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What Is A Reading Strategy?

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What is a reading strategy?  It is how you approach a subject and will depend on your purpose for reading. Are you reading for information? For entertainment? To help your children? For work? Your goal in reading will dictate which reading strategies you use.  We will look briefly at these different areas.

Everyone Can Learn To Read

What Is A Reading Strategy For Children?

If you are developing a reading strategy for your children, consider the following:

1. Choose books that relate to their age. If the book is not interesting to you, it probably won't hold their interest either. If they are old enough, allow them to choose their own books within your parental guidelines. 

2. Never get books that talk down to children. The author should be able to relate to his reader by being on their level. Books that try too hard to teach lessons can be boring. The story must be interesting. C.S. Lewis [author of The Chronicles Of Narnia] was a master at what he called slipping "past watchful dragons." In other words, any moral lessons flowed naturally from the story; the story was not invented to teach what "kids" should do.

3. Set a time to read with your child daily or weekly. Even older children often enjoy being read to or enjoy taking turns reading with you. It can be a fun parent/child time. Or, if your children are older, you could set aside some family reading time. Turn off the TV and computer. Put on some soft music while everyone enjoys reading their favourite books to themselves. The time should be the same every day or week.

Reading strategy

4. Getting children to read books they "have to" for school is hard enough when the books are interesting. It is tough if the books are boring. The main issue is changing the attitude toward reading. Following the above suggestion for a reading time can help create the mood. Also, ask questions that may pique their curiosity: Who is the main character? What are they like? Do you know anybody like that? What do you think is going to happen? What would you do if that happened to you? Asking questions also helps to increase comprehension.

5. When a required reading is boring, explain that some things in life must be done. Sorry, but that is a hard, cold fact. Many modern educators try to make everything "fun" as a supposedly better way of learning. Fun is good, but not everything is enjoyable. That's life! Sometimes reading essential material takes self-discipline, and every successful person has self-discipline. Illustrate self-discipline in the lives of people who interest your child. Attitude is the key. Take something unpleasant, creatively make it as enjoyable as possible, and get it finished.

6. Of course, if it is optional reading, don't make them finish it. You can just move on to something interesting. And don't be surprised if your child's reading style differs from yours. Some people read one book at a time; others have three or four on the go at all times and are lucky to finish one! The point is to enjoy and learn.

What Is A Reading Strategy For Entertainment?

If you are developing a reading strategy for your entertainment, consider the following:

1. Make some time just for you. Turn off the TV. Relax. Get your favourite beverage and a comfortable chair. Turn off the phone! Very few things are so important that they can't wait. C.S. Lewis said something to the effect that he never found a book long enough or a cup of tea large enough for his satisfaction. I read of a book publisher who had just gotten a manuscript from one of his favourite authors. He had his secretary hold all his calls. When he got to the final chapters, he had her put all his calls through so he could prolong the pleasure of reading. It is also nice when nature cooperates in setting a mood: Nothing is better than a hot cup of tea, a thunderstorm, and a good Agatha Christie!

2. Time is always an issue. Carry a good book wherever you go [or a whole library on your mobile phone!]. Waiting for doctors, kids after school, or a hundred other places where delays happen - expected and unexpected - can be entertaining times instead of frustrating times.

What Is A Reading Strategy For Information?

If you are developing a reading plan for your information, for High School learning, or for work, consider the following:

1. Start by skimming through the article or section of the book. In some cases, you should skim through the entire book. Skimming allows you to get an overall picture of the information in the book. If that's all you need, you can stop there. If you need more detail, then go back and read the sections you need - even if it is the whole book. 

2. If you own the book, highlighting key sentences and facts is essential. It helps you to focus and remember those details. It also makes it easier to find facts that you need when you need them later. Nothing is worse than wanting a quote or fact in a 500-page book and not remembering where it was! Highlighting makes it easy to quickly scan the pages for the information you are looking for.

For highlighting to be effective, you have to be selective. If you highlight everything, then it becomes useless. You can pick out the critical statements, exciting facts, or items you know you will want to use later. If you can eliminate several words from the sentence and still have the sentence make sense, go ahead and only highlight the core sentence.

Highlighting [or underlining, although highlighting is better] forces the mind to concentrate on what it is reading. The mind is a marvel. It is incredible how many things it can do, and a wandering mind can be a problem when trying to absorb information. Highlighting helps the mind focus. Your comprehension of the material will also increase with this added effort.

Midnight cat with books

3. If the margins are wide [and you own the book], don't be afraid to jot down notes on the side. If you don't own the book, or if you are making extensive notes, then have a notebook handy to record your thoughts. It is always better to record them right away rather than wait until later. Use just as much detail as you need to remind yourself of your ideas.

4. What is a reading strategy when you need to remember something?  Read out loud if you are in a place where you can. Hearing what you are reading gets your mind going on another level, increases your involvement with the material, and helps you remember it better.

5. Be curious. Ask questions. Do you agree or disagree with the author? Is there information you would like to know that wasn't included? Why did he or she say it in that way? The more you involve your mind, the more you will remember.

6. Be sure to consider the context of what is said. It is unfair to quote an author out of context. Failure to pay attention to this reading strategy has caused a lot of harm and misunderstanding. Depending on the type of book you are reading, it may also be important to consider the author's style and voice. Is he being serious or ironic? The same sentence can have totally different meanings depending on context and voice. Pay attention!

7. Finally, don't be afraid to use glossaries and dictionaries for any words you don't know. Don't guess. The extra time you invest will be rewarded by a richer understanding of your topic.

Note: If you have additional tips and ideas, please send them in. I would be happy to add them to this page for the benefit of all.

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