Quick Tip Tuesday: Reading information

September 21st, 2010

Our tip for this week comes from Steve Moline’s book, I See What You Mean: Children at Work with Visual Information. Steve is working on the second edition of this book and is looking for new student work. We’ve created a Ning group where you and your students can look at sample works and upload your own. Steve will pick the best and your student will be published in a Stenhouse book! So read this tip and then head over to the Ning group to find out more!

Reading information
How we read depends on our purpose for reading

There is more than one way to read a book. We can read it from front to back, intently, leaving nothing out. We can browse through the pictures. We can search for one or two facts only, picking out only the straws we need from the haystack of information. We can scan, sample, skip and skim. How we read depends on our purpose for reading.

Consider, for example, the differences between how we read a biography; that is, when we read it “for the story,” and how we read the same book when we wish to locate specific information:

When we read “for the story”:

  • we want to read the whole text;
  • we start at the front and end at the back;
  • we read from top to bottom and from left to right;
  • if we put the book down, we pick it up later at the point in the narrative where we left off;
  • the verbal narrative of a biography does not need the pictures to make its meaning;
  • the first line is the gateway through which we enter the text;
  • completion of the narrative is part of the satisfaction of reading it.

But when we read selectively to locate specific information:

  • we can choose to read only part of the text;
  • we may start at the front, the back, or somewhere in between. That is, we can choose the gateway through which we enter the next. For example: the contents page, the index, the headings, the pictures and captions.
  • the visual elements (photographs, diagrams, maps, etc.) can be read for meaning, evening when they contain few words or no words
  • the diagrams, maps, graphs, etc., sometimes need to bread: bottom to top, right to left, in a circular, apparently random zigzag way, depending on its design and our own purpose in reading it.
  • if we pick up the book later, it may be for an entirely different purpose, so we don’t need to find the place where we left off;
  • we sometimes stroll through an information text bakcwards and we still make sense of the part we read;
  • sometimes the words make imcomplete sense without the visual elements that accompany them; words and image together make the meaning;
  • we read what we need and often we write (we make notes) while we read.

As readers we are free to choose how we read an information text, such as a biography. We can choose to follow the author’s pathway, that is, to read “the whole story”; or we can choose to read the same text selectively, choosing our own pathways.

What is special about selective reading?
If we teach children that all reading is “reading for the story,” we overlook many key strategies that we employ when reading selectively. Some of these strategies include scanning, skimming, accessing the text through the index, using headings as signposts to the information we want or just strolling through the pictures in order to orientate ourselves in the text.

These selective reading strategies depend on the purpose we bring as readers to the text and the special kind of interactive relationship the reader has with an information text.

Entry Filed under: Quick Tip Tuesday,Reading

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