The saying when I was a kid used to be "Reading is Fundamental" or RIF. It was a national campaign. But the more I have progressed in my own career, the more I have come to emphasize that reading is merely the first part of a two-part equation. Reading is exploratory, yes. We read in order to understand our world. But writing is self expression! You write to put your own spin on that world and to share your own experiences with others. Once you have the tools to read and digest information, then you have the chance to make it your own - to shine!
I've often asked students who are confused or distracted, or even overwhelmed by a reading assignment to write out their thoughts about it. Once given the permission to comment on what they are reading, or even to make fun of it, they become empowered to understand it. You see, one of the main things standing in the way of understanding is ownership. Too often students feel insignificant when faced with a reading assignment in which they have to digest something dry or lofty. They accept that what they are reading is doctrine, and they feel that they have no say in it whatsoever. Nothing could be further from the truth. Writing is organic. It is expressive. And, most of all, it is individualized.
So, the next time you pick up anything by Henry James or Robert Frost, make notes. Feel what they are trying to say, and comment in the margins. You'll be surprised at how much more you understand what it is you are reading when you can participate right along side them ;). -John