You walk into a grocery store and start pushing your cart. You see the produce section, the fruits and vegetables piled high, tantalizing. If you’re in a hurry, you will see the produce but not think much about it. As you move forward, it is mostly a blur of colors and shapes. Oranges, lemons, and limes—part of your background knowledge—are so familiar that you recognize them without thinking. Other objects you glimpse fleetingly, and feel briefly itchy with unanswered questions (Is that “star fruit”? What are those thick, knobby, brown things next to the plantains?), but you don’t slow down. You’re skimming, quickly reading, but not annotating the “text” of the store.
On the other hand, if you take the time to consider what you might want to cook and eat in the next few days, you will stop and pick up various items. Some objects you may quickly decide to put in your cart (e.g., I need a bag of onions), others you will squeeze and examine (Will these avocadoes be ripe enough by Saturday?). Unlike someone who zips through the store barely glancing around, the purposeful shopper gets more out of the experience. She finds meaning in the items she pauses to consider and derives more value from her experience in the store. So does the reader who annotates.
For more information on annotation, check out The Literacy Cookbook “Nonfiction Reading Strategies” page and The Literacy Cookbook (available for order HERE).