Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Time To Level Up

Written by: on September 3, 2015

How To Read A Book’s target audience are those who ‘read’ to gain increased understanding. We are living in a society that relies on acquired information through spoken words and observations. In this technological era, reading the text from a book is no longer a priority. My oldest son is in high school with a 4.1 GPA with all AP and honor classes. Well, every school year he has to submit two book reports before entering the next grade. This year he asked my wife to purchase the audiobook or DVD because he did not want to read the book. My son loves having new information but he would rather acquire it through technology or spoken words.

According to Adler, reading is an activity so it must also be active. One of the challenges for the reader is that they are forced to understand everything on their own unless there’s a teacher involved. When there’s no teacher involved, there is one of two things that may happen to the reader; the reader understand everything or the reader understand some things, which would increase their understanding after reading.

A few years ago, I sat next to a woman on a flight from Jamaica who was completing her PhD but I was more intrigued by how fast she was ‘reading” the book. After reading this book, it is possible she must have read this book at some point because she told me there were different levels of reading and that was the only way she exceled in school.

Adler describes four levels of reading that guides each reader. Based on these levels, we have a blueprint to gage where we are as readers.

Elementary Reading

The reason my son wanted to watch the movie instead of reading is that he is in this category of reading. Most of his reading involves a teacher guiding his understanding so unless someone is feeding him the information, he wants no part of it. Elementary and high school students generally fall in this category.

Inspectional Reading

In this level, we are skimming through the book and nothing really sticks. I skimmed through many books in undergrad because I did not like to read all those books. I still do not understand why I skimmed through the books because the time I spent trying to find quotes for my research paper, I could have read the entire book.

Analytical Reading

Typically, in undergrad we do a lot of reviewing books and determining the message of the author. However, I believe even in graduate school, there are some elements of this because we are narrowing our focus but we read from a wide focus. I analyzed and read twice as many books in graduate school but I would not consider myself an analytical reading specialist because I still had to skim through books if I was forced to read 10 books and a research paper in eight weeks.

Syntopical Reading

This area belongs to the specialist (post-graduate college) because our focus is narrow. In this level of reading, the reader reads multiple books on one subject. This level is for the serious readers who desire to know the relevancy of many books one subject. Adler states that, “Knowing that more than one book is relevant to a particular question is the first requirement in any project of syntopical reading. Knowing which books should be read, in general, is the second requirement. In the Doctor of Ministry Leadership program at George Fox, we are narrowing our focus to become specialists in one area so we are reading for understanding, while finding relevancy.

Do these levels force each reader in a box? No. The categorization allows us to have reasonable expectations for each reader. Since my son is in high school, I understand why he will rather watch the DVD version. However, another student in his class might have been reading at the syntopical level. Adler allows us to realize where we are as readers and make adjustments. It would be quite unfortunate for someone in a Doctoral program who favors the elementary level. They would need to make major adjustments quickly. There are several credible points in this book but focusing on the different levels intrigued me.

About the Author

Garfield Harvey

Garfield O. Harvey devotes himself to studies in cultural intelligence (CQ), global leadership and cultural anthropology. During his doctoral studies at George Fox University, he developed CQ Worship to help ministry leaders manage the tension of leading corporate worship with cultural intelligence. His research on worship brings a fresh perspective that suggests corporate worship begins the moment a church engages a community.

12 responses to “Time To Level Up”

  1. Phil Goldsberry says:


    Adler responds to “Cliff note type” books in a negative way for you are reading a singular slant of someone beside the author. You just did an incredible job of helping me to reassess the info AFTER I read the book.

    From my humble perspective you just did what Adler was attempting to say. In other words you not only read but interacted with Adler. Great job! This actually may become a reference reminder of a well written book and a well read reader!


  2. Pablo Morales says:

    As you illustrated with your son’s experience, you point out that in a technological era people prefer not to read a book if they can have an audio or video representation of it. Do you see this phenomenon as something to be concerned about or simply as a fact that we have to get used to? Why?

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      Thanks for the feedback. I do believe there’s a twofold approach.

      My wife always talk about loving to turn the pages of a book and make her own notes. Since we’re in a religious class, let’s look at the bible. When we were younger, we had to memorize the books of the bible. I was shocked when one of our interns who graduates from seminary in December couldn’t tell me the first five books of the bible. The concern is that if we depend on technology, we can’t validate the truth because we’ve never seen it. We’re forced to accept whatever we hear and that’s scary.

      The reality is that technology is here to stay so we have to learn balance. Technology makes it easy to access information and I love it. We need to combine both paperback and digital books in education. For example, have students purchase half paperback and half digital so they can appreciate both. As humans, we can’t be left to our own preference because we love the easy way out. Believe it or not, we love being told what to do but it’s simply who’s telling us and when we’re told.

