MY SECRET READING STRATEGY
A SIMPLE DISCOVERY
I was in a movie theater when I heard a woman echo my feelings by saying, “The book was better than the movie.” I had always wondered why that seemed to be the case whenever I read a book and then saw the movie. It never occurred to me that this could be the clue that would change reading instruction, in fact all instruction, for me, and that I would use this simple discovery to help thousands of students in my sixth grade classes and even in my college courses for future teachers.
WHAT WAS THE DISCOVERY
I asked myself why I often felt the book was better and came to the conclusion that reading got me more involved. I had to ‘see’ what the author was describing rather than having it ‘spoon-fed’ to me on a screen. In other words, in reading, I am forced to visualize what the author wants me to see. It hit me like a bolt of lightning that what may define the ‘good reader’ from the ‘bad reader’, the ‘achiever’ from the ‘under-achiever’ is that the better reader is able to ‘see’ what he is reading.
This seems so obvious, but I had never seen this in any basal reader or workbook. I wondered if so-called ‘under-achieving’ readers could be taught to see what they were reading. I made this my new goal in reading instruction and that changed everything.
It takes some restructuring of your instructional philosophy, but you don’t need new books, expensive machines and no batteries are required. Good readers do this automatically, but even they seem to benefit when they understand the process. I used this simple goal to help countless sixth graders, some reading as low as second grade, to become better, sometimes avid readers, and sincerely hope it helps you help your children. I truly believe getting kids to ‘visualize’ what they are reading and learning can be highly useful in all areas of learning, but is essential to help ‘under-achieving’ readers.
SEEING WHAT WE READ
Reading requires us to use our comprehension skills and add our imagination to fill in the gaps that cannot be supplied by the author. A movie lets the director and cast do most of the work for us. Reading requires us to become active partners and visualize not only what the author is supplying, but also what he isn’t. You can be ‘lazy’ while watching television or a movie, but you must be actively involved to fully understand what you are reading.
It is this active role which may explain why to the ‘good’ reader the book tends to be better than a movie. But how can this help us with the under-achieving reader?