expectations for professional writing in a given field. Depending on the class, you might be asked to write a lab report, a case study, a literary analysis, a business plan, or an account of a personal interview. You will need to learn and follow the standard conventions for those types of written products.

Finally, personal and creative writing assignments are less common in college than in high school. College courses emphasize expository writing, writing that explains or informs. Often expository writing assignments will incorporate outside research, too. Some classes will also require persuasive writing assignments in which you state and support your position on an issue. College instructors will hold you to a higher standard when it comes to supporting your ideas with reasons and evidence.

Table 1.2 “Common Types of College Writing Assignments” lists some of the most common types of college writing assignments. It includes minor, less formal assignments as well as major ones. Which specific assignments you encounter will depend on the courses you take and the learning objectives developed by your instructors.

Table 1.2 Common Types of College Writing Assignments

Part of managing your education is communicating well with others at your university. For instance, you might need to e-mail your instructor to request an office appointment or explain why you will need to miss a class. You might need to contact administrators with questions about your tuition or financial aid. Later, you might ask instructors to write recommendations on your behalf.

Treat these documents as professional communications. Address the recipient politely; state your question, problem, or request clearly; and use a formal, respectful tone. Doing so helps you make a positive impression and get a quicker response.

Key Takeaways

  • College-level reading and writing assignments differ from high school assignments not only in quantity but also in quality.
  • Managing college reading assignments successfully requires you to plan and manage your time, set a purpose for reading, practice effective comprehension strategies, and use active reading strategies to deepen your understanding of the text.
  • College writing assignments place greater emphasis on learning to think critically about a particular discipline and less emphasis on personal and creative writing.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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reading is useful essay

Reading is a skill many people take for granted, but the act of reading and properly comprehending a text is a complex and interactive process. It requires several different brain functions to work together and most often requires one to puzzle through multiple layers of context and meaning.

Because reading comprehension is so complicated, we can often find ourselves understanding the most basic interpretation of a text, but missing the emotional core or the "big picture." Or we might just find our brains spinning with no clue at all as to what a text is attempting to convey.

But luckily for everyone who struggles in English classes, on standardized tests, or in daily life, reading comprehension can be improved upon (and it's never too late to start!). In this guide, I explain step-by-step how to improve reading comprehension over time and offer tips for boosting your understanding as you read.

What Is Reading Comprehension?

Reading comprehension is the understanding of what a particular text means and the ideas the author is attempting to convey, both textual and subtextual. In order to read any text, your brain must process not only the literal words of the piece, but also their relationship with one another, the context behind the words, how subtle language and vocabulary usage can impact emotion and meaning behind the text, and how the text comes together as a larger, coherent whole.

For instance, let's look at the first line from Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice :

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Now, a completely literal interpretation of the text, just based on word-meaning, would have us believe that 'all rich men want wives.' But the context, word choice, and phrasing of the text actually belie that interpretation. By using the phrases "universally acknowledged" and " must be in want of" (emphasis ours), the text is conveying a subtle sarcasm to the words. Instead of it being an actual truth that 'rich men want wives,' this one sentence instantly tells us that we're reading about a society preoccupied with marriage, while also implying that the opening statement is something people in that society may believe, but that isn't necessarily true.

In just a few short words, Austen conveys several ideas to the reader about one of the main themes of the story, the setting, and what the culture and people are like. And she does so all the while seeming to contradict the literal words of the piece.

Without practice in reading comprehension, nuances like these can become lost. And so it can happen that someone may find themselves reading, but not truly comprehending the full meaning of a text.

As you can see, reading comprehension involves many processes happening in your brain at once, and thus it can be easy for some aspects of a text to get lost in the muddle. But the good news for anyone who struggles is that reading comprehension is a skill just like any other. It must be learned through practice, focus, and diligence, but it absolutely CAN be learned.

Why Reading Comprehension Is Important

Proper reading comprehension can be difficult, so why bother? Even though learning how to properly read and comprehend texts is a complicated process, it is a necessary skill to master, both for work and for pleasure.

You will need to know how to read and interpret all kinds of different texts—both on the basic, literal level and on a more in-depth level—throughout your schooling, in college, and in the working world (as well as in your recreation time!). If we think about "reading" just as a literal or surface understanding of a piece and "reading comprehension" as the complete understanding, a person can only get by in the world on pure "reading" for so long.

Reading comprehension is essential for many significant aspects of daily life, such as:

  • Reading, understanding, and analyzing literature in your English classes
  • Reading and understanding texts from your other class subjects, such as history, math, or science
  • Doing well on both the written and math sections of the SAT (or all five sections of the ACT)
  • Understanding and engaging with current events presented in written form, such as news reports
  • Properly understanding and responding to any and all other workplace correspondence, such as essays, reports, memos, and analyses
  • Simply taking pleasure in written work on your own leisure time

reading is useful essay

Just like with any goal or skill, we can master reading comprehension one step at a time.

How to Improve Reading Comprehension: 3 Steps

Because reading comprehension is a skill that improves like any other, you can improve your understanding with practice and a game plan.

Dedicate yourself to engaging in a combination of both "guided" and "relaxed" reading practice for at least two to three hours a week. Guided practice will involve structure and focused attention, like learning new vocabulary words and testing yourself on them, while relaxed practice will involve merely letting yourself read and enjoy reading without pressure for at least one to two hours a week. (Note: if you already read for pleasure, add at least one more hour of pleasure-reading per week.)

By combining reading-for-studying and reading-for-pleasure, you'll be able to improve your reading skill without relegating reading time to the realm of "work" alone. Reading is a huge part of our daily lives, and improving your comprehension should never come at the cost of depriving yourself of the pleasure of the activity.

So what are some of the first steps for improving your reading comprehension level?

Step 1: Understand and Reevaluate How You're Currently Reading

Before you can improve your reading comprehension, you must first understand how you're currently reading and what your limitations are.

Start by selecting excerpts from different texts with which you are unfamiliar—text books, essays, novels, news reports, or any kind of text you feel you particularly struggle to understand—and read them as you would normally. As you read, see if you can notice when your attention, energy, or comprehension of the material begins to flag.

If your comprehension or concentration tends to lag after a period of time, start to slowly build up your stamina. For instance, if you continually lose focus at the 20 minute mark every time you read, acknowledge this and push yourself to slowly increase that time, rather than trying to sit and concentrate on reading for an hour or two at a stretch. Begin by reading for your maximum amount of focused time (in this case, twenty minutes), then give yourself a break. Next time, try for 22 minutes. Once you've mastered that, try for 25 and see if you can still maintain focus. If you can, then try for thirty.

If you find that your concentration or comprehension starts to lag again , take a step back on your timing before pushing yourself for more. Improvement comes with time, and it'll only cause frustration if you try to rush it all at once.

Alternatively, you may find that your issues with reading comprehension have less to do with the time spent reading than with the source material itself. Perhaps you struggle to comprehend the essential elements of a text, the context of a piece, character arcs or motivation, books or textbooks with densely packed information, or material that is heavily symbolic. If this is the case, then be sure to follow the tips below to improve these areas of reading comprehension weakness.

Improving your reading comprehension level takes time and practice, but understanding where your strengths and weaknesses stand now is the first step towards progress.

Step 2: Improve Your Vocabulary

Reading and comprehension rely on a combination of vocabulary, context, and the interaction of words. So you must be able to understand each moving piece before you can understand the text as a whole.

If you struggle to understand specific vocabulary, it's sometimes possible to pick up meaning through context clues (how the words are used in the sentence or in the passage), but it's always a good idea to look up the definitions of words with which you aren't familiar. As you read, make sure to keep a running list of words you don't readily recognize and make yourself a set of flashcards with the words and their definitions. Dedicate fifteen minutes two or three times a week to and quizzing yourself on your vocab flashcards.

To get started, you'll need some blank index cards and a system to keep them organized. These basic cards are an affordable option that are also available in fun colors . You can keep them organized with plastic baggies or rubber bands, or you can get an organizer .

Alternatively, try these easy-flip flashcards that include binder clips. Though we strongly recommend making your own flashcards, you can also buy pre-made ones —the best option is Barron's 1100 Words You Need to Know , a series of exercises to master key words and idioms.

In order to retain your vocabulary knowledge, you must employ a combination of practiced memorization (like studying your flashcards) and make a point of using these new words in your verbal and written communication. Guided vocabulary practice like this will give you access to new words and their meanings as well as allow you to properly retain them.

Step 3: Read for Pleasure

The best way to improve your reading comprehension level is through practice. And the best way to practice is to have fun with it!

Make reading a fun activity, at least on occasion, rather than a constant chore. This will motivate you to engage with the text and embrace the activity as part of your daily life (rather than just your study/work life). As you practice and truly engage with your reading material, improvement will come naturally.

Begin by reading texts that are slightly below your age and grade level (especially if reading is frustrating or difficult for you). This will take pressure off of you and allow you to relax and enjoy the story. Here are some fun, easy reads that we recommend to get you started:

  • Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roksani Chokshi
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Ghost   by Jason Reynolds
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Rankin
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
  • I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone   by J.K .Rowling

Once you feel more comfortable reading and practicing your comprehension strategies (tips in the next section), go ahead and allow yourself to read at whatever reading or age level you feel like. Even if you feel that you don't understand some of the text right now—or even a large portion of it!—if you enjoy yourself and give it your best shot, you'll find that your reading comprehension levels will improve over time.

reading is useful essay

Reading these problematic passages aloud can often help circumvent that block and help you to form a visual of what the text is trying to convey.

Tip 3: Re-read (or Skim) Previous Sections of the Text

For the most part, reading is a personal activity that happens entirely in your head. So don't feel you have to read just like anyone else if "typical" methods don't work for you. Sometimes it can make the most sense to read (or re-read) a text out of order.

It is often helpful to glance backwards through a piece of text (or even re-read large sections) to remind yourself of any information you need and have forgotten—what happened previously, what a particular word means, who a person was...the list is endless.

Previous sentences, sections, or even whole chapters can provide helpful context clues. Re-reading these passages will help to refresh your memory so that you can better understand and interpret later sections of the text.

Tip 4: Skim or Read Upcoming Sections of the Text

Just like with the previous step, don't feel that the only way to read and understand a text is to work through it completely linearly. Allow yourself the freedom to take apart the text and put it back together again in whichever way makes the most sense to you.

Sometimes a current confusion in a work will be explained later on in the text, and it can help you to know that explanations are upcoming or even just to read them ahead of time.

