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Skilled readers do not read blindly, but purposely. Their purpose, together with the nature of what they are reading, determines how they read.They read in different ways in different situations for different purposes.
Learning to think within one system of knowledge helps us learn to think within other systems.
For example, if in studying botany, we learn that all plants have cells, we should connect this idea to the fact that all animals have cells (which we learned in studying biology).
Of course, reading has a nearly universal purpose: to figure out what an author has to say on a given subject. The author has previously translated ideas and experiences into words.
We must take those same words and re-translate them into the author’s original meaning using our own ideas and experiences as aids.
We may simply enjoy the ideas that the text stimulates in us.
This is fine as long as we know that we do not deeply understand the text.
My information is derived principally from the written statements of the school committees of the respective towns — gentlemen who are certainly exempt from all temptation to disparage the schools they superintend.
The result is that more than 11/12ths of all the children in the reading classes do not understand the meanings of the words they read; and that the ideas and feelings intended by the author to be conveyed to and excited in, the reader’s mind, still rest in the author’s intention, never having yet reached the place of their destination." (Second Report to the Massachusetts Board of Education, 1838) In general, then, we read to figure out what authors mean.
Moreover, when we gain an initial understanding of the primary ideas, we can begin to think within the system as a whole.
The sooner we begin to think within a system, the sooner the system becomes meaningful to us.