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Academic - Critical Reading

            McCain (2008) stresses the importance of reading and how achieving critical reading skills can benefit undergraduate students. McCain (2008) offers a different view on reading. Critical reading is defined by McCormick (2003) as experiencing and interacting with texts and images in order to acquire information, analyze perspectives, generate questions, and interrogate one’s own knowledge and positions. McCain’s book entitled “How to Read Texts” emphasizes the importance of enhancing the students reading skills which will enable them to read in new ways: exciting ways, intriguing ways, sophisticated and difficult ways. Reading (or interpretation of writing) according to McCain (2008) is a form of art. It is a skill that requires practice and patience and imagination.

            According to Bosley (2008), critical reading is considered as a very important skill that has a big effect on the success of students. Although critical reading is of the utmost importance it was found by Bosley (2008), that educators are not effectively teaching critical reading and most students are not able to read complex materials. A journal written by Lewis (1991) focuses on the connection between critical thinking and critical reading. Britton, Glynn and Smith (1985) recognize that some of the element processes of reading must be automatic so as not to constrain the limited resources of working memory. Automatic processes might be those like word identification, derivation of meaning for most words, and assignment of importance, at least for the college reader, but there is no evidence that more cognitively demanding processes such as main idea construction are automatic. Those who developed critical reading skills are able to recognize that authors are basically passing their knowledge and perspectives through their works. The ability to look for a number of resources in reading and researching for a topic or issue will enable the critical reader to understand the depth and complexity of the event (Giofi, 1992).

            Critical reading is very important in the information age. Only those who developed critical reading skills will be able to sift through volumes of unrelated information and focus on and determine what is relevant. In the 1980s the concept of critical thinking became an essential part of the teaching of reading. It stimulated the need for the reader to develop the ability to relate new information to what is known in order to find answers to cognitive questions. Critical reading begins with reading, leading the reader to comprehension, inference, and decision making. Metacognition plays an important role in reading. Metacognition is the understanding that fosters conscious control over one’s learning. Four variables are important in a metacognitive approach that enables the reader to be in control of his or her learning. These four variables are: texts, tasks, strategies, and learner characteristics. Text relates to the factors that influence comprehension and memory in the reading materials. These factors include the arrangement of ideas in the text, the vocabulary, the syntax, the reader’s interest, and the reader’s familiarity with the text. Research on the features of the text reveal that:

·         The structure of the text influences learning

·         Knowledge of the effect of the structure of the text on learning is dependent on the age and the ability of the reader

·         If the learner becomes aware of the text structures, learning is optimized

The importance of critical reading and its relationship with electronic resources is very often overlooked. Successful access and retrieval using electronic means depend on a conceptual map of the topic so as to properly identify the problems and associated terms that will retrieve the appropriate information from a databank of literally millions of sources (Mendrinos, 1997).


Bosley, L. (2008). “I don’t teach reading: Critical reading instruction in composition courses”. Literacy Research and Instruction. Vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 285 – 307.

Britton, B.K., Glynn, S.M., & Smith, J. (1985). Cognitive demands of processing expository text. In B. Britton & J. Black (eds.), Understanding expository text. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Gioffi, G. (1992). “Perspective and experience: Developing critical reading ability”. Journal of Reading. Vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 48-52.

Lewis, J. (1991). “Redefining critical reading for college critical thinking courses”. Journal of Reading. Vol. 34, no. 6, pp. 420 – 423.

McCain, N. (2008). How to read texts: A study guide to critical approaches and skills. London: Continuum.

McCormick, K. (2003). “Who is teaching composition students to read and how are they doing it?”. Composition Studies. Vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 127+.

Mendrinos, R. (1997). Using educational technology with at-risk students: A guide for library media specialists and teachers. Greenwood Publishing Group.

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