Comprehension is a complicated process as I stated last week. The human brain is really remarkable and to think we use very little of it. Our brain does a number of things almost simultaneously when we comprehend.
It connects our prior knowledge and experience to the written word, thus the more we read and the more we experience, the better we comprehend. Those who comprehend more quickly and more broadly question as they read, sometimes rereading, often talking to the author, even arguing with the author saying things like, “You can’t mean that,” or, “Where did you get your information?”
As we comprehend we interpret and reinterpret in the light of new information. We use the context (area around a word or phrase) to determine what is meant and yes sometimes that means we head for a dictionary.
We may stop to ponder (grasp main ideas and important details). Whenever we read, whether it is enjoyment such as in fiction or gaining new knowledge in non-fiction, we come to a new understanding and we keep testing our understanding. The process is like when I read a mystery, I look for clues, reevaluate the clues and keep trying to see if I can figure out the puzzle before the end of the story.
As we comprehend we read between the lines and beyond the lines. We reason with the material; perceive relationships; see cause-effect; draw conclusions and much more all at once. The better we are in comprehending, the more flexible we are in stopping and starting our reading, re-reading, looking up information.
Sometimes we accept new ideas and sometimes we don’t. Good comprehenders continually evaluate information, form new ideas, and discuss them. The more we work with ideas, the more we retain them, then when we meet new material on that subject, the more we gain knowledge.
Comprehension leads to open attitudes, a high form of literacy. Before some yell, “That’s the problem—open attitudes!” Let me explain. An open attitude is not one that accepts everything and believes nothing.
An open attitude is one that listens, reads, discusses, forms a strong opinion, and new information coming in may or may not change the existing opinion, but it is given a chance to do so. A quality law enforcement detective gets information and forms little opinion until much information is gathered. Then the detective uses the information to get more information, trying not to jump to conclusions unless the evidence leads there.
Literacy is gathering information and not jumping to conclusions unless the evidence is there. That is one of the reasons I enjoy quality mysteries. I compete with the detective to see if I can figure out the solution that the author brings at the end.
Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I admire the author who can tell a story and make characters believable which means I like some and don’t like some characters. Literacy allows us to mull over ideas, develop our own ideas, question our ideas and the ideas of others, ask others what they think, and influence others by our well thought out approach on an issue.
Literacy builds self-esteem by allowing us to see how much we are similar to others and how humanity shares problems and can solve problems together. Being illiterate is a choice no American dare choose if we wish to continue enjoying the style of life to which we have become accustomed.
Just as ignorance of the law gives us no excuse to disobey it, ignorance of what others think and feel gives us no excuse to be intolerant of others. Ignorance in what our spouse, our sibling, our friend, our parent, our child thinks and feels gives us no excuse to be ineffective as a spouse, a sibling, a friend, a parent, or a child.
We are in the midst of choosing some of our leaders locally and nationally. Now is the time to use our literacy to make wise choices. Go to the polls and vote. Be informed and vote your conscience. Until next week — Christine Pauley