So skip forward or backwards, re-read or read ahead as you need to, take the piece in whatever order you need to in order to make sense of the text. Not everyone thinks linearly, and not everyone best understands texts linearly either.

Tip 5: Discuss the Text With a Friend (Even an Imaginary Friend)

Sometimes discussing what you know so far about a text can help clear up any confusion. If you have a friend who hasn't read the text in question, then explain it to them in your own words, and discuss where you feel your comprehension is lacking. You'll find that you've probably understood more than you think once you've been forced to explain it to someone who's completely unfamiliar with the piece.

Even if no one else is in the room, trying to teach or discuss what a passage says or means with "someone else" can be extremely beneficial. In fact, software engineers call this technique "rubber duck debugging," wherein they explain a coding problem to a rubber duck. This forces them to work through a problem aloud, which has proven time and time again to help people solve problems. So if a piece of text has your head spinning from trying to work through it by yourself, start chatting with your nearest friend/pet/rubber duck. You'll be surprised with how much easier it is to understand a text once you've talked it through with someone.

Even if that someone is a duck.

reading is useful essay

The Take-Aways

Improving reading comprehension takes time and effort, but it can be done. Be patient with yourself, work through your reading comprehension steps, and try not to get frustrated with yourself if you feel your progress is slow or if you feel you're "falling behind." You will utilize your reading skills throughout your life, so go at a pace that works for you, and take care to maintain that balance between reading for pure pleasure and reading for dedicated improvement.

As you begin to incorporate more and more reading into your daily life, you'll find that comprehension will become easier, and reading will become more fun. In every piece of text, there are worlds of meaning to explore, and learning how to uncover them can be the ultimate rewarding journey.

What's Next?

Can't get enough reading? Whether as part of your reading practice or just for fun, check out our picks for the 31 best books to read in high school.

Problems with procrastination? Whether you're studying for the SAT's or studying your reading comprehension vocabulary check out how to beat procrastination and get your studies back on track.

Want to earn better grades? Our guide will help you get that 4.0 you're striving for .

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

These recommendations are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links PrepScholar may receive a commission.

Courtney scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT in high school and went on to graduate from Stanford University with a degree in Cultural and Social Anthropology. She is passionate about bringing education and the tools to succeed to students from all backgrounds and walks of life, as she believes open education is one of the great societal equalizers. She has years of tutoring experience and writes creative works in her free time.

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Reading and making notes

  • Introduction

Setting reading goals

Choosing the right texts, how many sources should you read, going beyond the reading list, active reading, reading techniques, common abbreviations in academic texts.

  • Effective note-making
  • Reading e-books for university study
  • Using and evaluating websites

reading is useful essay

This guide will suggest ways for you to improve your reading skills and to read in a more focused and selective manner.

  • Reading academic texts (video) Watch this brief video tutorial for more on the topic.
  • Reading academic texts (transcript) Read along while watching the video tutorial.
  • The best file formats and how to use them An interactive guide by the Technology Enhanced Learning team on the key features of alternative formats (such as PDF and ePUB), and how to make the most of these in developing your reading habits.

Before starting to read you need to consider why you are reading and what you are trying to learn. You will need to vary the way you read accordingly.

  • If you are reading for general interest and to acquire background information for lectures you will need to read the topic widely but with not much depth.
  • If you are reading for an essay you will need to focus the reading around the essay question and may need to study a small area of the subject in great depth. Jot down the essay question, make a note of any questions you have about it, and don't get side-tracked and waste time on non-relevant issues.

Below is an excellent short video tutorial on  reading and notemaking  developed by the Learning Development team at the University of Leicester.

  • Reading and note making (video) Video tutorial from the Study Advice Team.
  • Researching your assignment (video) A brief screencast on what you need to think about when starting your research.
  • Researching for your assignment (transcript) Read along while watching the video tutorial.

It is unlikely that you will be able - or be expected - to read all the books and articles on your reading list. You will be limited by time and by the availability of the material.

To decide whether a book is relevant and useful:

  • Look at the author's name, the title and the date of publication. Is it essential reading? Is it out of date?
  • Read the publisher's blurb on the cover or look through the editor's introduction to see whether it is relevant.
  • Look at the contents page. Does it cover what you want? Is it at the right level? Are there too few pages on the topic - or too many?
  • Look through the introduction to get an idea of the author's approach.
  • Look up an item in the index (preferably something you know a bit about) and read through one or two paragraphs to see how the author deals with the material.
  • Look though the bibliography to see the range of the author's sources.
  • Are the examples, illustrations, diagrams etc. easy to follow and helpful for your purpose?

To select useful articles from journals or research papers :

  • Read the summary or abstract. Is it relevant?
  • Look at the Conclusions and skim-read the Discussion, looking at headings. Is it worth reading carefully because it is relevant or interesting?
  • Look through the Introduction. Does it summarise the field in a helpful way? Does it provide a useful literature review?
  • It is a seminal piece of work – essential reading.
  • It is highly relevant to your essay, etc.
  • It is likely that you can get ideas from it.
  • There is nothing else available and you are going to have to make the most of this.
  • It is so interesting that you can't put it down!

If there is no reading list...

  • Use the library website and look up  Subject help .
  • Find a general textbook on the subject.
  • Use encyclopaedias and subject based dictionaries.
  • Do a web search BUT stay focused on your topic AND think about the reliability of the web sites. (For help with this, see the Library's guide to  Evaluating websites .)
  • Browse the relevant shelves in the library and look for related topics.
  • Ask your tutor for a suggestion for where to start.
  • The Library also have advice on how to  and a series of brief videos  showing you how to find and access Library resources.
  • To help you decide whether a source is appropriate for academic research, try this short training resource from the University of Manchester -  Know your sources 
  • Subject guides Guides to specialist resources in subjects studied at the University.
  • Evaluating websites Hints on assessing the reliability of information you find on the Internet.
  • Library videos A link to Library videos on how to use the Library and access resources
  • Know your sources On-line training tutorial from Manchester University on evaluating academic sources

reading is useful essay

It is not a good idea to rely on 1 or 2 sources very heavily as this shows a lack of wider reading, and can mean you just get a limited view without thinking of an argument of your own.

Nor is it useful (or possible) to read everything on the reading list and try to fit it all into your assignment. This usually leads to losing your own thoughts under a mass of reading.

The best way is to be strategic about your reading and identify what you need to find out and what the best sources to use to find this information.

It can be better to read less and try to think about, and understand, the issues more clearly - take time to make sure you really get the ideas rather than reading more and more which can increase your confusion.

  • Use the Library catalogue to find other books on that topic. Either click on the subject headings in the full record of the books you wanted; or make a note of their Call Numbers and check on the shelves for similar titles.
  • Look for relevant journal articles using the Summon search box on the Library homepage or using key resources listed on the guide for your subject.
  • Use online resources BUT always evaluate them to see if they are appropriate for academic purposes. (For help with this, see the Library's guide to  Evaluating websites .)  
  • Ask around to see if any of your fellow students has the books you need. You may be able to borrow them briefly to photocopy any material you need. But be careful to return it promptly - and if you lend a Library book taken out with your ticket to someone else, make sure they take it back on time, or your account will be blocked!
  • Don't forget to ask your friendly Academic Liaison Librarian for advice - they are happy to help you find relevant, academic sources for your assignments.
  • Contact your Academic Liaison Librarian

Keep focused on your reading goals. One way to do this is to ask questions as you read and try to read actively and creatively. It is a good idea to think of your own subject related questions but the following may be generally useful

reading is useful essay

  • What do I want to know about?
  • What is the main idea behind the writing?
  • What conclusions can be drawn from the evidence?
  • In research, what are the major findings?

Questioning the writing

  • What are the limitations or flaws in the evidence?
  • Can the theory be disproved or is it too general?
  • What examples would prove the opposite theory?
  • What would you expect to come next?
  • What would you like to ask the author?

Forming your own opinion

  • How does this fit in with my own theory/beliefs?
  • How does it fit with the opposite theory/beliefs?
  • Is my own theory/beliefs still valid?
  • Am I surprised?
  • Do I agree?

Your reading speed is generally limited by your thinking speed. If ideas or information requires lots of understanding then it is necessary to read slowly. Choosing a reading technique must depend upon why you are reading:

  • To enjoy the language or the narrative.
  • As a source of information and/or ideas.
  • To discover the scope of a subject - before a lecture, seminar or research project.
  • To compare theories or approaches by different authors or researchers.
  • For a particular piece of work e.g. essay, dissertation.

It is important to keep your aims in mind. Most reading will require a mixture of techniques e.g. scanning to find the critical passages followed by reflective reading.

Good for searching for particular information or to see if a passage is relevant:

  • Look up a word or subject in the index or look for the chapter most likely to contain the required information.
  • Use a pencil and run it down the page to keep your eyes focusing on the search for key words

Skim reading

Good to quickly gain an overview, familiarise yourself with a chapter or an article or to understand the structure for later note-taking

  • Don't read every word.
  • Do read summaries, heading and subheadings.
  • Look at tables, diagrams, illustrations, etc.
  • Read first sentences of paragraphs to see what they are about.
  • If the material is useful or interesting, decide whether just some sections are relevant or whether you need to read it all.

Reflective or critical reading

Good for building your understanding and knowledge.

  • Think about the questions you want to answer.
  • Read actively in the search for answers.
  • Look for an indication of the chapter's structure or any other "map" provided by the author.
  • reasons, qualifications, evidence, examples...
  • Look for "signposts" –sentences or phrases to indicate the structure e.g. "There are three main reasons, First.. Secondly.. Thirdly.." or to emphasise the main ideas e.g. "Most importantly.." "To summarise.."
  • Connecting words may indicate separate steps in the argument e.g. "but", "on the other hand", "furthermore", "however"..
  • After you have read a chunk, make brief notes remembering to record the page number as well as the complete reference (Author, title, date, journal/publisher, etc)
  • At the end of the chapter or article put the book aside and go over your notes, to ensure that they adequately reflect the main points.
  • Ask yourself - how has this added to your knowledge?
  • Will it help you to make out an argument for your essay?
  • Do you agree with the arguments, research methods, evidence..?
  • Add any of your own ideas – indicating that they are YOUR ideas use [ ] or different colours.

Rapid reading

Good for scanning and skim-reading,  but  remember that it is usually more important to understand what you read than to read quickly. Reading at speed is unlikely to work for reflective, critical reading.

