Reading is not a passive pursuit. One must be actively engaged to be a a strong reader, approaching a text with enthusiasm and carrying on a textual dialogue. Active reading is an exercise in critical thinking, strengthening the ability to comprehend another’s ideas and effectively communicate your own.
The development of active reading skills is a simple, attainable goal. Once mastered, the techniques become instinct. Small children can discuss the following topics with a parent, while older children, teens and adults can keep responses in a journal.
Try the following steps to keep readers actively engaged:
Make predictions: What do you think will happen next? What specific details give you that impression?
Visualize: What images form in your mind as you read? Describe how you imagine characters, places or objects.
Make connections: How does this text connect to your own life? Do the characters or issues explored remind you of people you know or situations you have experienced? Is there anything in the text that ties into other reading you have done? To movies you have seen? To conversations you have had?
Ask questions: Is there anything that confuses you? Do you wonder why or how something was done, or why a character behaves a certain way?
When you reach a stopping point (like the end of a book for early readers or a chapter for the more advanced), review what you have written. Then:
Clarify: See if you can answer your questions. Review what you have just read or think about previous sections of reading to address them.
Evaluate the text: What stood out to you? What was your favorite part? Your least favorite part? What ideas did you find interesting? What would you like to know more about?
These steps for active reading are metacognitive: they assist the reader in thinking about her own thinking processes. Tracking and evaluating thoughts as they occur helps a reader connect the knowledge gathered from a text to her own growth as a thinker and learner. Through active reading, learning ceases to be a passive pursuit. It becomes a meaningful, hands-on exploration of the outside world, and a worthwhile task for real learning.
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