Reading is an emotional experience
We’ve all had this happen to us from time to time. For some, it’s when we’re reading an old English poem, or maybe it’s reading through a mathematical proof, or reading the instructions for filling out paperwork for the IRS. The big a-ha moment for us as educators is that the same reaction we might have when it comes to reading complex texts, may be the same reaction our students are having on a daily basis when we assign texts in our content areas.
Here’s something else I learned from this workshop: there isn’t one type of text that’s easy, and another type of text that’s difficult. I’ve conducted this same workshop with hundreds of educators and every time, I find that different people find complexity in different texts. Our experiences with text complexity are typically based on four criteria:
It’s these four criteria that inform the emotions we feel while reading. The more criteria we’re able to match to the text, the easier it seems to us. The easier the text is to read, the better we feel about ourselves. The better we feel, the more our confidence grows and our interest in reading increases. The fewer criteria we’re able to match to the text, the more difficult it seems to us, the worse we feel about ourselves. Our confidence decreases and our interest in reading decreases.
Helping students find meaning in texts
It’s possible we’re inadvertently creating spaces in our classrooms where students become less interested, less confident, and less comfortable with reading because of these emotional interactions with “difficult” texts. But there are some simple solutions that we can implement if we carefully consider the four criteria for making meaning:
These four steps are not always easy, but if we’re planning with these essentials in mind, we have the power to rapidly transform resistant or reluctant readers in any content area.