Finding Your Way in Reading

When you can read something, and understand it, you gain power–access to knowledge, access to the entire world. It frustrates us when we read something and it becomes “word soup.” It happens to all of us–even me. But, I have the skills to help myself understand most of what I read, and that’s what I’m going to help you all do, too.

There are three basic levels to reading:

Frustration Level: Nothing makes sense — you can’t connect to the text in any way. It might as well be written in another language that you don’t know.

Instructional Level: It makes sense when someone guides you through it, you learn more about the background of the information, you start to see how it makes sense to you, and, as a result of the help, you increase your vocabulary, background knowledge and expands your mental world.

Independent Level: You can read and understand this all on your own. As you grow older, and read more, your independent level naturally increases. Continued reading just beyond your independent level is important — you need to stretch your mind. Getting older by itself doesn’t work–you must keep reading, too.

There are 7 Keys to Reading Well:
(From the book, “7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It!” by Susan Zimmerman and Chryse Hutchins, Three Rivers Press, copyright 2003.)

1. Create mental images — see what’s happening in your mind. Imagine the book as if it’s a movie.
2. Use your background knowledge — you know more than you may think; what do you know? Make any connection to what you know, no matter how insignificant or small you think it is.
3. Ask questions. That simple — ask questions. Listen to the answers. Ask all three levels of questions you’ve been taught.
4. Make inferences — what do you think might happen, based on what you know so far?
5. Determine the most important ideas or themes: You can use text features, such as headlines, and subheads, chapter titles, etc. to help you.
6. Synthesize information: Ask yourself, “So what?” What is the real meaning, the important meaning, or the main idea of this text? It works for both informational and narrative texts.
7. Use fix-up strategies: Remember when we talked about “metacognition?” It means “thinking about your thinking.” Do you know when you get lost? How do you get back? It’s the same with reading. Re-read, slow your pace, stop and think about your purpose for reading–are you looking for clues about a character? Trying to find out about the sun’s chemical composition? What vocabulary is challenging you?

We are going to work on all of these this year, in varying ways. Before you know it, you won’t even think about the ‘strategies’ you’re using, you’ll just do them automatically, and be a better reader!