This essay focuses on the way people, mainly students, read and analyze text. It claims that reading should be what the author’s call a “constructive” process. Instead of reading text and interpreting it with just the words on the page, readers should use previous representations and experiences to go deeper into their analysis. They should consider knowledge about the author, his motive, the audience, but also tie in prior knowledge that may help to analyze more critically. Haas and Flower interestingly likened the process to a complex network made up of many nodes of information. While these nodes include information in the text, they can also include a “personal experience evoked by the text.” This idea helped me to better relate to and understand Haas and Flower’s idea of constructive reading. When I read, more often than not, the text manages to evoke some sort of experience or emotion not related to the text. That is generally because I read text that interests or relates to me, but it definitely helps me to evaluate what I read. The essay provides a great example of how this works when describing a study in which college students were asked to analyze text. In the end, the older, more experienced and knowledgable reader was more successful than the younger, greener student. They realized that not only did the more capable reader read and study the text more carefully, but he drew from whatever prior knowledge he had on the subject, whereas his counterpart did not.
Another important idea discussed in this essay was that of rhetorical reading. Haas and Flower believe that rhetorical reading is a great way to help students read constructively and utilize the cognitive process. Normally, when students read, they are reading for content. They look for the key information in whatever they are reading, and when they find it, they feel their reading process is complete. Rhetorical reading forces students to delve further into the text. They must constantly question and ponder while reading. While reading rhetorically, students must consider the author’s motives, the context of the piece, his audience, his tone, and so on. Identifying the key ideas is not enough. Rhetorical analysis helps readers interpret and understand those key ideas once they are found. I try to employ rhetorical reading whenever I read. It is a method of reading that has been drilled into my head since my sophomore year of high school. While I originally despised the idea of reading and re-reading, underlining and scribbling notes in what was left of the margins, I quickly realized that it helped me become a better reader. Not only does rhetorical reading help improve reading comprehension, but it also improves writing skills. After learning how to read this way, I soon began employing rhetorical strategies in my own writing. It is a challenging, but advantageous way to write more intelligently and to express your ideas.