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To be literate means…

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By: Zubair Hamid Parray

To be ‘literate’ means to be able to read and write correctly and to understand a text, and it is an essential of life, being the basis of almost all intellectual occupation. Reading is therefore, one of the first things children learn to do in school and perhaps even before schooldays, with their parents. To begin with, children probably don’t enjoy reading very much, because, like everything else worth doing, it demands attention and effort.

In most countries, there is one predominating language and according to whether education is free and compulsory or not, the rate of literacy varies — and very widely indeed, ranging from 99% in Britain and USA to under 1% in over-populated and under-privileged, countries, Malaysia is an unusual example of a country where children are required to be literate in two or three languages; Malay their own language, Chinese or Tamil, and English. Literacy would never have been possible without printing, and the Chinese are proud of the fact that the first printing press was made in their country in the 6th century. Printing was again invented independently in Germany in the mid-15th century by Gutenberg and used for the first time in England by Caxton in about 1477.

Printing, of course, opened the door to reading. Before the printing press, books were copied laboriously by hand and were therefore scarce, valuable and carefully treasured. The privilege of being taught to read was accorded to very few and these had a tremendous advantage over the illiterate masses. It was a case of ‘in the country of the blind the one-eyed man is King.’ However haltingly a man could read, his neighbors relied on him for information and indeed guidance, for the ability to read carried a certain prestige. Governments were naturally not always in favor of making their peoples literate it meant, for one thing, that they might ask awkward questions. And in the Western world, they banned the dissemination of the Bible in the national languages, because they considered religion should be interpreted by the church and not by the direct appeal of the individual to the scriptures. But eventually, governments were compelled to accede to popular demand, and by the 19th century, most countries in Europe had some sort of system of primary schooling, though in most cases, parents were expected to pay for the privilege of having their children taught to read and write. Charles Dickens has much to say about the horrors of these ‘dameschools’ in England, and about the gross inefficiency of the teachers. The idea of universal, compulsory schooling belongs to the 20th century. it is accepted by almost all countries and paid for out of taxation. As a result, if children leave school unable to read, it is probably that they are unteachable. What, then in the 20th century, is the importance of being able to read ?.

First of all, it is almost impossible to get a job of any kind except mere laboring in the fields or road-sweeping in the towns if the candidate cannot read. Modern industry, commerce, and the armed forces, demand the ability to read and write, and it need hardly be said that reading is indispensable in the higher grades of employment.

Secondly, reading is indispensable to a full understanding of the world we live in. Newspapers and magazines keep us abreast of world and national events and in touch with current thought. Without it, we should be ignorant and isolated. A story is told of an English 17th century peasant, who was told to get of Marston Moor, because the King’s forces were about to do battle with the Parliamentary forces. What, aren’t they friends, then? He asked.

Communication with our friends by letter is another factor which enriches life, and again this would be impossible without reading. Even the use of the telephone required the ability to read letters, while, that of paying the telephone bill involves reading figures!

The attainment of most skills is greatly helped if we can read. Almost every sport, game and occupation has manuals of instruction written about them. And this is just an example of a hundred other items which go to make up a civilized life and which depend on the ability to read.

But the most important reason for reading fluently and well is the world of books. Textbooks, novels, biographies, the scriptures of the world religions; all these help us to understand the world of the past, interpret the present, and plant for the future. It is, of course, possible to ‘overdo’ reading, and become ‘bookish’, preferring the world of the written word to the realities of living experience, but this is the failure of relatively few. Most people find instruction interest, happiness and a release from loneliness in reading. They enjoy collecting their own personal libraries, and using the public libraries. Book sellers and publishers gain a livelihood from the world’s insatiable demand for books, and fine art dealers from those who seek books which are rare or finely produced. Without the ability to read, the life of man would be immeasurably poorer.


The process of reading divides into three stages. The 3 stages combined form is known as stages of reading. Besides, reading influences how much an individual remember and understand the text. The three stages of reading are pre-reading, through reading and post-reading.


In the pre-reading stage, a person prepares herself or himself for the things that they are going to read. In addition, according to research previewing the text can increase the reader’s involvement with the text. These are:

Setup a Purpose: Decide a written or mental goal for your reading. Moreover, this purpose will help you to locate the specific information or idea that you need to summarize the text.

Make Predictions:  Use the title or sub-heading to generate an idea about the book or text. Also, try to figure out how the writer will try to communicate the topic. Besides, prediction makes you curious about what the topic is.

Questions:  Ask some questions before you start reading, which according to you the text will answer.

