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Reading Strategy

By Glenn Davis

How you approach a reading strategy will depend on your purpose for reading. Are you reading for information? for entertainment? to help your children? for work? We will look briefly that these different areas.

Reading Strategy For Your 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 was a master at what he called slipping "past watchful dragons." In other words, any moral lessons flowed naturally out of the story; the story was not invented to teach what "kids" should do.

3. Set a time to read with your child on a daily or weekly basis. 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 some time reading their favourite books to themselves. The time should be the same every day or week if possible.

4. Getting children to read books they "have to" read for school is hard enough when the books are interesting. It is especially difficult 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 just have to 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 that is unpleasant, creatively make it as enjoyable as possible, and get it finished.

6. Of course, if it is not required reading, don't make them finish it. Just move on to something interesting. And don't be surprised if your child's reading style is different than 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.

Reading Strategy For Your Entertainment

Develop an efficient reading strategy.

If you are developing a reading strategy for your own 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 with you 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.

Reading Strategy For Information

If you are developing a reading plan for your own 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 may want to 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, then highlighting key sentences and facts is important. 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 for which you are looking.

For highlighting to be effective, you have to be selective. If you highlight everything, then it becomes useless. Pick out the critical statements, interesting 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 you are trying to absorb information. Highlighting helps the mind focus. Your comprehension of the material will also increase with this added effort.

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. When you need to remember something, a good reading strategy is to 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 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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