I devour books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and internet celebrity gossip. Heck, it's not rare for me to read my junk mail. I read everything that I can get my hands on, so it seems strange when I hear someone say “I don’t like to read”, or “I haven’t finished a book since high school.”
Last month my husband enrolled in a continuing education course that he is required to take in order to keep his teaching certification. The title of the course is: Strategies for Students Who Struggle to Read.
In my mind, I imagined that he was learning strategies to help students sound-out words and increase reading speed. Then earlier this week, he left one of his textbooks on the kitchen table. (The title of the book is Subject Matter: Every Teachers Guide to Content-Area Reading by Harvey Daniels.) In my typical read-everything fashion, I started to read the book, and I found some of the concepts to be fascinating.
I’m still reading the book, but I want to share some of the things that I have learned.
Lessons From The Book
2) Avid readers have developed skills overtime that help them grasp an understanding of the content in the things that they read. People who read a variety of materials have more data stockpiled in their brains than non-readers and can therefore better understand what they read.
Here’s a cool example:
Read this passage from the book and see if you understand it:
“With hocked gems financing him, our hero bravely defied all scornful laughter that tried to prevent his scheme. “Your eyes deceived” he had said. “An egg not a table correctly typifies this unexplored planet.” Now three sturdy sisters sought proof. Forging along sometimes through calm vastness, yet more often over turbulent peaks and valleys. Days became weeks as many doubters spread fearful rumors about the edge. At last from somewhere, welcomed winged creatures appeared signifying momentous success.”
Difficult, right? The first time I read this passage I was very confused. That’s how it is for students and adults who have a hard time reading. Imagine how hard it would be to draw meaning from written resources if everything you read was this challenging.
Fortunately for avid readers, adjusting to new styles of writing can be easy because avid readers have more information and reading experiences stored in their brains to draw information from. Here’s a keyword: “Columbus”. Go back and read the passage with Columbus in mind.
Assuming you know something about Christopher Columbus, the passage starts to make more sense, right? That’s how much easier it is for avid readers than non-readers to understand the stuff that they read. For avid readers, something “clicks” in their brain when they read, but for non-readers, the “click” doesn't always happen.
Can you imagine how hard it would be to understand the passage if you knew nothing about Columbus? If reading was always that challenging to me, I probably wouldn't have finished a book since high school either. Now I get it.
I also have a new found respect for all of the smart individuals out there who have learned their lessons through experiences outside of reading.
Beyond The Book
Before I learned to read, my parents regularly read books to me and my sister. Once I could sound-out written words, I was encouraged to read on my own on a regular basis, and I did.
I regularly rode my bike to the local library. I began to enjoy reading so much that I joined my elementary school book club. My reading skills continued to improve as I read as many books as I could each month for the Pizza Hut book-it challenge (sure, free pizza was also a highlight, but I truly liked to read).
When I think about it, I've been practicing reading since I was 5 years old, but only now do I think of reading as a skill.
This book by Daniels is making me realize that just like anything else I've worked hard for (for example, running and understanding technology) my ability to read, including magazines, internet articles, and random books found on my kitchen counter, is a talent that I have developed with practice.
Reading has become a skill that I count on.
Reading is important to me.