Build Knowledge:  In this first of all think about the topic and then acquaint you with the content. Also, make yourself familiar with the language, format, topic, issue, and ideas that it will cover. In addition, in what way the language and organization of the text are used for specific purposes. Besides, the purpose of writing can be describing, informing, persuading, interacting, finding out, entertaining, recording, and regulating.

Scan The Vocabulary: Quickly look over the text for new words and then try to find their meaning from the context.

Slimming: It is a process in which a person just do a surface level reading and pay attention to the visuals, sub-headings, and format to govern if the text gives the information it needs or not.

Scanning: It simply means to do a quick reading o the text and look for keywords, ideas, phrases, visuals, subheadings, and format.

2) THROUGH READING: It means to look for clues in the text to obtain the author’s meaning and purpose for strengthening the skills of the reader.

The Order Of Reading: The order of the text should be according to the order that we mention below. Also, it helps you to get the universal meaning before you go through the whole text in details. Besides, sometimes it happens that people after going through this order does not feel to read the whole text. Moreover, the order is: Heading or title, Sub-headings, Head Paragraph, Final Paragraph, The first, sentence of every paragraph,

Joining Different Elements of The Text:

Pay attention to what the writer/author is saying and how she/he expresses it. Also, what is the clear and secret meaning in the text? Try to figure out the sense of the author in relation to the topic.


When you get stuck on a word then try to read the whole text and guess its meaning accordingly. This will help you to learn new ways to use a word.

Silent Reading:

It is the quality of good readers that they read silently. Besides, reading aloud slows you down. Also, it forces you to listen to the sounds of words rather than their meaning.

Getting Answers:

Look for the answer to the question that you asked in the pre-reading stage. Moreover, it helps you to determine and predict the text.


In this stage simply go to the pre-reading stages and try to fill the gaps that you make according to your assumption. In addition, prepare a detailed sketch of what you have learned and compare it with prediction.


This helps in carrying out how effective the writing as if the writer was successful at its an accomplishment or not.


Create a visual presentation of the text and the different ideas in it with the main idea in the center.


Analyze the language, content, and pattern of the text.

Initial Prediction:

Check whether your initial prediction was right or not.

Pre-Reading Question:

Try to answer your entire pre-reading questions.

Benefits of Reading :

Books really are your best friends as you can rely on them when you are bored, upset, depressed, lonely or annoyed. They will accompany you anytime you want them and enhance your mood. They share with you information and knowledge any time you need. Good books always guide you to the correct path in life. Following are the benefits of reading :

1) Self Improvement:

Reading helps you develop positive thinking. Reading is important because it develops your mind and gives you excessive knowledge and lessons of life. It helps you understand the world around you better. It keeps your mind active and enhances your creative ability.

2) Communication Skills:

Reading improves your vocabulary and develops your communication skills. It helps you learn how to use your language creatively. Not only does it improve your communication but it also makes you a better writer. Good communication is important in every aspect of life.

3) Increases Knowledge:

Books enable you to have a glimpse into cultures, traditions, arts, history, geography, health, psychology and several other subjects and aspects of life. You get an amazing amount of knowledge and information from books.

4) Reduces Stress:

Reading a good book takes you in a new world and helps you relieve your day to day stress. It has several positive effects on your mind, body, and soul. It stimulates your brain muscles and keeps your brain healthy and strong.

5) Great Pleasure:

When I read a book, I read it for pleasure. I just indulge myself in reading and experience a whole new world. Once I start reading a book I get so captivated I never want to leave it until I finish. It always gives a lot of pleasure to read a good book and cherish it for a lifetime.

6) Boosts your Imagination and Creativity:

Reading takes you to the world of imagination and enhances your creativity. Reading helps you explore life from different perspectives. While you read books you are building new and creative thoughts, images and opinions in your mind. It makes you think creatively, fantasize and use your imagination.

7) Develops your Analytical Skills:

By active reading, you explore several aspects of life. It involves questioning what you read. It helps you develop your thoughts and express your opinions. New ideas and thoughts pop up in your mind by active reading. It stimulates and develops your brain and gives you a new perspective.

8) Reduces Boredom:

Journeys for long hours or a long vacation from work can be pretty boring in spite of all the social sites. Books come in handy and release you from boredom.


The habit of reading is one of the best qualities that a person can possess. Books are known to be your best friend for a reason. So it is very important to develop a good reading habit. We must all read on a daily basis for at least 30 minutes to enjoy the sweet fruits of reading. It is a great pleasure to sit in a quiet place and enjoy reading. Reading a good book is the most enjoyable experience one can have.

The writer is doing BA in English Literature at Government Degree College Sumbal Sonawari.

He can be reached at [email protected]

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