This short article/guide is for people who don’t read and want to do something about it. I will go through the basics of reading and shed some light on a group of people who I like to call “Voluntary Illiterates” (Vol-Illiterates).
This article was written for comedy purposes but has a touch of truth to it and a message behind it.
Overview: What is Reading?
Reading is the act of processing letters by using our visual or touch senses to form comprehension. There are 5 stages of reading development, Emerging pre-reader (6 months to 6 years old), Novice reader (6 to 7 years old), Decoding reader (7 to 9 years old), Fluent, comprehending reader (9 to 15 years old) and Expert reader (16 years and older). I will not go into detail about every stage, I will briefly explain the first and last stage.
Humans begin to develop reading comprehension very early in life beginning from the Pre-reader stage which starts at 6 months and lasts for the first five years of a child’s life. This stage is crucial for the development of the child’s vocabulary and the ability to hear individual sounds of language (Phonemic Awareness).
The last stage is the Expert reader stage which begins at 16 years. At that stage it will take the reader one-half second to read almost any word. This can change over the course of an adult’s life depending on what they read and how much they read.
How to Read?
The learning phase of reading should’ve started at the end of “Novice reader” stage but it’s always good to have a reminder, unless you’re illiterate.
Step 1: Pre-reading (Preparation)
Before you begin to read you’ll first need to understand what you’re going to read. Is it an article? A tutorial? A scientific research? A social media post? Maybe even a book?
We may dedicate more care for reading text from an article or a study that conforms to our political views or general views about the world compared to text that doesn’t. If it’s a scientific research about a topic that we don’t care about then we may not read it at all. It’s important to understand what kind of text you’re going to read so you can prepare yourself in reading it. As an example I developed a habit of having the oxford dictionary on standby before I start reading posts on Twitter.
Step 2: Reading
Assuming that you’re not completely illiterate, you should begin reading and let your brain do the rest of the work. Our brains automatically decode letters into words and then translate these words into something that we can understand relative to the text’s context. If you’re having trouble then read slowly & carefully, read it more than once and use a dictionary.
Throughout my years of writing guides and providing tools I encountered people who don’t read them at all and expect my stuff to “just work” or just lazily read through the text I’ve written. When I write a guide then I try to explain it to the best of my ability. Before I publish a guide I take a person who is experienced in reading (Someone who is past or during the Expert reader stage in their life) and that person reads through my guide and attempts to replicate the steps I document in my guides. I do make mistakes sometimes and I quickly fix them when these mistakes are pointed out by people who actually read.
Signs of Voluntary Illiteracy
I observed different stages of voluntary illiteracy in different subjects. The stages I documented mostly apply for people who couldn’t operate something due to not reading but may apply for other situations.
Sign 1: Expression
The first sign of voluntary illiteracy is expressing lack of understanding or confusion. A person may express that they don’t understand a certain part of your text or they may express confusion to you when something that you’ve created may not work when the simple process of reading may put them in the direction of getting said thing to work. It doesn’t always mean that someone is necessarily voluntary illiterate because it will depend on multiple factors like: The writing quality, it’s accessibility, word count, context and language.
Sign 2: Aggression
This will vary from person to person but the person may express aggression or frustration with your text/creation when the simple process of reading could’ve prevented that.
Example A: Person A publishes a post about his view on a certain political subject. Person B encounters the post and reads through it haphazardly. On the surface, Person A and Person B have the same views on said political subject but because Person B didn’t carefully read through Person A’s post he takes out his aggression on Person B.
Example B: Person A downloads a computer program that Person B developed. Person B provided a guide and a troubleshooter for said computer program. Person A encounters a problem with the program and the problem can be solved by utilizing the steps written in the troubleshooter but instead Person A decides to take out his aggression and frustration on Person B, the computer program’s developer.
Sign 3: Giving up quickly
The person may give up on understanding your creation/text quickly and it can be for legitimate reasons due to lack of understanding of the subject you’re engaging in your text. Not everyone can pick up a book about rocket engineering and understand everything on it just by reading through it. However, in the context of explaining on how to operate something, giving up came with not reading or skipping through instructions.
Sign 4: Coping
After the voluntary illiterate person realizes that the process of reading thoroughly could’ve prevented inconveniences or emotional stress then they’ll begin to cope with that fact.
Coping methods vary from person to person and may come in different ways like: Complete meltdowns (Hyper-aggression), deflection, projection, denial, etc..
They may criticise your way of writing something or explaining something, blame anything but themselves or even try to convince that “no one really reads X“.
Some people just don’t read and they are proud of it. During my time on the internet I observed people who would reply to a lengthy post/message with “too long didn’t read” (TL;DR – Too long; Didn’t read). This habit of replying “TL;DR” to lengthy text caused people on online platforms to provide a short version at the end of the lengthy text that they wrote.
I witnessed arguments on social media where a person will try to convince his opposition by linking an article that conforms to their world view only for his opposition to reply: “I’m not reading all of this”.
They will not read any text let alone a lengthy one under any circumstance. People who show this sign are a sub category of the Voluntary Illiterate called “Gigailliterate”. They won’t express anything, they won’t interact with you or your text. They’ll ignore it completely. This sign is not to be confused with the Coping sign. Not every Voluntary Illiterate person shows this sign. It’s an extremely rare sign and it’s the only sign. Some just don’t care.
What causes Illiteracy?
Illiteracy can have different causes, the most popular causes of illiteracy in adults according to “Literacy New York” are:
- Parents with little schooling
- Lack of stimulation as to the importance of reading
- Dropping out of school
- Poverty, difficult living conditions
- Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia
N downloads a video game modification, the file contains instructions on how to install the modification. The install instructions are accessible on the web page it originated from and they are accessible inside the compressed archive file of the modification. N doesn’t manage to get the modification to work on his video game installation so he shows the first sign of voluntary illiteracy which is expressing confusion. N is not an aggressive person so he doesn’t express anger.
The author of the video game modification double checks that his creation works and tries to inquire more information about N’s problem.
Once N realizes his incompetency he begins to show the “Coping” sign:
N copes by expressing that “life is too fast to read” and that there are many more annoying voluntary illiterates like himself.
Being illiterate has social, emotional, educational and economical impacts. Being voluntary illiterate has the same impacts. Before you express anger or frustration ask yourself this: “Did I carefully read through this?”