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The Four Stages of Reading Students Should Know about

How to Read a Book  by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren is one of the most celebrated classic works in the reading literature. It was first published in 1940 and then revisited and updated in an edition that was released in 1972. Since its publication millions of copies have been sold and is still widely circulating among education circles as a required reading text. It’s true that the book was conceived in a ‘pre-digital’ era but its content is still relevant even now that the digital text is predominantly prevalent.


In How to Read A Book, Van Doren and Mortimer talked about four main levels of reading: elementary reading, inspectional reading, analytical reading, and syntopical reading. Note here that the authors deliberately named them levels and not kinds because, according to them, kinds can be distinct from one another while levels denote a notion of embeddedness with lower levels included in higher ones. In other words, levels of reading are cumulative. Below is an infographic we have created encompassing these four levels of reading we want to bring to your attention. Please have a look and share with us your feedback.

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