Every student seeks to be a confident, competent reader—regardless of grade level or starting fluency—and parents, teachers, and tutors want to help. To be fully functional in our society, we need to be capable of engaging with a variety of texts, some of which may be more technical, more abstract, or in some other way more challenging than our regular reading diet. When encountering an unfamiliar kind of text, even “good” readers need to learn how to read it and practice reading it in order to read it fluently and actually understand it.
Whether the text exists on paper, as a website or even as an e-book, the strategies for developing fluency and comprehension are the same. When students encounter an unfamiliar, difficult, or unusual piece of text, coach them through these fluency and comprehension strategies:
- Preview the text– Examine its structure, any illustrations, and unfamiliar vocabulary words before reading
- Listen to a fluent reading– If possible, listen to a model for correct pronunciation and expression
- Engage in the act of reading– Make predictions, ask questions, and reread confusing parts. Students can “talk to the text” to get a better understanding
- Practice reading it aloud– Read the text out loud (sometimes repeatedly) and attend to phrasing and punctuation as guides
- Answer/Ask questions about the text– Check comprehension after reading to ensure that the meaning of the text has been understood
Using a similar approach can be helpful for students today as they endeavor to meet the Common Core Standards that set requirements for reading not only for English language arts, but also for reading in the content areas of history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. This means that students need to be able to read a variety of genres – and not only narrative text, but informational text as well. By doing so, they can gain familiarity with various text structures and elements, as well as literary, cultural and background knowledge that can be applied in their subsequent reading experiences.
Through instruction and practice in reading a variety of texts, students will become fluent and able to comprehend all genres and all school subjects - and achieve the vision of what it means to be a literate person in the 21 stcentury!