Every admissions test, from the exams used by private and parochial schools to the ones guarding the gates of law, medical, business, and graduate schools, challenges what we consider to be a core skill: reading. And yet, though every candidate comes to a test already knowing how to read, only the smallest fraction get every reading question right. Reading, particularly reading to quickly and efficiently understand non-fiction text, is a fundamental skill, one that can be practiced and improved.
But why bother learning to read better, apart from the obvious impact on test scores? Simply put, reading the right texts in the right way provides direct access to the knowledge, wisdom, and feelings of the greats in every field. We don’t need to be them… we just need to read them.
“When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. It is the same as the pupil, in learning to write, following with his pen the lines that have been pencilled by the teacher. Accordingly, in reading, the work of thinking is, for the greater part, done for us.”
— Arthur Schopenhauer
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin
“Men who have made these discoveries before us are not our masters, but our guides.”
“Think before you speak. Read before you think.”
― Fran Lebowitz
“I believe in the discipline of mastering the best that other people have ever figured out. I don’t believe in just sitting down and trying to dream it all up yourself. Nobody’s that smart…”
— Charlie Munger
“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
— Haruki Murakami
“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”
― Margaret Fuller
Make no mistake: reading is thinking. And in a very real sense, exceptional reading skills serve as a proxy for advanced thinking and critical reasoning abilities. See why schools place such a premium on reading skills?
(Of course, the thinking behind this post was not entirely original, as I was inspired after reading Schopenhauer: On Reading and Books.)