Establishing a Purpose for Reading (page 2)
Students need to know that they can read for different purposes as this helps to create a "flexible reader." If students read for pleasure, they can skim the text or read slowly depending on how they feel or what assignments they receive. If students are reading content area subjects such as science or social studies, they will probably want to read slowly. With library books and literature offerings, reading rate can be accelerated. More difficult reading materials require a focused attention and concentrated cognitive efforts on the task at hand. The classroom atmosphere must provide an environment that will allow and encourage students to exert sustained attention on difficult reading tasks. For the student with dyslexia, sustained attention is a must. More cognitive attention and resources must be expended by students with dyslexia than by proficient readers to achieve and sustain satisfactory reading behaviors.
Student interest and affective dimensions impact the level of "text coherence and background knowledge" (Wade, Schraw, Buxton, & Hayes, 1993, p. 108) acquired by the reader. Just what is considered interesting information? According to Anderson, Shirley, Wilson, and Fielding (1984) and Schank (1979), interesting material is usually emotionally involving for the reader, suspenseful, and/or personalized. Certainly providing culturally relevant materials allows teachers to expand the interest levels of our students.
Wade and Adams (1990) have shown that textual material that was considered interesting and important was recalled best and that details supporting main ideas were also remembered better when the material was considered interesting. In fact, Wade et al. (1993) present evidence for improved long-term and short-term memory recall of information that is highly interesting to the reader. These authors also add that "...background knowledge clearly affects whether readers find a text segment interesting, easy to read, and memorable..." (Wade et al., 1993, p. 110). Additionally, the text material must allow for interaction between the reader and author.
Activities that set up real purposes for reading and model explicit strategies for managing the text can be expected to enhance the reading-learning process. For example, if complete understanding of material is needed, students might "...preview it, take notes, and question themselves about it..." (Moore, Moore, Cunningham, & Cunningham, 1994, p. 89).
Preview guides with dialogue or information from stories can be used to establish a reading purpose. The teacher provides dialogue from a story to preview some of the content. Students make predictions and look for story clues as they read. This helps to create a reading purpose by establishing background for the reading and actively engaging the reader to interact with the text.
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