Reading Power Comes Before, During and After

We sometimes hear others say, "I’ve never been a good reader," or "I’m a very fast reader," or "I finish something I’ve read and can’t remember what it said." What do any of these statements really mean? What does it mean to be a good reader or a poor reader?

Good readers behave very differently from poor ones, not only during reading, but before and after. Knowing your child’s reading behaviors can help you anticipate his or her instructional needs.

Before reading
Good readers recall what they already know about a subject they are getting ready to read about, but poor readers begin reading without thinking about the topic at all. In other words, good readers get out the mental "file folder" they plan to add to while reading, but poor ones just add new information to the stack on their mental "desk." Which reader has a better chance of retrieving the information later?

Good readers determine a purpose for reading, but poor ones do not know why they are reading what they read. We can look right past the obvious if we don’t know it’s what we are looking for!

During reading
Good readers pay attention to words and meaning at the same time, while poor readers get stuck on individual words. Sounding out words is an essential skill in reading, but we can all pronounce words we don’t understand. Good readers know that accurate meaning comes through interpreting chunks of words together.

Good readers stop and use a "fix-it" strategy when they are unsure; they re-read, ask questions, slow down, or make notes if they don’t comprehend. On the other hand, poor readers plod on just to get done with what they have to read.

After reading
Good readers can identify important points and ideas from their reading, while poor readers often focus on unimportant or isolated facts. Good readers also can understand how all the pieces of information fit together, while poor readers fail to make connections.

Good readers want to read more, but poor readers see reading as a chore.

To help your children be good readers, take time to preview their reading assignments with them. Ask them what they already know about the American Revolution or how leaves change colors before they start the chapters on these topics. Talk to your children about what they hope to find out by reading the assignment, and ask them what they think their teacher wants them to learn.

During reading, encourage your children to read through the paragraph before they stop to have a word defined. Often, they will understand the word from context clues, and they will not have stopped the flow of thought. Teach them strategies for making better sense of reading: re-reading, noting questions they may have, or slowing down, for example.

After reading, ask your children to give you a brief explanation of what they have read to make sure they have picked out the main concepts and that they are making connections between related ideas. Above all, show your children that you want to read more. You are the best role model they have.