How Not to Read a Book

Poor readers have a variety of characteristics in common. Their purposes for reading generally focus on the task at hand: to get done, to pass a test or because they were told to. They read every text in the same way, whether it is poetry, a novel, an article, etc. They tend to focus on the act of reading itself, decoding each word and then jumping to the next. Reading,’ for the poor reader, means decoding and finishing. They cling to details and ignore ideas, concepts and themes. Remedial reading programs who are purported to be improving the reading skills of poor readers, generally use methodology which serves to reinforce these poor skills.

First, they often contain a selection of highly controlled texts. These texts often have been written especially for this population. Authentic literature is not generally offered, or is rewritten with simpler words and edited for length.

The purpose of the reading instruction is to improve basic skills. To achieve this, the text is often glossed. Key words are written in bold, further encouraging the reader to focus on words rather than ideas. The reader’s attention is also diverted to a vocabulary box, further breaking up the flow of the text.

In order to measure progress, students are tested frequently. These tests are designed to prove whether or not a student read the material rather than to stimulate then to higher order thinking and expression. The questions ask students to recall basic facts and details from the story, enforcing the poor reader’s tendency to focus on details and lose the meaning of the text.

A quick example: From the Other Side, by Raymond Karelitze and T.J. Falcone. The front cover looks like it is meant for the remedial reader and the description on the front cover confirms that the purpose of the text is test prep, not entertainment.

  • 1600 critical SAT words used in context.
  • Includes in-context glossary

The back further alienates the student from the true purposes for reading. In a highlighted sunburst we learn, “Reading is a key component in the new SAT Examination.” The first sentence in the book’s description seriously limits the true scope of reading as a skill:

Reading requires two basic ingredients: concentration and reading skills.

And the actual content, which is clearly secondary to this text’s ability to prepare the student for the SAT?

Thirteen year old Billy Steele is running away from home. He has finally decided that he must seek greater freedom in the streets, away from parental pressures and school restrictions. Nothing can stop his desire for this new-found freedom, not until he can discover what freedom really is like in the adult world beyond.

Truly inspiring subject matter for the student struggling in school.