What is “reading”?

Whilst this sounds a slightly odd question to pose – after all, you must be reading right now if you are working through this course – it is important to set out clearly some information about what reading actually is. This will help us reflect on our reading activities, perhaps even spot some areas for improvement.

Much has been written about reading – by educationalists, linguists and psychologists. In this course we are going to refer to Tony Buzan, a leading author in this field, whose achievements include the creation of the Mind Maps concept as well as advising Governments, Olympic coaches and corporations around the world.

Reading begins in childhood – usually formally at school – where children are taught to read using the method favoured by their local education authority (phonic, look and say etc). This is the first stage of reading, which Tony Buzan identifies as a multi-level process encompassing:

1. Recognition – knowledge of the alphabetic symbols

2. Assimilation – a physical process by which light is reflected from a word, received by the eye and transmitted via the optic nerve to the brain

3. Intra-integration – comprehension, or the linking of all the parts of the information being read with all other appropriate parts

4. Extra-integration – bringing together previous knowledge when reading, making connections, analysing etc

5. Retention – storing the information that has been read in the brain

6. Recall – accessing the information that has been stored in the brain when it is needed

7. Communication – using the information (writing, speaking, thinking and expressing) that has been recalled

Reading involves the eyes making small and regular jumps from one fixation point to another (usually a word). Information is absorbed during the pauses between these small jumps, with each pause lasting between a quarter and one and a half seconds.

It is only by developing all 7 levels identified and by analysing the pauses between jumps that we become an effective reader.


Using a piece of printed text of about 200 words length, analyse Tony Buzan’s seven levels and evaluate your application of:

  • Recognition
  • Assimilation
  • Intra-integration
  • Extra-integration
  • Retention
  • Recall
  • Communication