If you are concerned that you are really slow:

  • Check that you are not mouthing the words – it will slow you down
  • Do not stare at individual words – let your eyes run along a line stopping at every third word. Practise and then lengthen the run until you are stopping only four times per line, then three times, etc.
  • The more you read, the faster you will become as you grow more familiar with specialist vocabulary, academic language and reading about theories and ideas. So keep practising…

If you still have concerns about your reading speed, book an  individual advice session  with a Study Adviser.

  • ibid : In the same work as the last footnote or reference (from ibidem meaning: in the same place)
  • op.cit: In the work already mentioned (from operato citato meaning in the work cited)
  • ff: and the following pages
  • cf: compare
  • passim: to be found throughout a particular book.

You may also find journal titles abbreviated. You will often find a list in your Course Handbook of the most often used in your discipline. Or ask the Academic Liaison Librarian for your subject.

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  • URL: https://libguides.reading.ac.uk/reading

Young Readers Foundation

The Importance Of Reading

Reading is an exercise for the mind. It helps kids calm down and relax, opening doors of new knowledge to enlighten their minds. Kids who read grow up to have better cognitive skills. Reading is good for everyone, not only children or young adults. On the internet you will find many lists with up to 30 reasons why reading is important. Here I limit myself to 15 thoroughly substantiated reasons.

Reading improves vocabulary

Even as adults, when we read, we come across many new words we never really heard of. And we learn from this. As you read, you come across new words, phrases and writing styles. This is even more so for young people. Children sometimes stumble over their words, do not know how to pronounce them or what they mean. By reading, young people encounter new words more frequently and sometimes repetitively and therefore can see them better in their context. If you then pay attention to the pronunciation as a parent, these children will be better prepared for school.

Better comprehension

Kids who are encouraged to read at an early age have better comprehension of things around them. They develop smart thinking abilities and are more receptive to creativity and ideas that other kids their age lack. As a result, they grow up to be a good deal more intelligent and aware of their surroundings than kids who don’t read. The more you read, the more imaginative you become. Whenever you read a fiction book, it takes you another world. In the new world, your imagination works at its best as you try to see things in your own mind.

Develops critical thinking skills

One of the primary benefits of reading books is its ability to develop critical thinking skills. For example, reading a mystery novel sharpens your mind. What elements are there in a story to make this or that conclusion. Or if a book is non-fiction you will sometimes ask yourself if the author is right. Critical thinking skills are crucial when it comes to making important day to day decisions. Reading requires an individual to think and process information in a way that watching television can’t. The more you read, the deeper your understanding becomes about what you’re reading and its application.

Improves memory

Every time you read a book, you have to remember the setting of the book, the characters, their backgrounds, their history, their personalities, the sub-plots and so much more. As your brain learns to remember all this, your memory becomes better. What’s more, with every new memory you create, you create new pathways and this strengthens the existing ones.

Improves results at school

Kids who indulge in reading book and learning new things do better at school. They are more creative, open to new ideas, and develop empathy for others. For instance, kids who read about heroes idolize them, kids who love reading anatomy books dream of becoming a doctor, etc. They learn to empathize with characters in the books and want to be like them. Not only that, they learn valuable life lessons such as helping others and being kind. Moral codes such as goods things will be appreciated and evils punished take root in their minds too, as a result of which they learn to stay away from trouble.

Improves analytical skills

Figuring out how the story was going to end before finishing the book means you utilized your analytical skills. Reading allows your thinking skills to become more developed in the sense that you consider all aspects.

Builds confidence

In a world where competition in every walk of life prevails, we need to build a child’s personality as to have considerable confidence in themselves. Kids who lack confidence in their early stages often grow up to be shy, and at times suicidal, since they develop a victim mentality owing to the lack of confidence in their own self. They find it hard to face even the smallest of challenges life throws at them, instead simply giving up. Reading books sharpens many skills and all together they’ll build confidence.

Helps you socialize

We can always share whatever we have read with our family, friends and colleagues. All this increases our ability to socialize. Humans are social beings and in the world of smartphones, we are losing our ability to socialize. However, reading had led to the formation of book clubs and other forums where we get a chance to share and interact with others.

Broadens horizons

By reading books, you get a glimpse of other cultures and places. Books expand your horizons, letting you see other countries, other people and so many other things you have never seen or imagined. It’s the perfect way to visit a strange country in your mind. When we open a book while sitting in the comfort of our rooms, like time travelling, we transport our imaginations to a world purely based on the imaginations of the author. We learn about everything they wants u to know, see the world through their eyes and their perspective, learn about new people, discover their traditions, cultures and all that makes them unique and unforgettable.

Improves writing skills

Reading a well-written book affects your ability to become a better writer. Just like artists influence others, so do writers. Many successful authors gained their expertise by reading the works of others. Kids who learn to read also tend to develop better writing skills. The reason: they have been introduced to a world where words are their main weapon and they are free to shoot out. Literally! Parents must try to develop an interest for writing. Kids with good writing skills don’t fall victim to cramming and can express themselves more candidly through their words.

Improves focus and concentration

In our internet-crazed world, attention is drawn in a million different directions at once as we multi-task through every day. In a single 5-minute span, the average person will divide their time between working on a task, checking email, chatting with a couple of people (via gchat, skype, etc.), keeping an eye on twitter, monitoring their smartphone, and interacting with co-workers. This type of ADD-like behavior causes stress levels to rise, and lowers our productivity. When you read a book, all of your attention is focused on the story—the rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail you’re absorbing. Try reading for 15-20 minutes before work (i.e. on your morning commute, if you take public transit), and you’ll be surprised at how much more focused you are once you get to the office or school.

Makes you more empathetic

According to studies, losing yourself in books, especially fiction, might increase your empathy. In a study conducted in the Netherlands, researchers showed that people who were “emotionally transported” by a work of fiction experienced a boost in empathy. By reading a book, you become part of the story and feel the pain and other emotions of the characters. This in turn allows your mind to become more aware of how different things affect other people. Eventually, this improves your ability to emphasize with other people.

It develops emotions

When you read a book, you are on the receiving end of knowledge. The sender, the writer is delivering a message, imparting something of value, a fact, an opinion, a view or at the very least an emotion. They are inviting you into their own psyche and hoping that you will care enough to listen and respond to it. So it won’t be wrong to say that reading actually flexes emotions. It builds a connection between the reader and the writer you have never met or known before. Even if you disagree with what they are delivering, you get to know them, and you connect to them on an emotional level.

Readers are leaders

Although not definitively proved, but almost all great leaders were readers. One reason they are respected and known for their wisdom is because they develop a healthy reading habit. For centuries, reading has been the source of inspiration, growth and new ideas. It is a valuable investment in one’s own personality with uncountable and long-lasting benefits. If you want your child to become one, you need to encourage him to read. It will keep his mind healthy and productive. Only then they will be able to impact the world in a better way.

Learn at your own pace

Another benefit of reading a book is that you learn at your own pace. Since you have the book all the time, you can always go back to a section you feel you don’t understand. You can re-read a chapter as many times as you wish, without worry that you will miss out a section. If it’s a self-help book, you can tackle one issue at a time. Once you handle one problem, then you can move to the next issue whenever you feel you’re ready. Everything is done at your own pace and most importantly, your mind is free to interpret things the way you feel.

Reading books also reduces stress, helps you sleep better, improves health, develops your imagination and above all: it is just fun to do. Reading has a tremendous effect in fueling all aspects of our personality and enhancing our linguistic prowess. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the entirety of human life depends on it. Whatever we grow up to become in our lives, no matter where we stand, reading has somehow shaped it.

source listings: 23 Reasons Why You Need To Encourage Kids To Read by Serious Reading https://seriousreading.com/blog/1001-23-reasons-why-you-need-to-encourage-kids-to-read.html 30 Reasons to Read Books by Serious Reading https://seriousreading.com/blog/283-30-reasons-to-read-books.html 12 Reasons Why You Should Read More Books by Georgette Rivera https://www.theodysseyonline.com/12-reasons-should-read 10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day by Lana Winter-Hébert https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/10-benefits-reading-why-you-should-read-everyday.html

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  • Reading to Engage and Evaluate
  • Effective Critical Reading

Audience and Purpose

Analysis Checklist

  • Reading for Evaluation

As an effective critical reader you must be able to identify the important elements of a text and their function.

To analyze means to break a text down into its parts to better understand it. When analyzing you notice both what the author is saying and how they are saying it. Looking deeply into a text beyond the explicit information can tell you the intended audience, the author's agenda or purpose, and the argument. Clues about these areas are often found in the language the author uses such as the word choice, phrasing, and tone. 

Look at this excerpt. Click each number button to learn more about evaluating this text:

How Is Asthma Treated? 

Take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you and stay away from things that can trigger an attack to control your asthma.

Everyone with asthma does not take the same medicine. 

You can breathe in some medicines and take other medicines as a pill. Asthma medicines come in two types-quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you need to use your quick-relief medicines more and more, visit your doctor to see if you need a different medicine. Long-term control medicines help you have fewer and milder attacks, but they don't help you while you are having an asthma attack. 

Asthma medicines can have side effects, but most side effects are mild and soon go away.  Ask your doctor about the side effects of your medicines. 

Remember -you can control your asthma. With your doctor's help, make your own asthma action plan. Decide who should have a copy of your plan and where he or she should keep it. Take your long-term control medicine even when you don't have symptoms. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC), 2018).

Use of Second Person

The author uses the second person point of view, the "you" pronoun to address the reader. The use of second person point of view is informal and not often seen as scholarly writing.

Scholarly Voice

The author uses contractions like don't and avoids medical terminology and difficult vocabulary.

Talking Directly to Readers

The author seems to be talking directly to readers who are not in the medical profession, giving them advice on how to treat asthma and prevent attacks.

From this analysis we can interpret that the intended audience is individuals with asthma.

The tone, while informal, it is also authoritative and direct. Note and gentle, emotional, or anecdotal information that is included. The author does not highlight statistics about the high rate of asthma or the implications of leaving it untreated. In order to persuade, the writing is presented in an objective manner that supports awareness. From this analysis, we understand that the author's purpose is to inform in a very practical way.

Why does analyzing for audience and purpose matter?

The audience and purpose can tell you whether a source might be appropriate to use in your own research and writing.

For example, because this excerpt was written to inform the general public about asthma, it does not have the level of detail and evidence necessary for scholarly research. 

It is also helpful to know from what point of view the author is writing so you can consider that when evaluating for potential bias. Another benefit of analyzing in this way is that you can apply what you learn to your own writing. For example, when reading an academic essay you may identify that word choice and tone are really effective in communicating with the academic community. You can then try a similar voice and tone in your own writing.