  3. Claire Appiah says:

    Excellent job on explicating the various reading levels in Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren’s book, How to Read a Book! A key word that you impressed upon my mind from your school experience and the authors’ book is “relevancy” of the subject matter. Adler and Van Doren spell out that the second stage of syntopical reading is the “syntopical reading of the bibliography amassed in Stage 1” (Adler and Van Doren 1972, 136). That calls for inspecting these books that were already deemed relevant in stage 1 in order to find the most relevant passages in them. They advise that one way to maintain objectivity is to “always accompany an interpretation of an author’s views on an issue with an actual quote from his text” (Adler and Van Doren 1972, 136).

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      Thanks for the feedback. I think writing quality researches and book reviews allows to remain connected to the next because we’re forced to quote the author. Without having to write quotes, we probably wouldn’t read as much.

  4. Colleen Batchelder says:

    Great post, Garfield!

    I thought your observation about society’s reliance on visual media was very appropriate. They’ve done studies on Millennials and suggested utilizing videos to relay a message rather than written word. We’ve become ADD in our culture, and have a difficult time extracting information from text; nevertheless, extracting understanding from the written word. Your son is the perfect example of an individual who is utilizing other forms of media to attain higher educational goals. He’s seeking out creative alternatives to reach the same goal. I’m sure you and your wife must be proud parents. How does this affect the way we present our message? Adler suggests various levels of reading, and concludes with syntopical reading as the pinnacle of achievement; however, I would challenge the reader to go one step further. Adler states, “Above all, remember that your task is not so much to achieve an overall understanding of the particular book before you as to find out how it can be useful to you in a connection that may be very far from the author’s own purpose in writing it” (Adler, 309). I would dare to include the inclusion of various forms of media in syntopical reading – YouTube, Podcasts and DVDs aid to finding the text that can be useful to you – the text that brings to the forefront your perspective as the author.

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      Thanks for the feedback and insight. You mention about readers finding the connection that might be useful to them. Well, we try to teach people about connecting the dots but we find ourselves telling the to ‘Google it.’ My sons wanted to learn how to play the guitar do instead of enrolling them in music class, I told them to google it or watch YouTube. As innocent as that was since they start music classes next week, I’ve just told them technology is king. These subtle actions takes people out of traditional books and endorse technology or media related resources.

  5. Marc Andresen says:

    Garfield I appreciate you connection of Adler to our contemporary society. I’m sure many have wondered if reading is a dying art. Do you think “Sesame Street,” although a powerful tool for the education of children, has contributed to this situation, since children have been able to be so visually entertained as part of the learning process?

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      Thanks for the feedback and interaction. I wouldn’t blame Sesame Street because it promoted reading and education. Regardless of the available resources, we have a great responsibility to ensure balance exist in the home. When you think about it, who told these children technology is king? We did…we told them the media has a voice. We are responsible for how we present information to people. If they only assigned paperback books for this class, we would start complaining about the inconvenience. Sesame Street can serve as a resource but we’ve been using it as a replacement.

  6. Hi Garfield. I appreciate you post and it seems like the conversation in the comments has focussed on your defense of reading books as presented in Adler.
    If Adler was writing the book today, do you think he would include other forms of media?
    I do.
    Of course, the name and purpose of the book has to do with reading books, but I wondered as I read it if there was room in synoptical reading for more than the types of books Adler probably has in mind.
    For example, so many books today are interactive with web based functionality. Or graphic novels. Also, I think at one point the authors are a bit too negative on what they would call reading for “entertainment.” I think a person can be in a position to discover new learning when watching a film or even listening to an album (I mean mp3). After all, Shakespeare wrote plays to be performed and poetry to be recited. Just kind of brainstorming here, and don’t mean to be preachy in any way. What do you think?

    • Garfield Harvey says:

      Thanks for the feedback and interaction. My wife is a school administrator and English teacher, while both my boys have dyslexia. My boys grew up reading books and they still turn those pages. If Adler is anything like my wife, MP3 would be a lazy alternative and it really is a lazy approach. My wife and I also own a production company where we use theater production for educational purposes. The problem is that web based functionality was the result of we telling people they learn differently. If a respected individual announced that turning pages was necessary, we would start dismissing technology. I love technology because it’s accessible and I believe Adler would incorporate it in his book. However, I believe it would be linked as a resource for the first two levels. Ask a middle school christian child to quote the books of the bible and they might ask you to sing the song…I was quoting that by age seven. I defend traditional reading only because we haven’t learned the balance with technology.

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