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Active reading is important because it keeps your mind dynamic and promotes a better understanding of what you are reading. You are able to answer questions you have that come up throughout the story-line and solve problems or confusions about the plot or characters. As you read along, you can make notes either agreeing or disagreeing with the current events taking place in the book. You are allowing yourself to input ideas of your own. Making notes in your book as you read through is, in a sense, engaging in a dialogue between the author and yourself.
The reason active reading is so important is that it helps to keep your mind dynamic and willing to explore, and promote fresh ideas. Mortimer Adler states that “writing helps you remember the thoughts you had, or the thoughts the author expressed” (p9.) The meaning of active reading is that one is reading something with a clear intent to evaluate and understand the material.
“The physical act of writing, with your own hand, brings words and sentences more sharply before your mind and preserves them better in your memory” (p12.) This isn’t just reading the material over and over, but rather critically and actively engaging with the content of the material. “To set down your reaction to important words and sentences you have read, and the questions they have raised in your mind, is to preserve those reactions and sharpen those questions” (p12.) When reading a great book, marking in notes is also almost essential every time a new character is introduced.
Anytime something important about that character is revealed, like background story, physical appearance, motivations, etc., you can underline it. Later on in the book sometimes characters will re-appear out of nowhere and you can put a note there on which page they were described. This helps a lot for books in which there are a lot of characters, or the characters have exotic names.
Milton Adler brings up a good point that is relative when reading a book with a complex story-line and a dynamic plot. “You can pick up the book the following week or year, and there are all your points of agreement, disagreement, doubt, and inquiry. It’s like resuming an interrupted conversation with the advantage of being able to pick up where you left off” (p13.) Unfortunately for myself, I tend to lack the drive to read paperback books, let alone actively engage in the story by writing my own thoughts in. But I do read an extensive amount online, ranging anywhere from short anecdotes, all the way to peer reviewed papers from scientists and university professors. Fortunately for me, I do enjoy reading. The benefits of reading to me are invaluable. It stimulates my brain and makes me more of a creative thinker. It also expands and improves my vocabulary. Reading online has introduced me to new ideas and ways of thinking; It has increased my knowledge of things I once only half-understood. It has shed light on countries I believed I knew so much about, like Russia and North Korea, Afghanistan and India. It has introduced me to people I might otherwise never have heard of. I actively seek out sources which offer ideas and insights, which increase my understanding of the world, and so I think that without the information I obtained through reading I would be clueless. In conclusion, Mortimer Adler has made some credible points that are useful, if put into practice. By actively reading the text and jotting down questions you hope to learn answers to, you make it easier and more pleasant to read through the text the first time, and you engage yourself actively with the text, generating a personal interest through the questions you’ve written down in the information being presented in the text. This makes the reading more interesting and more rewarding. When you go back and annotate the text thoroughly while reading it through, you blaze yourself a trail through the text that makes it much easier to navigate later on. If someone questions your interpretation of something you read, you can quickly and easily find the passage from your margin comments and highlighting colors. If you need to cite a passage from the text in an essay, it will also be very easy to find. Every time you need to review in order to prepare for class discussion, a quiz, or an essay, you can do it in a small fraction of the time and gain a deeper, more conscious understanding of information being inputted.
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