If you find it helpful to follow checklists, consider using this one to practice your analysis skills as you are reading. 

Who is the intended audience?

What is the author's purpose?

How do the audience and purpose influence your reading?

Argument and Evidence

What is the thesis?

What are the main points that support that thesis, and how do those main points connect?

What evidence is used?

Language and Tone

What is the tone the author uses?

How does the author's use of language and tone support the audience, purpose, and argument?

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By K ristin Milligan

In many classrooms around the country, students are handed assignment sheets that nicely detail what is expected of them as writers. Regardless of the genre, one (outdated) mainstay is the mandate for formal outlines. It’s good for writers to collect their thoughts before jumping into the physical process of writing, and most people would agree with this concept, but unfortunately, not everyone thinks or writes the same way. As a result, formal outlines required at the beginning of the writing process may hinder creativity and progress. Even more likely, students write the mandated outline after the piece has been revised and edited, as a means of meeting the assignment requirements. Requiring students to create an outline as the first step of the writing process  t eaches them that writing is a linear movement, when in reality, it’s actually recursive.

Reflect on Your Experience

Have you ever been required to write a formal outline as part of a larger assignment? How did it help or hurt your writing process?

There’s an age-old argument among those in the composition field. Should teachers and writers be focused on the product or the process of writing? Writing can be understood in a variety of ways, but one consistent factor is the idea of planning before actu ally writing the intended piece. For quite a while now, this idea has translated to the mandatory inclusion of outlines as a means of helping students organize and develop their thoughts before writ ing a draft. In general terms, the use of outlines as a pre-writing strategy is thought to afford writers the ability to more cohesively structure their written work.

While organization and form are important aspects to the writing process, just because someone has organized ideas in a prefabricated and hierarchical form does not mean the actual writing is going to reflect this linear pre-writing strategy. For instance, one study concerning the behavior of good writers found that only one of the writers studied used anything close to what one could call an outline, but there were 14 other good writers in the study, too. Does that mean that the one student who used an outline is the best writer? How can teachers qualify writers’ abilities and strengths, especially based on a linear docu ment that vaguely represents a recursive process? This disconnect highlights a major gap in the understanding of how good writers compose texts.

Essentially, requiring students to create a formal outline for their written work excludes other valuable organizational strategies, such as mind mapping, picture drawing, and manipulating phys ical representations of ideas, such as rearranging Post-It notes on a whiteboard. Instead of only choosing a familiar and mandated organizational form, students should instead be allowed to use strategies that work best with their own intelligences to foster their growth.

Another reason mandatory outlines should be given their proper burial is that outlines seem to only serve students in a particular manner: organization. Students’ final drafts are more organized when they use electronic outlining, but it doesn’t help them in strengthening a paper’s argument. In other words, outlines help students organize ideas, but don’t help students develop those ideas. Furthermore, a study on how students use prior knowl edge to develop new skills toward writing established that outlines alone don’t help with student understanding. Ultimately, outlines make students focus on writing as a product instead of a process, even though they are meant to do the latter.

Even if students weren’t required to create formal outlines, an organizational process would most likely be used in some manner, based on how people learn through observation of others’ writing processes. Research highlights how students naturally use outlines as they fit into particular assignments. Not only do students have the ability to apply the concept of outlining when needed, they also marry this strategy with others that benefit them in the writ ing process. Even so, research shows that the use of outlines has no correlation with the success of student papers. So, it can be assumed that students have the capability of using an outline (in whatever form it may take) as it serves their writing purposes, but students should not be forced to use a pre-writing strategy that is inorganic to their writing process, such as a formal outline with Roman numerals, a and b subdivisions, and the like. When students only need to plug in information into an already estab lished structure, they lose multiple opportunities to engage in crit ical thinking and development of their ideas.

What planning strategies do you think might help you organize your thinking and better develop your argument before you begin drafting?

In most cases, required outlines become a contrived formal ity, not a tool to help student writers succeed. Personal experience reminds us that students learn how to create outlines by being told what to do. (I can still hear my junior-year high school English teacher repeating to us that if our outlines “have an A they must have a B. If they have a 1 they must have a 2,” as if this alone constituted pre-writing.) A more fruitful approach is to encourage students in their writing by allowing them to explore multiple writ ing strategies at every stage of the process. In doing so, there’s the possibility that students’ beliefs about their writing efficacy will increase because they will be focusing on what helps them develop their skills in writing and not their skills in following directions.

But not all uses of outlines are pernicious. One way that outlines can serve a vital function is to use them in the reverse. A small amount of literature has been shared about how writing a draft, then an outline of that draft, gives the writer the chance to see where revisions are needed. It’s important to note that some students just don’t know what they’re going to write about until they’ve started writing. Using outlines to organize thoughts that don’t exist yet has the capability of stifling students’ thinking processes, but when students decide to adapt outlines to benefit their personal writing method, it reinforces the fact that writing is a recursive and non-linear process. Teachers should be teach ing outlines as a way to highlight the progress that students have made, instead of as a way to dictate where students are supposed to end up before they’ve even started.

Reverse outlines not only help students pinpoint whether Paragraph 2 should become Paragraph 4, but they also emphasize many other aspects of writing as well. As Rachel Cayley points out, reverse outlining helps students pinpoint general structural problems and begin the process of detailed revisions. Additionally, depending on what is included in the reverse outline, students may end up noticing errors in topic sentences, flow of ideas, transitions, or the development of their argument. Reverse outlining helps to delineate the need to circle back, review, and revise, while encour aging students to realize that hierarchical structure and organiza tion are important factors in creating a well-developed text.

Writing is a messy practice, and it’s important to be gentle with one another and ourselves, especially when we decide which tools we want to use to make sense of our mess. It’s vital to realize and remember that outlines are a tool at our disposal when we write; they aren’t the only mode of organization, nor are they necessarily the best mode for our particular writing process.

Reflect on Your Reading

  • Have you ever found outlines to be helpful? What are some ways that outlining can help students?
  • What do you think is more important or beneficial for students to focus on: process or product? Why?

Further Reading

To learn more about writing processes, see Linda Flower and John R. Hayes’s classic article, “The Cognitive Process Theory of Writing,” along with Anne Becker’s “A Review of Writing Model Research Based on Cognitive Processes,” Charles K. Stallard’s “An Analysis of the Writing Behavior of Good Student Writers,” and Veerle M. Baaijen, David Galbraith, and Kees de Glopper’s “Effects of Writing Beliefs and Planning on Writing Performance.”

For further reading about outlines and reverse outlines, along with practical tips and examples, see “Types of Outlines and Samples” on the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab), Aaron Hamburger’s “Outlining in Reverse,” Kurtis Clements’s podcast “Revision Strategy—Post-Draft Outlining,” and the Kansas State University Writing Center’s handout “Reverse Outlining,” all available online. See also Milou J.R. de Smet, et. al.’s “Electronic Outlining as a Writing Strategy: Effects on Students’ Writing Products, Mental Effort and Writing Process,” and Barbara E. Walvoord, et. al.’s, “Functions of Outlining Among College Students in Four Disciplines.”

outlines, post draft outlining, reverse outlining, writing as a process, writing process

Kristin Milligan is currently the associate director of the Learning Center at East Central College. In her more than six years of experience as a writing center tutor, Kristin has seen all kinds of outlines, messy and neat, informal and formal, and she has observed the effects of writing process choices on student texts. Kristin holds a Master’s degree from Texas State University in San Marcos, TX, and a teaching degree from Webster University in St. Louis, MO. She embraces multiple modes of brainstorming and organization as a way to reach diverse writers.

To the extent possible under law, Lisa Dunick has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Readings for Writing , except where otherwise noted.

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  • 40 Useful Words and Phrases for Top-Notch Essays

reading is useful essay

To be truly brilliant, an essay needs to utilise the right language. You could make a great point, but if it’s not intelligently articulated, you almost needn’t have bothered.

Developing the language skills to build an argument and to write persuasively is crucial if you’re to write outstanding essays every time. In this article, we’re going to equip you with the words and phrases you need to write a top-notch essay, along with examples of how to utilise them.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list, and there will often be other ways of using the words and phrases we describe that we won’t have room to include, but there should be more than enough below to help you make an instant improvement to your essay-writing skills.

If you’re interested in developing your language and persuasive skills, Oxford Royale offers summer courses at its Oxford Summer School , Cambridge Summer School , London Summer School , San Francisco Summer School and Yale Summer School . You can study courses to learn english , prepare for careers in law , medicine , business , engineering and leadership.

General explaining

Let’s start by looking at language for general explanations of complex points.

1. In order to

Usage: “In order to” can be used to introduce an explanation for the purpose of an argument. Example: “In order to understand X, we need first to understand Y.”

2. In other words

Usage: Use “in other words” when you want to express something in a different way (more simply), to make it easier to understand, or to emphasise or expand on a point. Example: “Frogs are amphibians. In other words, they live on the land and in the water.”

3. To put it another way

Usage: This phrase is another way of saying “in other words”, and can be used in particularly complex points, when you feel that an alternative way of wording a problem may help the reader achieve a better understanding of its significance. Example: “Plants rely on photosynthesis. To put it another way, they will die without the sun.”

4. That is to say

Usage: “That is” and “that is to say” can be used to add further detail to your explanation, or to be more precise. Example: “Whales are mammals. That is to say, they must breathe air.”

5. To that end

Usage: Use “to that end” or “to this end” in a similar way to “in order to” or “so”. Example: “Zoologists have long sought to understand how animals communicate with each other. To that end, a new study has been launched that looks at elephant sounds and their possible meanings.”

Adding additional information to support a point

Students often make the mistake of using synonyms of “and” each time they want to add further information in support of a point they’re making, or to build an argument . Here are some cleverer ways of doing this.

6. Moreover

Usage: Employ “moreover” at the start of a sentence to add extra information in support of a point you’re making. Example: “Moreover, the results of a recent piece of research provide compelling evidence in support of…”

7. Furthermore

Usage:This is also generally used at the start of a sentence, to add extra information. Example: “Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that…”

8. What’s more

Usage: This is used in the same way as “moreover” and “furthermore”. Example: “What’s more, this isn’t the only evidence that supports this hypothesis.”

9. Likewise

Usage: Use “likewise” when you want to talk about something that agrees with what you’ve just mentioned. Example: “Scholar A believes X. Likewise, Scholar B argues compellingly in favour of this point of view.”

