When people read, they want to open a book or website, read it, and understand it the first time. But sometimes, a particular “reading personality” gets in the way. Most can read information that they can relate to or like, but difficulty arises with uninteresting material. When this happens, readers struggle, so they put on a reading hat to survive and get through the material, without being aware. This reading hat manifests into one of many reading strategies that destroy comprehension.
Sometimes, depending on the text, we might have use a combination of strategies. Identifying how we read helps us understand ourselves and supports changes in reading behaviors. Identifying those challenges may help you to try to eliminate old habits and develop successful ones.
Below are descriptions of the most-common types of unconscious reading strategies and how they kill comprehension and learning. See if you can identify yourself as one type or a combination.
1. The Reader-and-Weeder
This person reads like a gardener who has been out in the hot sun far too long. The flowers look like weeds, and one word cannot be distinguished as more important than another. Before you realize it, you’ve just plucked another word, and there are far too many words to remember.
Words and concepts cannot be deciphered, so the Reader-and-Weeder tries to weed out the unimportant information from the important without success. The problem is that everything appears the same. When words and concepts all seem important, the Reader-and-Weeder grasps select words and deems them important but ends up with a huge amount of information to remember.
This reader also loves to underline and highlight. Doing this makes the Reader-and-Weeder feel as though he is getting somewhere, but the concepts are obscured. This type of reader is a neat person who may appear quite organized. After all, underlining all that information makes for a standout piece of text.
How does the Reader-and-Weeder discriminate between important and unimportant information? He doesn’t. He just trolleys along, plucking words and concepts, but never getting the big idea. He has an instinctive reflex, a game of guesswork. Details are retained, but the big picture escapes.
The Reader-and-Weeder becomes frustrated easily. Confidence is low and stress is high. This reader does not enjoy or have a love for books. This plucking skill has been an adequate survival tool when combined with listening in class. The combination of receptive skills helps the student, but this reader must continually refer back to the text.
2. The Stargazed Celebrity Reader
No small touch goes unnoticed by the Stargazed Celebrity Reader. She notices the azure skies, the million-dollar smile, and each crack in the sidewalk. But beware, because when she stares at those multiple cracks for too long, she will fall flat at the end of the red carpet and she will miss the big picture.
The Stargazed Celebrity Reader loves details: the more, the merrier. Significant information is lost in the shuffle of minutiae. Interesting but insignificant information is heavily weighted for importance, causing major ideas and concepts to shift away. Focus seems to be on the Stargazed Celebrity Reader’s interest and not the writer’s point. So, the interesting aspects are highlighted as the “stars of the show.” This spotlight of interest makes the Stargazed Celebrity Reader forget about everything else, especially those important elements and major ideas that she needs to comprehend.
3. The Word-a-Holic
This reader guzzles down each and every word and forgets to digest. The Word-a-Holic is intoxicated by the many great words and concepts but quickly forgets what he has read in the overdose of information. The Word-a-Holic reads with great robustness and expressiveness, trying to memorize all the words in the book.
The Word-a-Holic has low self-esteem. Nothing makes sense to him, but this reader is usually a great listener. So, if this reader is a great listener, why can’t he become a great reader? The answer is that he can. Auditory skills are channeled into the visual mode and presto! This reader needs to channel his auditory skills into seeing those words. Visualization is a major part of reading, and the Word-a-Holic is referred to as the reader who can’t see pictures.
4. The Absent-Minded Professor
This is the going, going, gone reader. Her intelligence is exceptional. She is a great memorizer until tested or asked to recite information. She has a memory lapse after trying to remember so many new terms, concepts, numbers, and information. The Absent-Minded Professor knows the material and even has family or friends pre-test her, but her great ability to remember tragically leaves the building during the test.
The Absent-Minded Professor can learn to absorb and retain great amounts of information. She is probably good with remembering song lyrics and poems. But she needs a connection strategy using association of known information attached to new information. She also needs to understand how to conceptualize information for learning and retaining knowledge for long-term memory.
5. The Out-to-Luncher
This reader just doesn’t get it. The lights are on but nobody is home. The text says “day,” but the Out-to-Luncher is thinking “night,” and that’s just the beginning. He has no idea what he is reading, is totally confused, and can’t understand why he bombed the test. He thought he knew the material backward and forward. But no, the information has slipped through his fingers.
The Out-to-Luncher is a good class participant. He may be extremely creative, using his own knowledge as he reads. However, his prior knowledge is now infused with the reading, and the outcome is a recipe for disastrous reading comprehension. The Out-to-Luncher uses his personal interpretation and mixes up his own information with the author’s message, and he becomes even more confused.
Although very bright, The Out-to-Luncher lacks organizational skills and has learned from his schooling experiences that he is supposed to “personally interpret” text, so he has no idea what the writer of the text is conveying. The Out-to-Luncher has many great ideas of his own, and he incorporates his own information from other resources to help make sense of the reading. It ends up being a heap of nonsense.
The Out-to-Luncher needs to get in touch with what the writer is saying, and he will learn to do so by translation, not interpretation.
6. The Rerun Specialist
Same show, different day.
This reader does a repeat performance. She has great perseverance and nobody can fault her effort. She reads the same thing over and over and over again until she thinks she has nailed the concept. Good for her! This reader has the potential to become a front-running superstar.
Unfortunately, the Rerun Specialist works overtime. She is still reading after dinner has turned cold. Life for her is all work and no play.
The Rerun Specialist is a good student but rereading multiple times exhausts her, making for a miserable life in school or at work.
7. The Road Blocker
The Road Blocker starts reading and his heart begins to race. His anxiety level shoots to the stars, and he becomes paralyzed by fear until he shuts down. He creates his own brick wall. Many students find themselves turning into the Road Blocker when they come across material that they can’t relate to. They read the first sentence, and their anxiety makes any reading or processing come to a complete halt.
The Road Blocker is usually extremely bright, but he has a preconceived notion that he is supposed to have prior knowledge of what he reads, and so he suddenly fears that he knows nothing. The Road Blocker’s self-defeating beliefs prevent achievement. Chances are great that these beliefs are complete nonsense, but he has never learned to bypass the stress to get back on the road to reading success.
Beginning early in elementary school, he had created his own fixation that reading is an impossible task. This perception is due to lack of good reading strategies. The Road Blocker doesn’t realize that the tools he needs can be easily learned, as he takes baby steps with confidence to become a proficient reader.
8. The Reading Genius
The Reading Genius learns as he reads. He reads text once and is already ready for the test. The Reading Genius is a fast reader and understands both concepts and details.
The Reading Genius never studies. He only reviews quickly before the test. The Reading Genius has a rich vocabulary and is a 4.0 student. Plus, he is in the 99th percentile on standardized tests. And most importantly, the world is the Reading Genius’ oyster. His grades and standardized test scores get him into the college of his choice.
People think that when the Reading Genius says that he doesn’t study, he is not telling the truth. In fact, he is. He has the tools to process textual information into his long-term memory. People think that the Reading Genius is smart, and he is!
The Reading Genius has a lot of time for play because he learns information once and retains it for the long term. Plus, he loves to read!
Did You Find Yourself?
Now that you have identified one or more of your reading strategies (and maybe had a good chuckle), the next step is to put your reading personality into the trash bin as you begin your path toward becoming a Reading Genius.
Would You Rather Be a Reading Genius?
Of course you would! The Reading Genius isn’t necessarily born that way. Anyone can become one, with training and practice. Become a reading genius and leave your old, defective reading strategies behind!
What are your thoughts? Please reach out to me at: Cindy@RTSssuccess.com