By Nyla Lee
For many, it is easy to say that English classes are not the source of fun in school settings. From long readings to essays about details that would not matter to the casual reader, English has a way of bringing out controversial opinions in people.
However, these long readings and bloated essays resulted in one of the most important components of the mind: critical thinking. Upon learning and applying critical thinking, you can use it to your great benefit, regardless of whether you are a reader or writer. But how does critical thinking improve reading and writing?
Table of Contents
What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is the act of processing and analyzing content to form an opinion or judgment of the content. For example, the iconic joke regarding the symbolism of a red curtain and its ties to depression or freedom within a fictional story derives from critical thinking lessons.
English teachers play a big role in expanding this concept when they assign a question that pertains to the symbolism behind an object or object in a novel or film to further ideas and judgments on it. I have had my fair share of over-analyzing simple things in books, such as the color red in Lois Lowry’s The Giver and how it was a metaphor for freedom and change for the protagonist, Jonas. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but as a writing student, it did benefit me greatly.
But what’s important to note is that critical thinking goes beyond entertainment mediums and bloated assignments. People use critical thinking to assess situations and information they hear on a daily basis.
Strategies and plans derive from people using critical thinking skills to form an opinion or judgment to assess the situation better and efficiently. If you or a friend says a controversial statement, someone else may use critical thinking to question and judge the statement, based on facts or their own biases.
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Critical Thinking and Reading
Reading and critical thinking are two skills that complement one another because they are both beneficial separately, but inherently successful when you use these skills simultaneously.
This is why Reading and English teachers adhere to many assignments that require students to assess the content they are consuming and consider symbols, themes, characters, and actions that require advanced assessment.
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How Does Critical Thinking Improve Reading?
Critical thinking allows you to think realistically and from diverse perspectives when engaged in active reading sessions. For example, there are critiques of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight that detail valid criticism regarding characterization, plot, language, and morals within the story. These criticisms include racism, age gaps, unhealthy relationships, and even predatory behavior.
Critical thinking is a large component of such critiques because you have the ability to consider the content, form an opinion, and criticize the information presented to them. This is especially true as the mind evolves and ages over time. As you get older, your perceptions and perspectives change entirely.
How Does Reading Improve Critical Thinking?
With that being said, reading can also improve critical thinking. Reading is a fundamental skill, especially when it pertains to gaining insight on other skills, such as critical thinking.
With reading, you as an author or reader have arrays of diverse perspectives on life and different morals regarding specific situations. This leads to critical thinking festering and building, as having multitudes of perspectives allows you to form opinions and judgments based on your reading exposure.
This is why reading novels from the same author or genre is not always fundamental. Because you are used to the author’s morals and viewpoints, along with respective cliches among certain genres, it can skew the critical thinking process.
Critical Thinking and Writing
Critical thinking and its connection to writing derive from the same conversation pertaining to reading. To write effectively, you should be reading frequently to get a feel of ideas, stories, grammar, and character interactions.
Many writers start out reading in tremendous quantities before dipping their toes into writing and expanding on that skill. That is because when writing, your critical thinking skills require you to form judgments surrounding your literature’s content. Take for example plotting and characterization.
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Critical Thinking in Plotting and Characterization
Plotting and characterization are significant portions of the writing process that require critical thinking. As a writer, it is imperative to consider the literature’s content and how individuals will react to it, and the judgments audiences will form about not only you, but also the content’s motivations.
Currently, I am in the midst of writing a fantasy novel, and I have had to do extensive research on how to properly store fish realistically in a world where refrigeration is not as modern and simple as it is now. This process is occurring because I am adhering to my critical thinking skills and considering what my audience will assume about myself and the story if I use inaccurate storing descriptions in my story, regardless of its fantasy elements.
The Critical Thinking Role in Plotting
To successfully layout a plot point, or multiple plot points, you must think critically about the content and characters’ morals regarding the consequences and effects of the plot.
Plot points require arguments to portray diverse sides of their points. For example, the protagonist and antagonist would have opposing views of a plot point because it would either benefit or negatively affect them, respectively.
This decision requires critical thinking on your side, as it forces you to think and form judgments on the plot and apply it to real world morals.
The Critical Thinking Role in Characterization
Characterization functions similarly, especially when it pertains to characters of color and their significance in a story. It requires you to think critically when creating characters of color and their reactions to scenarios in a story, depending on race and its factor in a plot.
For those whose critical thinking skills are not strengthened, they may use stereotypes to fill out their character of color and apply it to the story without considering the judgments and opinions audiences could garner from such an action. This is certainly an issue.
I am unsure of how many times I have come across a story where many characters of color fit dangerous and unhealthy stereotypes that would not only offend people of color, but cause audiences to assume that the author did not adequately research those groups of people to realistically portray them.
On the other hand, if you as an author use your critical thinking skills, you will research and consider a creative and diverse manner in which you could approach your character of color without stereotyping and using poor judgment and critical thinking skills. Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments series) and Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson series) are classic examples of writers who describe people of color in YA literature well.
This is why critical thinking is such an improvement when it comes to writing. It requires you to second guess yourself and your motivations before you stick to one idea or plan.
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Final Take on Critical Thinking for Reading and Writing
Earlier English classes surely exhausted us with bloated assignments regarding how to analyze curtains, colors, and their significance to plots and characters. But they also allowed us to think beyond a smaller bubble and apply judgments and opinions to multiple perspectives in an organized and thoughtful fashion.
With all this being said, critical thinking is crucial to reading and writing. Whether an author or a reader, it requires you to expand your thoughts beyond the surface-level ideas.
As a reader, critical thinking allows you to hypothesize and theorize about situations and plots that you have formed strong opinions on. As a writer, critical thinking forces you all to look beyond previous judgments and consider more than your own perspective when creating literature.