10. Similarly

Usage: Use “similarly” in the same way as “likewise”. Example: “Audiences at the time reacted with shock to Beethoven’s new work, because it was very different to what they were used to. Similarly, we have a tendency to react with surprise to the unfamiliar.”

11. Another key thing to remember

Usage: Use the phrase “another key point to remember” or “another key fact to remember” to introduce additional facts without using the word “also”. Example: “As a Romantic, Blake was a proponent of a closer relationship between humans and nature. Another key point to remember is that Blake was writing during the Industrial Revolution, which had a major impact on the world around him.”

12. As well as

Usage: Use “as well as” instead of “also” or “and”. Example: “Scholar A argued that this was due to X, as well as Y.”

13. Not only… but also

Usage: This wording is used to add an extra piece of information, often something that’s in some way more surprising or unexpected than the first piece of information. Example: “Not only did Edmund Hillary have the honour of being the first to reach the summit of Everest, but he was also appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”

14. Coupled with

Usage: Used when considering two or more arguments at a time. Example: “Coupled with the literary evidence, the statistics paint a compelling view of…”

15. Firstly, secondly, thirdly…

Usage: This can be used to structure an argument, presenting facts clearly one after the other. Example: “There are many points in support of this view. Firstly, X. Secondly, Y. And thirdly, Z.

16. Not to mention/to say nothing of

Usage: “Not to mention” and “to say nothing of” can be used to add extra information with a bit of emphasis. Example: “The war caused unprecedented suffering to millions of people, not to mention its impact on the country’s economy.”

Words and phrases for demonstrating contrast

When you’re developing an argument, you will often need to present contrasting or opposing opinions or evidence – “it could show this, but it could also show this”, or “X says this, but Y disagrees”. This section covers words you can use instead of the “but” in these examples, to make your writing sound more intelligent and interesting.

17. However

Usage: Use “however” to introduce a point that disagrees with what you’ve just said. Example: “Scholar A thinks this. However, Scholar B reached a different conclusion.”

18. On the other hand

Usage: Usage of this phrase includes introducing a contrasting interpretation of the same piece of evidence, a different piece of evidence that suggests something else, or an opposing opinion. Example: “The historical evidence appears to suggest a clear-cut situation. On the other hand, the archaeological evidence presents a somewhat less straightforward picture of what happened that day.”

19. Having said that

Usage: Used in a similar manner to “on the other hand” or “but”. Example: “The historians are unanimous in telling us X, an agreement that suggests that this version of events must be an accurate account. Having said that, the archaeology tells a different story.”

20. By contrast/in comparison

Usage: Use “by contrast” or “in comparison” when you’re comparing and contrasting pieces of evidence. Example: “Scholar A’s opinion, then, is based on insufficient evidence. By contrast, Scholar B’s opinion seems more plausible.”

21. Then again

Usage: Use this to cast doubt on an assertion. Example: “Writer A asserts that this was the reason for what happened. Then again, it’s possible that he was being paid to say this.”

22. That said

Usage: This is used in the same way as “then again”. Example: “The evidence ostensibly appears to point to this conclusion. That said, much of the evidence is unreliable at best.”

Usage: Use this when you want to introduce a contrasting idea. Example: “Much of scholarship has focused on this evidence. Yet not everyone agrees that this is the most important aspect of the situation.”

Adding a proviso or acknowledging reservations

Sometimes, you may need to acknowledge a shortfalling in a piece of evidence, or add a proviso. Here are some ways of doing so.

24. Despite this

Usage: Use “despite this” or “in spite of this” when you want to outline a point that stands regardless of a shortfalling in the evidence. Example: “The sample size was small, but the results were important despite this.”

25. With this in mind

Usage: Use this when you want your reader to consider a point in the knowledge of something else. Example: “We’ve seen that the methods used in the 19th century study did not always live up to the rigorous standards expected in scientific research today, which makes it difficult to draw definite conclusions. With this in mind, let’s look at a more recent study to see how the results compare.”

26. Provided that

Usage: This means “on condition that”. You can also say “providing that” or just “providing” to mean the same thing. Example: “We may use this as evidence to support our argument, provided that we bear in mind the limitations of the methods used to obtain it.”

27. In view of/in light of

Usage: These phrases are used when something has shed light on something else. Example: “In light of the evidence from the 2013 study, we have a better understanding of…”

28. Nonetheless

Usage: This is similar to “despite this”. Example: “The study had its limitations, but it was nonetheless groundbreaking for its day.”

29. Nevertheless

Usage: This is the same as “nonetheless”. Example: “The study was flawed, but it was important nevertheless.”

30. Notwithstanding

Usage: This is another way of saying “nonetheless”. Example: “Notwithstanding the limitations of the methodology used, it was an important study in the development of how we view the workings of the human mind.”

Giving examples

Good essays always back up points with examples, but it’s going to get boring if you use the expression “for example” every time. Here are a couple of other ways of saying the same thing.

31. For instance

Example: “Some birds migrate to avoid harsher winter climates. Swallows, for instance, leave the UK in early winter and fly south…”

32. To give an illustration

Example: “To give an illustration of what I mean, let’s look at the case of…”

Signifying importance

When you want to demonstrate that a point is particularly important, there are several ways of highlighting it as such.

33. Significantly

Usage: Used to introduce a point that is loaded with meaning that might not be immediately apparent. Example: “Significantly, Tacitus omits to tell us the kind of gossip prevalent in Suetonius’ accounts of the same period.”

34. Notably

Usage: This can be used to mean “significantly” (as above), and it can also be used interchangeably with “in particular” (the example below demonstrates the first of these ways of using it). Example: “Actual figures are notably absent from Scholar A’s analysis.”

35. Importantly

Usage: Use “importantly” interchangeably with “significantly”. Example: “Importantly, Scholar A was being employed by X when he wrote this work, and was presumably therefore under pressure to portray the situation more favourably than he perhaps might otherwise have done.”

Summarising

You’ve almost made it to the end of the essay, but your work isn’t over yet. You need to end by wrapping up everything you’ve talked about, showing that you’ve considered the arguments on both sides and reached the most likely conclusion. Here are some words and phrases to help you.

36. In conclusion

Usage: Typically used to introduce the concluding paragraph or sentence of an essay, summarising what you’ve discussed in a broad overview. Example: “In conclusion, the evidence points almost exclusively to Argument A.”

37. Above all

Usage: Used to signify what you believe to be the most significant point, and the main takeaway from the essay. Example: “Above all, it seems pertinent to remember that…”

38. Persuasive

Usage: This is a useful word to use when summarising which argument you find most convincing. Example: “Scholar A’s point – that Constanze Mozart was motivated by financial gain – seems to me to be the most persuasive argument for her actions following Mozart’s death.”

39. Compelling

Usage: Use in the same way as “persuasive” above. Example: “The most compelling argument is presented by Scholar A.”

40. All things considered

Usage: This means “taking everything into account”. Example: “All things considered, it seems reasonable to assume that…”

How many of these words and phrases will you get into your next essay? And are any of your favourite essay terms missing from our list? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch here to find out more about courses that can help you with your essays.

At Oxford Royale Academy, we offer a number of  summer school courses for young people who are keen to improve their essay writing skills. Click here to apply for one of our courses today, including law , business , medicine  and engineering .

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Ralph waldo emerson's advice on reading and writing, introduction: emerson on reading.

In 1837 Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke to Harvard's Phi Beta Kappa Society. Addressing an audience of newly minted graduates, he gave one of those inspiring pep talks that commencement speakers have been giving ever since. The result became one of his classic essays, "The American Scholar," which offered a roadmap for a life of the mind that moved beyond the worship of books and a life of un-reflected reading. Emerson understood that reading is crucial to a person's intellectual well-being, but it's not the only thing we should be doing, far from it.

He wanted us to know there was more to life than books. We must find time to live as well. Books are best thought of as tools used to kickstart our own creativity. We read to write; we write to create and create so we can tap into something larger than ourselves. The inspiration people still get from reading Emerson's essays comes from his contagious optimism that our potential goes far beyond what we end up settling for. To become ourselves, we must go outside of ourselves and so gain the experience needed to level up in life. Books are an essential part of that growth. But there's more to it than that.

Emerson began "American Scholar" with a synopsis of how books shaped civilization. Think of them as depositories where great minds take facts from the world and convert them into durable ideas for the rest of us to use. Such are the building blocks of culture. Man Thinking, to use Emerson's term for the individual as an actively thinking being in the world, is someone able to express ideas in original, resonating ways. Thoughts transferred from mind to document become solid objects in the world for anyone to read.

Thus we got writing, and writing gave us a record, and so was born the first information technology. Nothing would ever be the same. As long as ideas survive to be read, these reified ghosts of our psyche achieve a kind of immortality. The mind that created them must eventually return to dust. At the same time, the best ideas will continue inspiring, shaping, and defining culture for centuries. Plato, the authors of the Gospels and Paul too, Mohammed, Bill Shakespeare, John Milton, John Locke, J.J. Rousseau, and Ernest Hemmingway, are just a few examples of what this means in practice.

Emerson elaborates, " The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him—life; it went out from him—truth. It came to him—short-lived actions; it went out from him—immortal thoughts. It came to him—business; it went from him—poetry. It was—dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing ."

reading is useful essay

Emerson on Reading, Writing, Creating

We've all had these "immortal thoughts" from time to time, the occasional glimpse of the sublime that hints at some higher truth we can't quite put into words. Sadly, the sublime often dies unexpressed in the prison of our skulls. That is, of course, unless it's unlocked and freed by a writer of genius able to find the words that we can't. That's what genius is, by the way; it's not all about a high IQ. Hardly. For how many brilliant minds out there are creatively and emotionally sterile? They're good at math, maybe, and puzzles and trivia, but otherwise they're nothing but efficient intellect. High-functioning robots. For Emerson, genius is useless if it doesn't create anything. It's a fruit tree that doesn't bear any fruit.

Emerson wrote, Genius creates. To create—to create—is the proof of a divine presence. Whatever talents may be, if the man create not, the pure efflux of the Deity is not his—cinders and smoke, there may be, but not yet flame. "

For anyone who's ever tried to write down a complicated thought, the challenge is communicating what we're experiencing in a way other people can understand. Left to our own devices, we're usually unable to describe what we're thinking, especially where emotions and abstractions are involved.

Dreaming is the most common example where people run into this problem. How many times have you dreamt of something that evoked some powerful emotion? Perhaps it was a terrifying nightmare, an erotic dream, or any other Salvador Dali-esque phantasmagoria that left you shaken. You wake up out of breath, in a cold sweat, and your heart beating like a rabbit's. But then it all dissolves as soon as you begin to describe it. The dream vision turns into a crude crayon drawing. Dumbfounded, we retreat in frustration. "You just had to be there!"

