We live in the information age where reading skills are gaining significance rapidly. It is becoming critical not just to know how to read, but also to comprehend it and apply it to the practical world. It is a misconception that reading is only required till one is at school; in reality reading is even more a part of one’s life once he or she starts a career. What is the Information Age? The information age is characterized by an easy, fast and convenient flow of information without any physical boundaries. It is an intellectually informed age where news travels fast.
Customers have greater bargaining power and make informed choices, while manufacturers can operate from anywhere in the world to gain economies of scale. Companies no longer have to have large set ups to be big. There are many examples of big companies operating overseas with just one small head office. The role of the Internet in the Information Age For the longest time parents tried to protect their children from the internet. They would put restrictions on their use, thinking children were wasting their time in unproductive activities online.
This mindset changed quickly as the internet became the primary and most convenient source of information on almost any topic in the world. Today, almost all good educational institutions use the internet for at least some of their work. University students cannot imagine conducting research without the internet for their assignments and theses. The advent of the internet has not only made college life easier, it has also facilitated rapid communication all over the world.
This has helped businesses thrive and expand; a concept known as globalization has taken place as a result. Using the internet, one can communicate and exchange information easily. The internet is often used as the secondary source of data provider when conducting research. Employees must be able and willing to use online material to their advantage. However not all the information is reliable and hence must be read carefully, screening out unwanted data. Hence good reading skills play an important role in the business world.
What can be done to enhance critical reading skills? Critical reading includes not just understanding what the text means, but also making connections between different sentences and paragraphs, making references to practical examples, analyzing the text, the argument provided and the thought process of the writer (Bosley, 2008). The point of education is not just to give students a recognized degree that can get them jobs. It is to improve their knowledge and decision making ability in life. This can only happen if they learn to think for themselves.
Reading and reproducing the information does not help them in any way (Cioffi, 1992). Research has shown that most college students can read but have poor critical reading skills. They cannot actively comprehend complex reading material without getting lost in the process. It seems as if the internet has spoilt their reading habits. Most students have developed the habit of skimming through vast amounts of data quickly, but are weak at analysis. Their concentration spans have narrowed and they are too pressed for time to delve deep into the subject they are reading about (Bosley, 2008).
Most writings are not a straight-forward depiction of what the author is feeling. This is why majority of texts require individuals to apply their own knowledge and experiences in order to gain a better insight into the piece of writing (Lewis, 1991). Reading is something that cannot be taught. It must be made a part of one’s interests since his or her childhood. Reading skills can be enhanced later on in life, but this is more challenging if the person was never a reader before.
Students should be made to engage in developing writing and reading skills from the beginning. Researching and brainstorming for essay topics, creative writing, books reviews and critical analyses of poetry are all activities that would contribute to developing one’s analytical ability. Comparative reading is when students are given two different but related texts that they are asked to read, analyze and then compare. In order to do this students are forced to think, make links and point out differences between the texts (Cioffi, 1992).
This enhances their reading abilities. This ability to reason and evaluate should be ideally developed at an early age when children start identifying between different objects. At this stage it is important to answer all their questions meaningfully. Comprehensions from the text are an important tool in developing critical reading abilities. As students progress, the comprehensions must be made more difficult to increase their analytical skills. This puts them into the habit of absorbing what they are reading instead of just reading selectively for the sake of it.
Critical reading as part of the academic curriculum can be exercised by providing two conflicting arguments or view points to a class, dividing it into two groups and getting both sides to write a persuasive essay on their argument. This is like a written debate where conflicting perspectives and aired and discussed (Cioffi, 1992). At an advanced level, teachers should prefer giving open book exams that test the candidate’s ability to analyze and apply rather than to memorize. This tests a person’s cognitive ability which is more important to develop and channel than a person’s ability to learn by heart (Lewis, 1991).
When students graduate and start their careers, they may not realize it but reading takes up a major part of their time. They are expected to read and thoroughly analyze large amounts of information at a time. They are to critically evaluate the data, pick out important information, carry out market and secondary research, and write extensive reports on their findings. This is the point they are unconsciously using all the critical reading skills they have acquired throughout their lives. If they fail at it, they are unlikely to be successful in today’s information age.
Conclusion The information age is characterized by a flow of large amounts of information, quickly and conveniently, across great distances. It has facilitated learning, communication, businesses and globalization. It has enabled businesses, especially small scale ones, to expand into areas that were previously inaccessible. People are now more informed and aware than ever before. Customers and employees make informed choices when picking products, services or employers respectively. In today’s information age is has become ever more important for people to have excellent critical reading skills.
The rapid flow of information has necessitated it. They must be able to not just read, but to analyze, compare, screen, filter, research and evaluate vast amounts of data in short spans of time. This has become very important to career progression and survival in today’s fast moving business world. In order for people to cope with the information age, critical reading skills must be developed and made part of educational institutions’ academic curriculum. Reading activities and habits must be encouraged from early childhood and reasoning and analytical abilities must be developed.