Final in a two part series on reading comprehension
Our journey into reading comprehension wraps up with this final message. This blog will focus on identifying the strategies used by proficient readers. Remember, word readers are not readers at all. Comprehension is the true measure of a reader!
American writer E. B. White, author of the well-known children’s book Charlotte’s Web, maintained that “reading is the work of an alert mind.” There is nothing passive about reading! A reader must engage in a constant internal dialogue with the text as well as convert words-to-pictures if the reader hopes to understand. In other words, the reader must interact with the text. This interactive reading process is the strategy employed by proficient readers. Whether a reader is operating at Stage 0 (pre-reading) or Stage 5 (construction and reconstruction: college and above), the reader cannot hope to comprehend unless the reading is interactive.
How can we - as parents and educators - foster interactive reading in our children and students? There are seven steps involved in the interactive reading process which cultivate comprehension:
- Convert words-to-pictures: The reader must imagine the unfolding of a movie as she reads, making use of color, sight, sound, and emotion.
- Draw on background knowledge: The reader brings to the text prior information so that new information can be easily and logically affixed to the old.
- Questions, questions, questions! The reader should be encouraged to ask questions about the content before, during, and after a reading.
- Make inferences: The reader should be taught to actively look for connections within the text. Inferences are not stated but suggested. It’s connecting the dots, putting clues together, and weaving details into a big picture.
- Isolate key ideas and themes: The reader should consider the deeper meaning of the text. What message is the author delivering?
- Synthesize (integrate) information: The reader should sift through the details, determining what is important and what is not important, in order to summarize the text.
- Employ self-correction strategies: The reader must develop an awareness of when her comprehension has become befuddled, and then be able to employ techniques to recover comprehension.
These seven steps are common sense. They are to be utilized in all kinds of reading - from fiction to math textbooks. These steps must eventually be internalized in order for the reader to be successful.