Enter the writer, the best of whom find the words to describe the indescribable. They're linguistic guides, mapmakers of the soul, and sculptors of mind. That's what good writing does: It takes unspoken but experienced intuitions and gives them form. We find resonance in hearing our vague ideas expressed so much better by someone else. This carries even more weight when the words transcend time and space and still have meaning for us.

" It is remarkable, the character of the pleasure we derive from the best books. They impress us with the conviction that one nature wrote and the same reads. We read the verses of one of the great English poets, of Chaucer, of Marvell, of Dryden, with the most modern joy—with a pleasure, I mean, which is in great part caused by the abstraction of all time from their verses. There is some awe mixed with the joy of our surprise, when this poet, who lived in some past world, two or three hundred years ago, says that which lies close to my own soul, that which I also had well nigh thought and said. "

But like any information technology, there's a risk. Even as we bask in the enlightened glow of someone else's thoughts, we're incomplete if that's all we do. Readers who only read, who never take what they read as a springboard to create something unique, never really think on their own. They're what Emerson contemptuously referred to as "bookworms" or the "book-learned class." They worship books as objects instead of for the contents contained therein. Readers who are merely book smart forever remain vicarious thinkers. They often have stacks and stacks of books, most of which they've never read.

Don't get me wrong, Emerson believed that reading is far better than not, and I most certainly agree, though it's like anything else. If done in excess, it takes away more than it gives. If we're not careful, we'll read uncritically and lose the ability to sort sense from nonsense. It's passive reading for the sake of reading; it's assuming that reading in and of itself is a good thing, no matter the content or the intent of that reading.

I confess that's been my personal view for years. I'm not alone in lamenting that deeper forms of reading that demand our attention are dying in the face of digital technologies that reward passivity. My settling for "good enough" in this brave new world has been to encourage others to read something, anything, for Christ's sake, instead of staring at a screen and zombie-scrolling shallow crap all day long. But that's not good enough for Emerson. Readers must learn to write, create, and think for themselves. Reading ought to inspire that process. It needs to be an activity that supplements the soul's diet, not serves as the entire meal. Quality reading demands our attention. But, yeah, I know, that's easier said than done.

Moreover, even those who try to write are often intimidated by the quality of what they've already read. Good writing breeds copycats, and copycats rarely exceed the original in style and content. Finding one's own voice is challenging when we've gotten into the habit of not doing so. How often I've finished a novel and marveled at the world the author was able to immerse me in. " My God, I could never write anything like that " is the insidious acid that burns away our willpower, mainly because it's often true. The paradox of creativity stifling creativity can scale up to the societal level, with fine-tuned traditions and authoritative elites encouraging the uncritical worship of canon. Their canon.

Emerson quips that Shakespeare's genius was so overshadowing that English poets have only "Shakespearized" in the two centuries since his death. As he puts it, " Genius is always sufficiently the enemy of genius by over-influence. " We read a work of genius and are so impressed and intimidated that we can see no other way of doing it better. And so we don't, and console ourselves with forever being consumers rather than creators.

While books give us access to a culture's intellectual greatest hits, they can also impede the development of new thoughts. " The book, the college, the school of art, the institution of any kind, stop with some past utterance of genius. This is good, say they—let us hold by this. They pin me down. They look backward and not forward. "

It's a curious paradox: On the one hand, reading frees us from the subjective island of our solitary selves and connects us to a vast trade network of other minds that transcend space and time. This enriches us beyond measure. Then again, over-reading saps our own mental vigor. We end up neither here nor there, devouring the ideas of others while creating none of our own.

reading is useful essay

Emerson's Advice for the Reader

Okay, so what's Emerson's advice for the reader? For all the aforementioned dangers, he wanted us to keep reading but to take a more instrumental approach. " There is then creative reading, as well as creative writing. When the mind is braced by labor and invention, the page of whatever book we read becomes luminous with manifold allusion. " Creative reading leads to creative writing. Creative reading is another way of saying active reading, or reading that interrogates and critiques the author. We should approach a book with an idea of what we want to get out of it and then leave the rest. We are to do with books as we please. " The discerning will read in his Plato or Shakespeare, only that least part—only the authentic utterances of the oracle—all the rest he rejects, were it never so many times Plato's and Shakespeare's."

All this is meant to do two things. First, active reading should inspire our own creative efforts. Don't just read, write as well; find a voice, have something to say, and learn to say it with some eloquence. Remember, genius doesn't merely consume content; it creates. Emerson's philosophy demands that we do so on our own terms. Everyone has something to say. This is far from the aristocratic elitism of the European thinkers. On the contrary, it's a refreshingly democratic plea intended for all of us. Reading Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, for example, is to wade through the dripping contempt they have for the average person's potential.

Emerson's approach lacks that stinging snobbery. It was meant for all of us. He believed each person had a bit of the divine spark and something interesting to say. It's our job to unlock the muse imprisoned in our minds. We all have one. She's in there, somewhere, waiting. Yet reading is but the half of it. For that muse to sing her song, we must set her free, even if those first efforts are clumsy and out of tune. Practice, passion, and persistence will change that.

Second, if reading ought to be instrumental and inform our creative approach to life, we must also not forget the simple wisdom of life experience. In other words, there's another avenue to replenish our creative juices, which involves putting the books away and directly experiencing what the world has to offer. That includes the natural world, which for Emerson represented a sort of pantheistic majesty. The Truth is in nature; our task is to translate its mysterious language for others when they can't themselves. That's all of us most of the time. Emerson believed that tapping into that unity is one of the most creatively edifying things we can do.

But he was talking about the social world as well. We mustn't cloister ourselves in our libraries and shun human society. Wisdom is also found in the community, the church, the club, and conversations with close friends. Emerson wanted us to maintain an equilibrium in our lives between acting, experiencing, and intellectual pursuits like reading. Done with the right balance, they are like three legs of a stool, each holding the other two up.

Finding this balance puts us in the best position to sing our own songs, write our own poems, and leave our own bit of sublimity in the world when our bodies are gone. This is the closest any of us will get to immortality. The quality of our reading is better when we have our personal experience to contrast it with. Likewise, life is infinitely richer when we've fed our minds with good books written by humanity's greatest thinkers. Do the one, then the other, and do them over again.

At the end of another essay, "Nature," Emerson proclaims, " Every spirit builds itself a house, and beyond its house a world, and beyond its world a heaven ." And, " Build, therefore, your own world ." Reading, writing, and experiencing the world directly are part of that never-ending construction project. Those provide us with the materials to build with. Writing is the architect. It lets us construct a world in our heads where we must inevitably reside.

So make it beautiful.

Make it a refuge.

Make it your own.

Just make it.

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Some people think books are losing importance as a source of information and entertainment. To what extent do you agree? (Reported 2017, GT)
Children who start reading earlier in life, perform better later on in their school studies. How important are early reading skills in a child’s academic performance? What other preschool factors influence a child’s later academic achievements?
Some people think that children who spend a lot of time reading children’s story books are wasting their time which could be better used doing other more useful activities. To what extent do you agree?
Some people think that e-books are the death of paper books while others think that paper books will never disappear. Discuss both sides and give your opinion.
Libraries should focus on improving their technological resources rather than in building a larger collection of paper books. To what extent do you agree?
Public libraries will soon now longer be housed in a building as all facilities and books will be available online for all to access. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of public libraries only existing online.

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Perspective

When pto stands for 'pretend time off': doctors struggle to take real breaks.

Mara Gordon

reading is useful essay

A survey shows that doctors have trouble taking full vacations from their high-stress jobs. Even when they do, they often still do work on their time off. Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images hide caption

A survey shows that doctors have trouble taking full vacations from their high-stress jobs. Even when they do, they often still do work on their time off.

A few weeks ago, I took a vacation with my family. We went hiking in the national parks of southern Utah, and I was blissfully disconnected from work.

I'm a family physician, so taking a break from my job meant not seeing patients. It also meant not responding to patients' messages or checking my work email. For a full week, I was free.

Taking a real break — with no sneaky computer time to bang out a few prescription refill requests — left me feeling reenergized and ready to take care of my patients when I returned.

But apparently, being a doctor who doesn't work on vacation puts me squarely in the minority of U.S. physicians.

Research published in JAMA Network Open this year set out to quantify exactly how doctors use their vacation time — and what the implications might be for a health care workforce plagued by burnout, dissatisfaction and doctors who are thinking about leaving medicine.

"There is a strong business case for supporting taking real vacation," says Dr. Christine Sinsky , the lead author of the paper. "Burnout is incredibly expensive for organizations."

Health workers know what good care is. Pandemic burnout is getting in the way

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Health workers know what good care is. pandemic burnout is getting in the way.

Researchers surveyed 3,024 doctors, part of an American Medical Association cohort designed to represent the American physician workforce. They found that 59.6% of American physicians took 15 days of vacation or less per year. That's a little more than the average American: Most workers who have been at a job for a year or more get between 10 and 14 days of paid vacation time , according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, most doctors don't take real vacation. Over 70% of doctors surveyed said they worked on a typical vacation day.

"I have heard physicians refer to PTO as 'pretend time off,'" Sinsky says, referring to the acronym for "paid time off."

Sinsky and co-authors found that physicians who took more than three weeks of vacation a year had lower rates of burnout than those who took less, since vacation time is linked to well-being and job satisfaction .

And all those doctors toiling away on vacation, sitting poolside with their laptops? Sinsky argues it has serious consequences for health care.

Physician burnout is linked to high job turnover and excess health care costs , among other problems.

Still, it can be hard to change the culture of workaholism in medicine. Even the study authors confessed that they, too, worked on vacation.

"I remember when one of our first well-being papers was published," says Dr. Colin West , a co-author of the new study and a health care workforce researcher at the Mayo Clinic. "I responded to the revisions up at the family cabin in northern Minnesota on vacation."

Sinsky agreed. "I do not take all my vacation, which I recognize as a delicious irony of the whole thing," she says.

She's the American Medical Association's vice president of professional satisfaction. If she can't take a real vacation, is there any hope for the rest of us?

I interviewed a half dozen fellow physicians and chatted off the record with many friends and colleagues to get a sense of why it feels so hard to give ourselves a break. Here, I offer a few theories about why doctors are so terrible at taking time off.

