STRATEGIC AND ENGAGED READERS
The skills involved in strategic reading are creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and comprehension. Good readers actively understand material to meet clear goals and evaluate how the text will help them reach that goal. A strategic reader looks for structure, makes predictions about what comes next, and questions deeper meaning. A strategic reader can read between the lines, integrate prior knowledge that they have on a topic and summarize their learning. They also take the author into consideration, and evaluate the quality of the information. After consuming information, a strategic reader will apply what they have learned to a goal or a solution. They will reflect on new ideas and act on new information.
A reader that is less strategic will take information at face value; they will not bother to reread things they don’t understand or look up unrecognized vocabulary. Non-strategic readers do not engage actively with what they are reading, and do not seek clarification. They have more difficulty retaining information and applying it to real world situations.
According to the RAND Study group (2002), there are four main characteristics that determine what meaning a reader will construct from a text. The first is what the reader brings to the situation with their unique background, fluency, and prior knowledge. There are the physical characteristics of the written text, such as the layout, medium, or organization of information. The activity can define why the reader is engaging in the first place, whether it be a task, or goal that the reader has to fulfill. The context within which the reading occurs can also be how much the reader understands. I think of trying to read a difficult text in a noisy room or around a lot of distractions.
For this reason, children have different reading abilities at different ages. During our class discussion, we considered how the typical curriculum involves teaching students one skill at a time, such as fluency in first grade, phonics in second grade, vocabulary in third grade, and comprehension in fourth grade. Well, reading comprehension involves all of these skills working together at once. Isn’t it important for a second grader to be working on vocabulary and comprehension so they can engage more fervently with texts at a younger age? We considered how students could develop all of these skills at once, at an appropriate level of difficulty for their age.
Springer, Harris and Dole refer to a great quote by Gambreal (2015), which states that, “teachers have two equally important reading goals: to teach our students to read and to teach our students to want to read.” Students are engaged when they are willing and eager to engage with specific content.
Engaged readers cultivate individual interests, participate in inquiry based projects, are able to read more difficult texts and retain more information to add to their prior knowledge on the topic they find interesting. Cultivating interest in reading comprehension helps students practice the skills of strategic readers, so that they can start to self-regulate their reading strategy even when they find the topic boring.
Teachers can foster engagement and self regulation by creating an interest inventory for the class. This means finding out what each student finds interesting and using that information to pick topics that will appeal to the whole class, small groups, and individuals. They can use a “catch activity” to generate interest early in the process, and lean on social support within groups that have interests in common. When the time comes for a student to read something they find less interesting, the teacher can demonstrate self regulation strategies such as re-reading for clarification, asking questions about the ideas, or working in groups to support other readers.
Both Buehl and the RAND model had overlapping qualities of proficient readers, such as critical thinking, summarization, reading for a clear goal, and evaluating a text. I felt that the RAND model was focused more on the outer circumstances, where Buehl’s description was going deeper inside the reader’s mind.
Buehl takes reading comprehension a step further than Duke and Pearson. Their description of proficient readers includes the idea of visualization, creating auditory, visual and other connections to make a mental image of what is happening in the text. The RAND model takes sociocultural context into the reader’s experience of the text.
I related to Buehl’s description of visualizing the story that the author is telling. There was an example from JK Rowling, where she describes the dining hall at Hogwarts and you can visualize hundreds of candles floating from the ceiling. Isn’t this why the movie is always disappointing after you’re read the book? The movie often pales in comparison to the scenes I painted in my own mind with the author’s words.
Duke, N.K. and Pearson describe reciprocal teaching, a concept that was new to me, though I experience it often. Reciprocal teaching involves setting the activity and then releasing responsibility from teacher to student for carrying out the activity. This is where the question and answer method of comprehension gains traction with the students. The instructor can model thinking patterns, and show how asking questions about what comes next, or what I don’t understand, or what the author is inferring. But, it’s not until the students begin to practice on their own that they can reap the benefits of the practice. Johnson also discusses internet reciprocal teaching, as a dialog between teachers and students around sections of text. She too mentions the structure of summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting.
This ties into my work in data visualization. Communicating business information requires taking huge data sets, and boiling them down (or summarizing them) into usable channels of information. Then we question the data, we make sure we aren’t projecting biases or skewing information in anyway. We clarify our numbers by validating our metrics against other sources and other team’s results. Then, we hand this information over to decision makers, so they can make predictions about the direction of the company and make informed decisions.
The Common Core outlines 32 literacy standards subdivided into four strands: reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language that are conceptualized as an integrated model of literacy. This model identifies three categories of factors related to text complexity, which relates to my role in data visualization and communications for adults.
The three factors are qualitative factors, such as how text is presented, density of concepts, and organizational structure. Quantitative factors are word difficulty, sentence length, and text cohesion. Lastly are reader and task considerations, the motivation and knowledge or the reader, and the purpose and challenges of the text for each individual.
What will it mean to be literate in 2030? An online study by the Pew Research Center predicts that there will be more fluidity in media creation. Visual representation and storytelling will be important in new ways, so “screen” literacy will emerge.
In my role, I’m often working with these factors to increase concept comprehension among adults. Busy adults have very poor reading comprehension. After years of searching the web and multitasking, they avoid deep reading and cognition exercises. Springer, Harris and Dole explain that early immersion in reading largely online tends to encourage instant gratification and multitasking rather than original thought and deep reading experiences. I believe that this happening to adults who spend more time on the internet than ever before.
As a designer, I carefully select visuals, dashboards, music, spoken word and written text to communicate information. Buehl discusses how the 21st-century literacy framework supports and deepens literacy practices, allowing teachers to become more like instructional designers. Designers combine elements purposefully and with great care.
Financial metrics can lead to very complex concepts, text-heavy communications and reliance on advanced prior knowledge of the business. Each reader has a different goal, different level of knowledge of financial information or the insurance industry, and still needs to obtain clarity of ideas so we can work together as a team to move the firm forward. My role involves using qualitative and quantitative factors in my writing, as well as taking the reader into consideration when creating visualizations.
Thinking in border terms, I too wonder what literacy for adults will look like 2030. Interactive dashboards using tools like Power BI are getting more traction in business as usual culture. While static infographics and high level videos of concepts are great for broad communication, business leaders need to be able to manipulate large data sets for their unique purposes, and data is becoming more and more granular. Interactivity is going to be an important part of data visualization in the future. Data tells a story, just like the written text. Data visualizations help communicate text in different ways, to increase comprehension across the firm.
Buehl, D. (2014). Chapter 1: Fostering Comprehension of Complex Texts. In Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning (4th Edition), (pp. 3-11). International Literacy Association.
Duke, N.K. & Pearson, P. D. (2002). Effective practices for developing reading comprehension. In What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction, 3rd edition. International Reading Association.
Johnson, Denise. Reading, Writing, and Literacy 2.0: Teaching with Online Texts, Tools, and Resources, K-8. Teachers College, Columbia University, 2014.
RAND Reading Study Group, & Snow, C. (2002). Reading for Understanding: Toward an R&D Program in Reading Comprehension. RAND Corporation. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1465.html
Springer, S.E., Harris, S., & Dole, J.A. (2017). From Surviving to Thriving: Four Research‐Based Principles to Build Students’ Reading Interest. The Reading Teacher, 71( 1), 43– 50.