Strategies good readers use

Suppose you need to read something new to you, something you find hard to understand. What would you do?Discouraged child thinks there are too many words in a book she is reading

  • Would you slow down?
  • Would you start over?
  • Would you look for help on the page, using headlines, boldfaced words, diagrams, photos or highlighted words explained in the margins?
  • Would you underline main ideas as you go along?
  • Would you mark unknown vocabulary words to look up later?
  • Would you look up those words now and write the words in the margins?
  • Would you realize you recognize a word but not the way it is used, and look up this other meaning?
  • Would you take away prefixes and suffixes to see if there is a root word you understand?
  • Would you draw a diagram, sketch, or chart to make sense of relationships?
  • Would you read the whole thing from beginning to end to get a gist of the passage, and then go back to figure out individual parts?
  • Would you write paragraph summaries in the margins or on post-it notes?
  • Would you ask for help from someone who might understand it?
  • Would you seek out an easier version (assuming one exists), read it, and then try reading the harder version again?
  • Would you try to explain what you read to someone else to see if you really understand it?
  • Would you monitor your own struggle, trying to figure out why the reading passage is hard for you?
  • Or would you read until you are totally bewildered and then give up?

Good readers use many strategies as they read in order to figure out the meaning of what they are reading. They don’t use all the above strategies at the same time, but good readers “attack” difficult reading using many approaches.

Poor readers might just read the words as they appear, plodding along, hopelessly lost. Or they might try one strategy, and when they find it doesn’t help much, then give up.

In future blogs, we will discuss some of these strategies that good readers—even beginning readers—use to gain meaning from difficult texts.

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