Archived Information

State of the Art: Reading - November 1993

image omitted 8. Expert readers have strategies that they use to construct meaning before, during, and after reading.

One of the hallmarks of education and literacy is the ability to read thoughtfully and flexibly. The development of strategic reading is a lifelong endeavor that is supported by parents, peers, and teachers who instill enthusiasm, knowledge, and confidence in students. As students learn to regulate their own reading and to use stategies for different purposes, they become independent learners who read with confidence and enjoyment. Thus, strategic reading contributes directly to lifelong education and personal satifaction.
                                 (Paris, Wasik, and Turner 1991, p. 635)

As students become proficient readers, they develop a set of plans or strategies for solving problems they encounter in their reading experiences. Much research has been conducted to identify these strategies (Baker and Brown 1984; Pressley et al. 1989). Although much remains to be done in this area of literacy research, at least five important strategies have been identified as critical to learning and therefore should be taught in a good literacy program (Cooper 1993). These strategies include: inferencing, identifying important information, monitoring, summarizing, and question generating.

Inferencing is the process of reaching conclusions based on information within the text and is the cornerstone of constructing meaning. Inferencing includes making predictions using prior knowledge combined with information available from text. Identifying important information is the process of finding critical facts and details in narrative (e.g., stories) or expository (e.g., informational) text. The task of identifying important information in narrative text differs from that of identifying important information in expository text because the structures of the text are different. However, students can be taught strategies for approaching each type of text. Monitoring is a metacognitive or self-awareness process that expert constructors of meaning use to help themselves overcome problems as they read. For example, when good readers have difficulty understanding a paragraph, they become aware of the problem and stop immediately to "fix" it by employing a strategy such as rereading. Summarizing is a process that involves pulling together important information gathered from a long passage of text. Question generating involves readers asking themselves questions they want answered from reading that require them to integrate information while they read.

These five strategies for constructing meaning are based on substantial research. Many studies in which nonexpert readers were trained to use these strategies have shown very promising results (Palincar and Brown 1984; Baumann 1984; Rinehart et al. 1986; Pressley et al. 1991; 1992). Effective teachers incorporate these strategies into their ongoing literacy instruction. When modeling these strategies, they treat them as a set of devices for constructing meaning instead of as independent activities that are isolated from the literacy context.

[Children who engage in daily discussions about what they read are more likely to become critical readers and learners.] [Table of Contents] [Children's reading and writing abilities develop together.]