We don't want to make more work for our colleagues

The authors of the study in JAMA Network Open didn't explore exactly what type of work doctors did on vacation, but the physicians I spoke to had some ideas.

"If I am not doing anything, I will triage my email a little bit," says Jocelyn Fitzgerald , a urogynecologist at the University of Pittsburgh who was not involved in the study. "I also find that certain high-priority virtual meetings sometimes find their way into my vacations."

Even if doctors aren't scheduled to see patients, there's almost always plenty of work to be done: dealing with emergencies, medication refills, paperwork. For many of us, the electronic medical record (EMR) is an unrelenting taskmaster , delivering a near-constant flow of bureaucratic to-dos.

When I go on vacation, my fellow primary care doctors handle that work for me, and I do the same for them.

But it can sometimes feel like a lot to ask, especially when colleagues are doing that work on top of their normal workload.

"You end up putting people in kind of a sticky situation, asking for favors, and they [feel they] need to pay it back," says Jay-Sheree Allen , a family physician and fellow in preventive medicine at the Mayo Clinic.

She says her practice has a "doctor of the day" who covers all urgent calls and messages, which helps reduce some of the guilt she feels about taking time off.

Still, non-urgent tasks are left for her to complete when she gets back. She says she usually logs in to the EMR when she's on vacation so the tasks don't pile up upon her return. If she doesn't, Allen estimates there will be about eight hours of paperwork awaiting her after a week or so of vacation.

"My strategy, I absolutely do not recommend," Allen says. But "I would prefer that than coming back to the total storm."

We have too little flexibility about when we take vacation

Lawren Wooten , a resident physician in pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco, says she takes 100% of her vacation time. But there are a lot of stipulations about exactly how she uses it.

She has to take it in two-week blocks — "that's a long time at once," she says — and it's hard to change the schedule once her chief residents assign her dates.

"Sometimes I wish I had vacation in the middle of two really emotionally challenging rotations like an ICU rotation and an oncology rotation," she says, referring to the intensive care unit. "We don't really get to control our schedules at this point in our careers."

Once Wooten finishes residency and becomes an attending physician, it's likely she'll have more autonomy over her vacation time — but not necessarily all that much more.

"We generally have to know when our vacations are far in advance because patients schedule with us far in advance," says Fitzgerald, the gynecologist.

Taking vacation means giving up potential pay

Many physicians are paid based on the number of patients they see or procedures they complete. If they take time off work, they make less money.

"Vacation is money off your table," says West, the physician well-being researcher. "People have a hard time stepping off of the treadmill."

A 2022 research brief from the American Medical Association estimated that over 55% of U.S. physicians were paid at least in part based on "productivity," as opposed to earning a flat amount regardless of patient volume. That means the more patients doctors cram into their schedules, the more money they make. Going on vacation could decrease their take-home pay.

But West says it's important to weigh the financial benefits of skipping vacation against the risk of burnout from working too much.

Physician burnout is linked not only to excess health care costs but also to higher rates of medical errors. In one large survey of American surgeons , for example, surgeons experiencing burnout were more likely to report being involved in a major medical error. (It's unclear to what extent the burnout caused the errors or the errors caused the burnout, however.)

Doctors think they're the only one who can do their jobs

When I go on vacation, my colleagues see my patients for me. I work in a small office, so I know the other doctors well and I trust that my patients are in good hands when I'm away.

Doctors have their own diagnosis: 'Moral distress' from an inhumane health system

Doctors have their own diagnosis: 'Moral distress' from an inhumane health system

But ceding that control to colleagues might be difficult for some doctors, especially when it comes to challenging patients or big research projects.

"I think we need to learn to be better at trusting our colleagues," says Adi Shah , an infectious disease doctor at the Mayo Clinic. "You don't have to micromanage every slide on the PowerPoint — it's OK."

West, the well-being researcher, says health care is moving toward a team-based model and away from a culture where an individual doctor is responsible for everything. Still, he adds, it can be hard for some doctors to accept help.

"You can be a neurosurgeon, you're supposed to go on vacation tomorrow and you operate on a patient. And there are complications or risk of complications, and you're the one who has the relationship with that family," West says. "It is really, really hard for us to say ... 'You're in great hands with the rest of my team.'"

What doctors need, says West, is "a little bit less of the God complex."

We don't have any interests other than medicine

Shah, the infectious disease doctor, frequently posts tongue-in-cheek memes on X (formerly known as Twitter) about the culture of medicine. Unplugging during vacation is one of his favorite topics, despite his struggles to follow his own advice.

His recommendation to doctors is to get a hobby, so we can find something better to do than work all the time.

"Stop taking yourself too seriously," he says. Shah argues that medical training is so busy that many physicians neglect to develop any interests other than medicine. When fully trained doctors are finally finished with their education, he says, they're at a loss for what to do with their newfound freedom.

Since completing his training a few years ago, Shah has committed himself to new hobbies, such as salsa dancing. He has plans to go to a kite festival next year.

Shah has also prioritized making the long trip from Minnesota to see his family in India at least twice a year — a journey that requires significant time off work. He has a trip there planned this month.

"This is the first time in 11 years I'm making it to India in summer so that I can have a mango in May," the peak season for the fruit, Shah says.

Wooten, the pediatrician, agrees. She works hard to develop a full life outside her career.

"Throughout our secondary and medical education, I believe we've really been indoctrinated into putting institutions above ourselves," Wooten adds. "It takes work to overcome that."

Mara Gordon is a family physician in Camden, N.J., and a contributor to NPR. She's on X as @MaraGordonMD .

  • American Medical Association

What lies beneath Gaza’s rubble and ruin

The hysteria over campus protests in the United States has shifted American attention away from the depth of the ongoing calamity in Gaza.

reading is useful essay

You’re reading an excerpt from the Today’s WorldView newsletter. Sign up to get the rest free , including news from around the globe and interesting ideas and opinions to know, sent to your inbox every weekday.

In a fit of ideological pique last week, far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) scoffed at protesters agitating against pro-Israel policies on campuses across the United States . “I get a strange inkling that all these Columbia and UCLA students running around yelling ‘Free Palestine’ would not be jumping at the opportunity to do a semester abroad in Gaza,” she wrote on social media , before later journeying to a protest encampment at George Washington University and almost sparring with students when trying to pull down a Palestinian flag.

Boebert’s scorn is shared even by some of her opponents in the Washington establishment, many of whom have cast the student demonstrations as, at best, unproductive far-left agitprop or, more darkly, dangerous antisemitic behavior that must be expunged from the academy. Hundreds of campus protesters have been arrested in recent days in police crackdowns from California to New York.

Boebert’s comment, though, drew derision on two counts: First, that protesters angry about alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza would need to go to the besieged territory itself to justify their anger. And, second, that students could even do “a semester abroad” in Gaza, where Israel has spent the past half year systematically destroying most of its educational institutions, including all of its universities .

For months, Palestinian civil society activists have drawn attention to the steady eradication of Gaza’s cultural patrimony. Israel’s punishing campaign against militant group Hamas has seen much of the territory reduced to ruin. In the process, many libraries, museums and colleges have been ransacked and razed — in some instances, by deliberate Israeli demolition. Thousands of artifacts in various collections, including Roman coins and other materials from Gaza’s pre-Islamic past, have been potentially lost during the war .

The hysteria over campus protests in the United States has shifted American attention away from the depth of the ongoing calamity in Gaza. U.N. officials and aid agencies are still grappling with the scale of the destruction in the territory, where dozens are still dying every day. Since Hamas launched its Oct. 7 terrorist strike on southern Israel, more than 34,500 Palestinians in the territory — many of them women and children — have been killed. Some 5 percent of Gaza’s overall population has been killed or injured, according to a U.N. report that cites local data.

That figure doesn’t include the more than at least 10,000 people that the U.N. estimates are still missing beneath the rubble, citing the Palestinian Civil Defense (PCD). The challenge of finding the missing is growing more dire, given the widespread destruction of heavy machinery and equipment needed to dig through the debris.

“Rising temperatures can accelerate the decomposition of bodies and the spread of disease,” the U.N. humanitarian affairs office said in a statement , adding that the PCD was appealing to “all relevant stakeholders to urgently intervene to allow the entry of needed equipment, including bulldozers and excavators, to avert a public health catastrophe, facilitate dignified burials, and save the lives of injured people.”

Sifting through Gaza’s wreckage will be no simple task. Israel has dumped a huge amount of ordnance on the territory. Mungo Birch, head of the U.N. Mine Action Program in Palestinian territory, said last week that the amount of unexploded missiles and bombs lying in the rubble is “unprecedented” since World War II. He said tiny Gaza is a site of some 37 million tons of rubble — more than what’s been generated across all of Ukraine during Russia’s war — and 800,000 tons of asbestos and other contaminants. He said his agency has only a fraction of the funding it needs to begin clearing operations whenever the war ends.

Over the weekend, U.S. and Egyptian officials attempted to facilitate a last-ditch effort to broker a truce between Israel and Hamas . A delegation from the Palestinian militant group was in Cairo and expressed optimism that a breakthrough could be found. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faced mass protests at home against his continued tenure in office, seemed more wary of the arrangement and remains bent on carrying out a full offensive against the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians already displaced in the territory have taken shelter.

Top U.N. officials say famine has already gripped parts of Gaza. Beyond the desperately insufficient trickle of humanitarian aid into the territory, the war has also “severely hampered” Gaza’s “ability to produce food and clean water,” according to my colleagues . “Israeli airstrikes and bulldozers have razed farms and orchards. Crops abandoned by farmers seeking safety in southern Gaza have withered, and cattle have been left to die.”

The fear surrounding Rafah and the uncertainty over a potential cease-fire sit against the looming reality of how difficult it will be for Gaza to recover. More than 70 percent of all housing in the territory has been destroyed. A report by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) found that the war has reversed 40 years of development and improvement in social indicators such as life expectancy, health and educational attainment in Gaza.

The agency estimated that reconstruction, at this point, would cost some $40 billion to $50 billion. And if it follows the pace observed after previous conflicts, UNDP estimates that it will take “approximately 80 years to restore all the fully destroyed housing units” in Gaza.

“My very big concern — in addition to the numbers — is the breaking down of communities and families in Gaza,” UNDP regional director Abdallah al-Dardari told The Washington Post . “If you know 60 people in your family have been killed — like our colleague Issam al-Mughrabi who was killed with 60 people in his family during one raid — you will go numb,” Dardari said. “The consequences of this war will stay with us far beyond the end of the war.”

reading is useful essay

  • Electric Cars /

Biden really, really doesn’t want China to flood the US with cheap EVs

President joe biden is set to quadruple tariffs on chinese-made electric vehicles as well as other clean energy goods..

