The Best Reading Skill No One Ever Taught You

The Best Reading Skill No One Ever Taught You

In the grand tapestry of education, the skill of reading holds an essential position. It forms the foundation upon which all other learning constructs are built. It fosters creativity, expands horizons, and propels us into spheres of uncharted knowledge. However, while our educational systems emphasize the basics of reading, there’s a vital aspect often left unexplored: critical reading.

Reading skills typically taught in schools include phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Phonemic awareness introduces children to the sounds of language. Decoding helps them make sense of written words. Fluency allows for smooth and expressive reading, while vocabulary instruction expands their lexical bank. Lastly, comprehension ensures they grasp the basic meaning of the text. These skills are all crucial and serve as stepping stones on the path to literacy.

Nonetheless, there’s a limitation when we focus solely on these skills: the reader becomes a passive recipient of information. Words are read, sentences are understood, and paragraphs are processed, but the more profound meaning may be overlooked. This is where critical reading enters the frame.

Critical Reading

Critical reading, in essence, is active engagement with a text. It involves reading with an analytical mindset, questioning the material, and drawing informed conclusions. It propels the reader from passive absorption of information to active interrogation and synthesis of ideas.

The importance of this skill in our increasingly complex world can’t be overstated. First, it promotes a deeper understanding of texts by accepting information at face value and examining its context, purpose, and implications. Second, it encourages analytical thinking, a skill far beyond reading that impacts every life facet. Finally, in a world saturated with information of varying quality, critical reading equips individuals with the discernment to differentiate fact from fiction and quality information from mere noise.

Yet despite its tremendous value, critical reading often plays second fiddle to other reading skills. Why is this the case? The reasons are manifold.

Teaching and Assessing Critical Thinking

One significant factor is the challenge of teaching and assessing critical reading. Unlike other skills, it doesn’t yield to simple, standardized testing. It requires nuanced evaluation and dedicated time for discussion and analysis. This, combined with the pressures of meeting curriculum standards, often results in a sidelining of critical reading.

Furthermore, there’s the issue of the role standardized testing plays in education. These tests reward factual recall over analytical skills, inadvertently discouraging critical reading.

Overcoming the Obstacles

However, overcoming these obstacles and cultivating critical reading skills is far from impossible. It involves a conscious effort and a few strategic steps.

Conscious Effort and Strategic Steps

Be intentional about wanting to improve critical reading skills and deliberate in choosing strategies to achieve this goal.

Pre-reading Strategies

Preview the Text: Familiarize yourself with the text by briefly scanning it to understand its structure and main ideas.

Predict Content: Make educated guesses about the content of the text based on your initial preview.

During Reading Activities

Ask Questions: Generate questions about the content to keep your mind actively engaged in the material.

Make Connections: Relate the text to your own experiences, knowledge, or other texts you’ve read.

Seek Clarifications: If there’s anything unclear or confusing, seek clarification, either through rereading, looking up information, or discussing with others.

Post-reading Activities

Summarize the Text: Summarize the text’s main points in your own words to ensure comprehension.

Analyze Elements: Break down the text into constituent parts and examine how they contribute to the overall message or purpose.

Evaluate the Message: Critically assess the message or argument of the text, considering its logic, evidence, and impact.

Use of Tools and Resources

Reading Guides: Use reading guides to structure your reading and focus on the text’s critical elements.

Discussion Groups: Participate in discussion groups to share insights, ask questions, and learn from others’ perspectives.

Critical Reading Worksheets: Employ worksheets designed for critical reading to process and analyze the text systematically.

Incorporate Critical Reading into Daily Life

Analyze News Articles: Apply critical reading skills to news articles to understand and assess their content deeply.

Dissect Blog Posts: Dissect and critique blog posts to practice and improve critical reading skills.

The Future of Critical Thinking

Introducing critical reading at an early age can yield considerable benefits. Children who develop this skill tend to exhibit better cognitive development, improved academic performance, and a lifelong love of learning. They learn to question, analyze, and think independently, which equips them for success in the information age.

Looking ahead, educators and policymakers must consider the place of critical reading in curricula. In an era characterized by information overload, critically assessing and interpreting information is invaluable. We must move beyond teaching children to read and start teaching them to think about what they read.


Critical reading is the unsung hero of reading skills. It bridges passive reading and active learning between mere comprehension and deep understanding. It’s high time we gave it the attention it deserves in our classrooms and beyond.

Now, the challenge is for you, the reader, to take up the mantle of critical reading. Reflect on the texts you encounter daily, question their content, and draw your conclusions. And as you experience the transformation it brings, don’t hesitate to share your journey and inspire others to become critical readers, too.