Thursday, March 26, 2009

Topic: What Is "Poor" Reading?


10-second review: Author asked teachers who said they were poor readers why they felt that way. Their answers are interesting.

Title: “Everyone Learns to Read.” Yetta Goodman. English Journal (November 1975), 8-9. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: Only about 30% to 40% of teachers in an audience raised their hands when asked if they were good readers. The author asked those who did not raise their hands why they thought they were not good readers. Here are their answers:

“My mind wanders when I read something I’m not interested in.” The author says that it is perfectly normal to reflect on related ideas.

“I don’t look up words that I don’t know in the dictionary.” Reading material is redundant and most words are learned by reading the words around the word you don’t know.

“I read too slowly.” If you’re reading the poems of Milton, you will need to read slowly. If you’re reading a mystery novel, you should be reading at a much faster pace.

“When I read out loud I don’t read fluently.” Reading aloud and reading silently are two different processes. Reading aloud requires practice.

“I re-read sentences and sometimes sections of the material.” The need to clarify meaning requires that you re-read. Normal part of the reading process.

In short, the author says only slow reading is a real problem in these responses and that only if they read everything slowly all the time. The other “problems” are not problems, but only part of the normal process of reading.

Comment: Interesting question. Another interesting question is to ask parents who say in school board meetings that their children can’t read what they mean by “can’t read.” You will be amazed at the answers you will hear.

An answer I expected to this question of “why do you consider yourself a poor reader?” was “I don’t like to read.” That is a problem.

The solution to the problem of not wanting to read is to preview. The preview of written material is like the preview, coming attractions, of movies and TV shows. You have glimpses of the contents which will entice you to watch the movie or TV show or read the nonfiction book, novel, etc.

Preview of nonfiction (textbook) chapters: Read the title and subheading. Read the first paragraph, the first sentence of each paragraph in the body of the chapter and the last paragraph. What questions do you have? Read to answer the questions.

Preview of a nonfiction book. Read the first and last paragraph of each chapter. You will learn the main ideas of the book. Then go back and read the first sentence of each paragraph in each chapter. If you’re caught, keep reading.

Preview of a novel: If you are not motivated to read the novel, try reading a single paragraph on a page until you’re caught. Then keep reading.

Preview of a short story. Read a single sentence per page or column. Go back and read a single paragraph per page or column. Go back and read the first paragraph, the first sentence of each intermediate paragraph and the last paragraph. Whenever you are hooked, keep reading.

I follow my own advice. RayS.

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