By Andrew J. Hawkins , transportation editor with 10+ years of experience who covers EVs, public transportation, and aviation. His work has appeared in The New York Daily News and City & State.

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Chinese Electric Car Maker Nio’s 500,000th Vehicle Rolls Off The Production Line In Hefei

Who’s afraid of China’s electric vehicles? President Joe Biden.

The president is preparing to announce higher tariffs on imported Chinese EVs, effectively closing out the possibility that the country will be able to afford to import its much cheaper and, in many cases, more desirable plug-in vehicles to the United States.

According to The Wall Street Journal , the Biden administration will announce plans to roughly quadruple tariffs, to 100 percent from the current 25 percent, as well as tack on an additional 2.5 percent duty.

Who’s afraid of China’s electric vehicles? Joe Biden

So far, the current tariffs have been effective at preventing Chinese companies from importing their EVs to the US. But officials are reportedly nervous about the willingness of China’s government to subsidize the auto manufacturing sector. China is the number one exporter of cars globally, even though virtually none of them end up in the US.

The Chinese auto industry is the largest in the world, and roughly 30 percent of the country’s vehicle sales are electric. Most of the world’s EV batteries are manufactured in China, and many of the country’s most popular models have been praised for their design, functionality, and price.

But US automakers have long been worried that an influx of Chinese EVs could effectively put them out of business. Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk — who sells most of his cars in China — warned that Chinese manufacturers would “demolish” domestic rivals without trade barriers.  The concern is that  Chinese EVs are so cheap  — BYD’s Seagull sells for around $10,000 — that domestic automakers couldn’t possibly compete. Other politicians have called for an outright ban of Chinese-made EVs.

Fear of Chinese-made EVs has guided much of the Biden administration’s consumer and manufacturing policies over the past three years. The $7,500 EV tax credit, for example, is structured in a way to encourage automakers to source their batteries from within the US or its trade partners. Vehicles, batteries, and other components from “foreign entities of concern,” which includes China, are ineligible for the credit. And earlier this year, the administration launched an investigation into the potential security risks posed by smart car technology produced in China.

Despite these policies, Republicans, led by former President Donald Trump, have criticized Biden’s EV policies as setting the stage for a takeover by Chinese companies. In fact, Biden has kept many of the trade restrictions on China imposed by Trump — and introduced a few new ones of his own.

The new tariffs are also expected to apply to other clean energy goods, like solar panels and critical minerals, the Journal reports. This comes amid reports that China is preparing to flood the global market with less expensive products amid its own flagging domestic economy .

Of course, the dearth of affordable electric vehicles in the US is partly contributing to a slowdown in sales . And that could imperil Biden’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions attributable to transportation.

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John McWhorter

Why was this treasure of musical theater all but lost to the ages.

A collage in yellow, green and black featuring the names “Purlie,” “The Wiz” and “Raisin.”

By John McWhorter

Opinion Writer

Three Black book musicals were Broadway hits in the 1970s: “Purlie” in 1970, “The Wiz” in 1975 and “Raisin” in 1973, based on Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” That was Blacker than Broadway had been since 50 years earlier, when the 1921 hit “Shuffle Along” inaugurated a string of jolly all-Black shows that petered out during the Depression.

“Purlie” and “The Wiz” — along with “Dreamgirls,” which landed just past the decade divider in 1981 — have been well attended since the 1970s. “Purlie” was filmed for a video that got around a lot in the 1980s, and City Center’s Encores series revived it in 2005. “The Wiz” was made into a film that many Black people regard as iconic, and a revival is playing on Broadway now. “Dreamgirls” was also successfully filmed, in 2006, was revived on Broadway in 1987 and has had various touring versions; its original cast recording won two Grammys.

“Raisin” was a hit in its day. It is a faithful rendition of the play, the script written by Hansberry’s ex-husband, Robert Nemiroff (with Charlotte Zaltzberg), with music by Judd Woldin and lyrics by Robert Brittan. It ran for over two years, won the Tony for best musical and best actress (Virginia Capers) and Theatre World awards for three other leads. Its cast album, too, got a Grammy.

And yet you may never have heard of it. Even if you are old enough to have seen it back in the day, you probably have not thought about it in a very long time and might be hard pressed to hum even a few bars of any of the songs. Musical theater historians tend to blow by it with a couple of respectful sentences. That’s because “Raisin” basically dropped from sight after it closed. It’s had a regional revival or three, but compared with “Purlie,” “The Wiz” and “Dreamgirls,” it is a dead property.

I first encountered “Raisin” in 1986, by way of its cast album. I found it weak and wondered how the show had run so long. This was when I was first becoming interested in musicals (a bug that didn’t bite me until the end of my senior year in college). Compared with the Sondheim and Porter and Kander and Ebb stuff I was drinking in, the music of “Raisin” sounded to me like just the R&B on the radio from 10 or 15 years before, except with fewer hooks and stretched beyond what it could support.

Recently, however, a friend asked me what I thought of it, so I pulled out my LP and gave the score a listen. Now I am better equipped to hear what in 1986 sounded too recent in style for me to assess. Now I can see that the “Raisin” score was golden work, and it deserves more attention. ( Encores , are you listening?)

Even the overture music is so infectiously gritty — roughly, the “Shaft” soundtrack meets Duke Ellington’s “Far East Suite” — that I suspect the most determined hater of musicals would hearken to it. In “Man Say,” Walter and Ruth’s early disagreement over his ambitions, each time Walter sarcastically imitates Ruth, the arrangement jabs in a high, dissonant sting of a chord from muted brass, perfectly conveying the mocking irony in Walter’s words. The score is full of unexpected touches like that, such as Ruth’s affectionate tribute to her son. An ordinary orchestration would have started it with violins purring long notes and some comments by a solo flute. But in the beginning of “Whose Little Angry Men,” Ruth is accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, which sounds more intimate, vernacular, down to earth — that is, like a mother talking to her son. I might still rate the “Dreamgirls” score higher, but “Raisin” is a close second.

I knew the composer, Judd Woldin, for a bit when I played a role in an early pre-professional tryout of “The Prince and the Pauper” that he scored. He borrowed a musical theater history book of mine and for some reason left a piece of duct tape on the spine. I still have it on my shelves. He was a sterling mensch. I think it was only chance that kept him from making a bigger mark. Had “The Prince and the Pauper” ever made it to Broadway, two of the ballads, “Mother Is Here” and “Kiss Away,” could have become audition staples. His musical adaptation of Langston Hughes’s play “Little Ham,” which did make it to Off Broadway for a bit in 2002, had a smart, plangent R&B lament, “Big Ideas,” that has never left my hippocampus.

So why are “Dreamgirls,” “Purlie” and “The Wiz” remembered and revived, while “Raisin” is all but forgotten?

Lack of authenticity is not the reason. Its score was written by white men but so were the scores of “Purlie” and “Dreamgirls.” A lack of flash may have been a factor: “The Wiz” and “Dreamgirls” are spectacles, as much about costumes and dancing as how they sound. But “Purlie” is about a few people in a couple of rooms talking about problems, just like “Raisin.”

A likely reason “Raisin” isn’t much revived is a sense that a play as important as Lorraine Hansberry’s should be preserved as it was, that setting it to music is intrusive or at least unnecessary. Ethan Mordden, a historian of musical theater whom I hold in the very highest esteem, wrote: “The songs are finely judged. But they add nothing to what Hansberry wrote. They are what Hansberry wrote; that’s the trouble.”

People said the same about turning “Pygmalion” into “My Fair Lady.” I myself view Hansberry’s play as something close to scripture, but the musical pulls off some things that the play cannot. In the play, the little boy, Travis, can usually make only so much of an impression because the acting ability of kids that age is often limited (although the first person to play that role was Glynn Thurman, the now celebrated veteran actor, and he was probably excellent). In the musical, however, Travis gets a captivating little song called “Sidewalk Tree” and comes across to us vividly. “He Come Down This Morning” gives us the Younger family singing in church, a central aspect of their weekly existence that the play, without music, can’t deliver. And while “A Raisin in the Sun” unwittingly initiated a genre that George C. Wolfe affectionately dissed, in “The Colored Museum,” as the “Mama-on-the-couch play,” “Raisin”’s music for the mother, Lena, — especially the unjustly neglected ballad “Measure the Valleys” — transcends any cliché.

“Raisin” is also special in being about Black people just having conversations. Clearing the table, standing around, answering the doorbell. Most Black musicals are about performers, flash, funk, scarecrows, witches, the Supremes or something like them, silvery gleaming, yellow brick, bluesy numbers that raise the roof. All great. But in the warm duet “Sweet Time,” “Raisin” has what may be the first Broadway song in which a Black couple simply converse with each other rather than proclaim and prance for the audience.

“A Raisin in the Sun” is certainly one of the best plays ever written in the English language. There is a reason it has been revived on Broadway not once but twice in the 21st century alone, as well as once Off Broadway, and is often done by regional and community theater groups. (I think I have seen it seven times.) However, it is increasingly distant from us in time. It was valued in 1959 as giving white theatergoers their first sustained look into Black life, but they have had many more such looks since. Housing segregation still exists, but not in the overt form of the covenants that the play so searingly depicts. Ambivalence about assimilation to white ways persists among many Black people, but the color line is not what it was. Today if Black people assimilate, it’s to a whiteness that is no longer as pure as it was in the 1950s, having been transformed by the “ browning ” of the culture.

This all means that “A Raisin in the Sun,” mythic though it is, is a look at history. Space opens up for new approaches, including Bruce Norris’s hit 2012 play, “Clybourne Park,” which revisited the mise-en-scène both before the play’s events and 50 years after them. Meanwhile, music has a universalizing essence, leavening characters who might otherwise seem like people of another time and making them more archetypal. “Raisin” complements “Clybourne Park” as an expansion upon the original material, keeping it alive as part of an ongoing artistic conversation.

“Raisin” is a property that audiences of all races can relate to just as they did 51 years ago. Its obscurity is accidental and undeserved, and a theater company that gives it a chance is likely to find itself with a smart, happy hit that sheds new light on a classic work of art.

John McWhorter ( @JohnHMcWhorter ) is an associate professor of linguistics at Columbia University. He is the author of “ Nine Nasty Words : English in the Gutter: Then, Now and Forever” and, most recently, “ Woke Racism : How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.” @ JohnHMcWhorter

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