Intuitive reading skills are the key
- Learning how to read well is like learning how to hit a baseball.
Let’s say you want to be the best batter on your baseball team.
Your coach can teach you how to hold the bat, the stance you should take at the plate, the importance of keeping your eye on the ball, and how to connect with the pitch. This is knowledge-based teaching.
Unfortunately, even the best coach can’t make you a star slugger simply by teaching you the skills. You have to practice, practice, practice, until your muscles have absorbed that knowledge and you don’t even have to think about it; your eyes and your arms and your legs all know what to do when the pitch is thrown.
The point is that you don’t have enough time to analyze that pitch using everything you’ve been taught about speed, vectors, strategy; you don’t have time to remember everything your coach taught you. You have to use your intuition, and the muscle sense you earned with countless hours of practice, to hit the ball before it flies into the catcher’s mitt.
- Your brain works the same way.
You first learned how to read using knowledge-based teaching: first the alphabet, then words, then sentences, followed by whole books. But to be a truly great reader, you have to practice, just as you do with baseball.
When you read, your eyes may be moving over the page fairly rapidly. But obviously, the act of reading is much more than simply scanning words with your eyes: your brain has to process those words whizzing by and execute many different jobs at the same time.
For example, your brain has to turn individual letters into words, analyze the order of those words to turn them into a sentence that makes sense, and hold onto that sentence even as it’s reading, processing, and analyzing the next one, and the next, and the next, until you have absorbed the meaning of the entire paragraph.
And then there’s the next paragraph, and the one after that!
When you think about how many letters, words, and sentences you’re dealing with when you read a single essay, and how much work your brain is doing, it’s quite amazing – as though your brain is hitting dozens of baseballs flying at you every minute.
If you’re still reading at the knowledge-based level, this can be very exhausting, difficult, and discouraging. That’s why we want to help you become a reading pro: someone who can analyze written material effortlessly, even enjoyably, at an intuitive level. But this takes practice.
- Your teacher can help you only up to a certain point: the rest is up to you.
A good teacher can accomplish a lot; a great teacher can even change your life. However, just as your baseball coach – no matter how talented – can’t get you into the major leagues, your teachers and tutors can’t boost you to that intuitive level of reading. They can only get you to the knowledge-based level, about 30% of the way to your ultimate goal.
Even if you stay late after school, take test prep classes, and enroll in the best private tutoring money can buy, there’s no avoiding it: you have to practice, practice, practice on your own if you want to become a great reader. You’re the only one who can provide the other 70% of what it takes. There’s no magic bullet – or person – that can break this golden ratio of 30:70.
- Knowledge-based English isn’t sufficient if you want to excel at standardized tests or in your college courses.
Plenty of high-schoolers muddle along fine in their classes with only knowledge-based learning. Often, they can even get good grades. After all, teachers are primarily interested in making sure you’ve retained what they have taught you – that 30% we were talking about. That’s what they’re testing you on.
However, knowing how to take multiple-choice tests using only the knowledge your teacher has given you (or perhaps the tricks your test prep tutor has taught you) won’t be enough to help you conquer the New SAT/ACT. Additionally, your college courses are going to be extremely difficult if you don’t have the ability to absorb reading material and process it at an intuitive level. You’ll be struggling at 30% of your true potential, while others who are better prepared pass you by.
But don’t worry. We’re here to make that other 70% much easier to attain.