Reading has a host of benefits, and it is vital to the academic and social-emotional development of students. According to the Young Readers Foundation, reading improves vocabulary; aids in content comprehension; enhances critical thinking, analytical, and memory skills; contributes to social-emotional development; and improves focus and concentration.
Effective readers utilize cognitive strategies to aid in their understanding and comprehension of texts. Students who struggle with reading frequently believe themselves to be effectively reading when they are reading mindlessly, starting at the words on the page without comprehending their meaning or why they matter.
In her book, 40 Ways to Support Struggling Readers in Content Classrooms, educational consultant Elaine K. McEwan suggests teachers engage students in seven cognitive strategies to help them think about and process reading materials to avoid mindless reading:
Effective readers often make connections between their own experiences and what they read. Teachers might encourage activation by asking students to select which texts they would like to read.
Stocking diverse books that reflect a wide range of experiences can help students find something aligned with their interests. According to Literacy Minnesota, diverse character representations in books help students understand current world issues, promote unity and empathy in students, and teach them how to interact across different backgrounds.
Inference allows us to extract moral lessons, social understanding, and personal connections from what we read. Inference is also crucial for developing student vocabularies. A recent study notes how this is particularly important for teaching English Language Learning (ELL) students, who benefit significantly from learning a domain-specific language to aid comprehension.
Effective readers think about not only what they are reading but how they are reading. There are multiple methods for encouraging students to stop and gauge their reading comprehension. These methods depend on individual student needs; therefore, reading teachers should be aware of their students’ unique strengths and weaknesses.
The Reading Diagnosis and Remediation Practicum course as part of the Master of Science in Reading online program at Barry University empowers reading teachers to assess and interpret data to diagnose individual reading struggles in their students and address those struggles with differentiated lessons and activities.
Effective readers ask and answer questions. Students who ask questions of themselves, their peers, their teachers, or authors are more likely to engage with a text. McEwan points to the importance of engaging students in “learning dialogues,” generating and answering questions about texts.
To move beyond questioning and into answering questions, McEwan recommends teaching students to search and select sources to help them answer questions. Searching and selecting allows students to make connections across materials and think about the bigger picture. It can also aid in reading comprehension by challenging them to identify answers to their questions in a text.
When readers can restate the meaning of a text in their own words, they can demonstrate and assess their reading comprehension. Teachers do not have to rely on outdated summary models, however. Research-backed strategies, such as partner reading, can improve understanding as well.
According to a 2007 study, partner reading activities are a great way to improve reading fluency. They encourage students to take turns reading together, stopping to summarize the text to one another and ask each other questions.
Finally, McEwan points out that effective readers extract meaning by visualizing a narrative. Whether constructing images from a text or creating a graphic organizer, students can benefit from visualizing the concepts and connections in a text.
Barry University’s course called The Teaching of Language Arts can equip teachers with interdisciplinary methods to blend visual representation with reading and writing skills, using research-backed approaches to language arts education.
A wide range of approaches encourage students to engage in effective reading strategies like those outlined above. The MS in Reading program at Barry University can prepare you to come up with new and exciting ways to teach these strategies, but it can also empower you to develop more. Students in the program gain the knowledge and skills to employ research-based strategies for reading instruction and employ them in real-world settings.
Learn more about Barry University’s online Master of Science in Reading program.