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The word "critical" has positive as well as negative meanings. You can write a critical essay that agrees entirely with the reading. The word "critical" describes your attitude when you read the article. This attitude is best described as "detached evaluation," meaning that you weigh the coherence of the reading, the completeness of its data, and so on, before you accept or reject it.
Reading is one of the core activities of study. You need to be able to understand what you read and to be able to recall the main ideas when you need them. You can use the SQW3R method to improve your comphrehension, to remember a reading for tutorials, seminars or to revise for exams.