Linking Your Thinking: The Four Levels of Reading


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 13, 2023

4 min read


Linking Your Thinking: The Four Levels of Reading

"In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn't read all the time - none, zero." These words, spoken by an unknown individual, highlight the importance of reading in our lives. Reading not only provides us with knowledge and information but also expands our understanding of the world. However, it is essential to be selective about what we read and how we read it. In this article, we will explore the four levels of reading and how they can help improve our reading skills.

The first level of reading is elementary reading, also known as rudimentary reading or basic reading. This level is where we transition from non-literacy to at least beginning literacy. It involves mastering the fundamental skills of reading, such as recognizing letters, forming words, and understanding simple sentences. Elementary reading lays the foundation for all subsequent levels of reading and is crucial for developing strong reading skills.

The next level is inspectional reading, which can be considered the art of skimming systematically. When we engage in inspectional reading, we aim to gain a superficial knowledge of the book while simultaneously trying to understand its main ideas. This level of reading is useful when we have limited time to spend on a particular book or when we want to get a general sense of its content. Inspectional reading allows us to quickly assess whether a book is worth further exploration or if it can be dismissed.

Analytical reading is the third level, and it is often regarded as the best and most complete form of reading. This level requires thorough and organized questioning of the text. Analytical readers delve deep into the material, seeking to understand not only the surface meaning but also the underlying concepts and connections. As Mortimer J. Adler once said, "some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." Analytical reading falls into the latter category, as it involves careful examination and reflection.

Lastly, we have syntopical reading, also known as comparative reading. This level of reading involves reading multiple books on a particular subject and analyzing their content in relation to one another. Syntopical reading allows us to construct a comprehensive analysis of the subject, incorporating insights from various sources. By synthesizing information from multiple texts, we can gain a deeper understanding and develop a more well-rounded perspective.

Now that we have explored the four levels of reading, let's link this concept to the idea of "Linking Your Thinking." Just as there are different levels of reading, there are also various tools and behaviors that can aid in the process of organizing and connecting ideas. Let's take a look at some popular tools and how they align with the different levels of reading.

Evernote is a tool that functions as a collector. It allows users to gather and store ideas in a digital format. This aligns with the first level of reading, as it involves the basic act of collecting information. Evernote is ideal for individuals who love generating ideas and need a centralized platform to keep track of them.

Ulysses and Bear, on the other hand, are tools designed for writers. They provide a platform for building stories and narratives out of ideas. These tools align with the second level of reading, as they involve the act of creating a coherent narrative from the collected information. Ulysses and Bear are perfect for individuals who enjoy crafting compelling stories and need a platform to bring their ideas to life.

Roam and Obsidian are tools that function as connectors and databases. They allow users to link and organize ideas, creating a network of interconnected thoughts. These tools align with the third and fourth levels of reading, as they involve the acts of analyzing and synthesizing information. Roam and Obsidian are ideal for individuals who love sorting and relating ideas, enabling them to create a comprehensive understanding of a subject.

In conclusion, reading is a complex activity that can be improved by understanding the four levels of reading. By mastering each level, we can enhance our reading skills and gain a deeper understanding of the texts we encounter. Additionally, by utilizing tools such as Evernote, Ulysses, Bear, Roam, and Obsidian, we can enhance our ability to link and organize our thoughts. To enhance your reading and thinking skills, here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Be selective about what you read: Choose books or sources that are written by experts in the subject matter. This will ensure that you are exposed to accurate and reliable information.
  • 2. Practice analytical reading: When reading a book, ask yourself questions about the text, its underlying concepts, and its connections to other ideas. This will help you develop a deeper understanding and critical thinking skills.
  • 3. Utilize tools for organizing and connecting ideas: Experiment with tools like Evernote, Ulysses, Bear, Roam, and Obsidian to find the one that best aligns with your thinking and writing process. These tools can help you link and structure your thoughts more effectively.

By incorporating these practices into your reading and thinking routine, you can enhance your ability to absorb information, make connections, and generate unique insights. Remember, reading is not just about consuming information, but about actively engaging with it to expand your knowledge and understanding.

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