Reading is a multi-tiered phenomenon in which children use many different strategies depending on the text they're reading. Learning to literally read the words on a page is the first step, in which students gain an understanding of the relationship between letters, sounds and words. After the basic foundation has been laid, readers grow into meta-cognitive thinkers; that is, they are always thinking about what they're reading while they are reading it. By using a continuum of strategies throughout a reading experience, students will continue to grow not only as readers, but as intellectual beings.
Making Predictions and Inferences
Readers should constantly be picking up clues as they read to make a generalized prediction about what could happen on the following page or in the following chapter. Furthermore, authors won't always spell out exactly what they want the reader to take away from specific passages. When information is left out, it is the reader's job to put the pieces of the puzzle together, using the given information to infer events or points that the author didn't state specifically.
Monitoring Comprehension and Asking Questions
Along with making predictions, readers should constantly be asking themselves whether they understand what they are reading. All readers, at one time or another, have found themselves reading a book fluently, only to suddenly realize they haven't retained a single bit of information in the past ten minutes. Rather than blindly pushing through, good readers will go back and reread what they missed, focusing on the passages that caused them to "space out." If a rereading still doesn't clarify the text's meaning, readers may opt to ask a teacher or other adult to read with them to pinpoint what specifically is giving them trouble. In doing so, they will not only get help understanding the passage, but they will also become comfortable with the idea that reading can both answer questions and lead to more in-depth questions.
Summarizing What You've Read
The end of the text is not the end of a reading session. Good readers look back and summarize what they have read, whether it's the events in a novel or the points from an informational source. Summarizing also allows readers to probe further, knowing that there is always more information to be gleaned. Was the entire story wrapped up, or were there questions left unanswered? Is there more information that readers could learn about a topic? By summarizing what they have read, readers retain more of what they read for a longer time.
Evaluating a Reading Experience
Readers should always evaluate their reading experience after a given session: Did they enjoy the story? Was there anything they wished had happened differently? Did the argument convince them, if it was a persuasive text? What similar books by this author or others might they enjoy? Readers should ask these questions and others not only to point them toward another great text, but to build their critical thinking skills.
Matt Duczeminski is a before- and after-school tutor and supervisor for the CLASP program in the Cheltenham School District. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz's Master of Science in education (Literacy, B-6), Duczeminski has worked in a variety of suburban areas as a teacher, tutor and recreational leader for the past eight years.