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Understanding Levels of Reading Better


Reading is an essential component of language and communication skills. This is because reading according to Obah (1985), is part of a complex information-processing system.

In this sense, the reader reads information from printed matters and interprets the concepts without any movements, gestures or facial contact with the writer.

It has been identified that comprehension takes place at four different levels. These four levels are literal, inferential, critical and creative. These are expatiated below.

Literal Reading


This is reading at the surface level. The reader reads without necessarily attaching deeper meaning to the words contained in the message read.

It is a casual narrow-minded reading. It is reading at the surface level and as such the reader has an understanding of the surface meaning of what has been read.

The reader takes everything he reads literally. He does not see beyond the surface usage of words. Reading at this level involves mere understanding.

The reader fails to pay attention to figurative use of language and does not probe intellectually into the thoughts of the writer with a view to getting the connotative meanings of the passage read.

The reader takes for example, ‘Sidi is a pig’ as literal or ordinary statement without attaching any other meaning to it than that. This level of reading comprehension is also referred to as reading the lines.

Inferential Reading

Reading at this level goes beyond surface level of reading. It involves reading deeper meaning to every word, phrase, clause or sentence contained in the passage or text.

The reader tries to analyse the material read to find out the connotative meaning of the expressions in the passage or text.

He pays attention to figurative use of language and probes intellectually into the use of same in the passage so that he gets all that the passage is all about.

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As such, the reader understands that the expression. ‘Ade is a pig.’ Is a figurative expression. This level of reading comprehension is in short reading between the lines.

Critical Reading

This is the level at which readers are well equipped with the ability to react constructively to what they read, making a comparison between the information acquired in the passage or text and their previous experiences thereby rejecting what they perceive to be bogus or immaterial and assimilating or imbibing the authentic and beneficial ones.

This is the higher level of inferential reading. The reader gets a proper understanding of the text/passage. He is able to react constructively to what has been read.

He tries to judge what has been read in relation to what have been his experience and life experiences in general.

As such, the reader is able to identify or shiver between relevant or irrelevant material in the text. He is equally able to identify the strength and weakness of the material read.

This level of reading comprehension is also known as evaluative reading and it is reading beyond the lines. The reader is able to answer critical questions on the passage.

Creative Reading

This is higher form of critical reading. It is equally the highest level/stage of reading comprehension. It involves the ability to reproduce the passage in the reader’s own expression.

It is this kind of reading comprehension skill that is useful in writing summary and précis. At this level of reading comprehension, the reader is also able to apply the knowledge acquired from reading to solve day-to-day problems.

The knowledge the reader gains from reading helps him or her to cope with a lot of situations he comes across in his or her complex society.

The reader’s behavior, action and reactions are influenced by what he or she reads. The skill at this level helps the reader to understand manuals and directives to operate certain machines/gadgets, construct or repair certain things, make some other things, get to unknown places, etc.

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It is this level of reading comprehension those students in tertiary institutions should be operating.

Intensive Reading

Intensive reading is reading for a particular purpose. It is the reading one does in order to get particular information or idea.

The reader is expected to digest all details. It is also called study reading. It requires slower and more meticulous reading speed since the amount of comprehension is expected to be high, hence the speed of reading should be correspondently slower.

Reading for examination is an example of intensive reading.

Extensive Reading

This reading is for pleasure and not for specific information as in the case of intensive reading. It involves reading rapidly for information as fast as possible and as many books or reading material within the shortest time.

The skill of faster reading is highly indispensable in extensive reading. It is designed to get only general impression of what is being read, hence one has to skim or scan through very fast in order to get the gist of the material being read.

This type of reading exposes the reader to variety of reading materials like novels, play texts, magazines, newspapers, journals, etc.

Extensive reading enables the reader to improve in all aspects of language skills: listening, speaking and writing because it involves reading widely, hence one’s horizon is broadened. It increases one’s reading efficiency and expression. It is also the most effective way of increasing reading speed.

One of the best ways to enrich or increase one’s vocabulary power is through extensive reading; this is because there is tendency for a reader to come across new words and expressions.

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