Suddenly, we are in full swing of the 2018-2019 school year. I am always surprised by how quickly we embrace all of the facets of an educational setting. Papers are being written and submitted through the new Canvas system. Math problems are being solved with the use of critical thinking skills and high tech graphing calculators. Novels, articles and resources are being digested, and we are suddenly expected to manage an abundance of independent reading.
Reading at the high school level can be a challenge for many students. I often hear students make these sorts of statements: “I am not a good reader.” “I used to be a good reader, but now I can’t keep up.” “I think I have a reading disability.” The reality is the purpose of reading changes, but we don’t often change as readers.
Students in a traditional school system are introduced to the many skills required to read until about the fourth grade. Teachers partner with children as they navigate the process of turning symbols into letters, letters into sound, sound into words, and finally words into meaning. Then, the process accelerates, but the academic help to master the new skills often does not keep pace with the curriculum.
Reading becomes a process of comprehension and fluency. Text holds meaning that can be specific or inferred. Readers are now expected to not only make meaning of the words, but also to infer what is not specifically written on the page. Reading becomes a cognitive process with many layers of dimension and understanding. We need more specific and concrete methods and techniques of reading to navigate these requirements.
In “Freshman Experience,” a program designed to help with these skills, students are being introduced to the concept that reading can be approached with the use of defined cognitive strategies. In Seven Strategies of Highly Effective Readers, Elaine K. McEwan explains the framework of strategies utilized universally by highly effective readers. Some readers may already use them, which means their process becomes natural and automatic. Other readers need to be taught the specific use of strategies and how to integrate them into reading for comprehension and understanding. In a college preparatory curriculum, students must engage in active, meaning-making reading.
What are the strategies used by highly effective readers?
- Activating engages prior knowledge to extract and create meaning from the new text.
- Inferring considers both the written and unwritten meaning the author shares in the text.
- Monitoring-Clarifying requires thinking before, during, and after the actual reading process. The reader needs to perform check-ins to determine if comprehension is actually occurring.
- Questioning calls on the reader to engage in dialogue with the text, peers, and others through the development of questions.
- Searching-Selecting has readers examine available sources and determine the most appropriate, a function of problem solving and gathering information.
- Summarizing is the restatement of the author’s main ideas in the reader’s own words
- Visualizing-Organizing increases comprehension through the use of mental images or visual organizers.
Current research is clear: reading for comprehension requires the reader to engage with the text, meaning, and interpretation of the written word. Implementation of the seven strategies of highly effective readers can provide the structure and framework for readers transitioning from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn.
How can you help? Encourage your child to read for pleasure. Find an article or book of interest to both of you and model the cognitive strategies. Activate, infer, and ask clarifying questions in your discussions. Search for topics of interest and summarize ideas and main takeaways. Finally, organize the main ideas and identify any areas you may wish to further explore. Being a highly effective reader allows young adults to explore life. When you help them develop these skills, you may find the reality that Dr. Suess suggests in his book, Oh, the Places You Will Go!