Well, it is that time of year again. My kids are off to school, and I am excited to begin writing a brand new book. I will be creating the book through this blog, and you will have free access to all of it’s content here. This book/blog series is called Seven Habits of Highly Effective Readers and will give you information on what you can do to create an avid reader.
I can't believe that we are already onto the last habit. Where has the time gone? Well, this is a big one. See highly effective readers don't just read words and see a blank picture. They actually think about what they are reading. They utilize different strategies so that they can really make meaning when they are reading. Here are the strategies that we are going to feature. Highly effective readers
- use background knowledge to make sense about what they are reading.
- make predictions before and after reading
- visualize what is happening in the story
- ask questions
- make connections
- evaluate which part of the story they like and don’t like
Today we are going to focus on how these readers use background knowledge to make sense of what they are reading. It begins the moment that the highly effective reader picks up a book. The reader brings background knowledge to the following areas of what they are going to read.
1. What do they know about the genre? Have they read from this genre before? How is this genre set up?
2. What experiences do they have that resonate with the front cover?
3. What do they know about the topic?
4. What beliefs does the reader have?
5. What correct and incorrect facts does the reader have?
Having background knowledge about a topic a highly effective reader is about to read is not the only thing that she brings to a text before she begins reading. She brings other background knowledge that will effect how she interprets the text.
One thing a highly effective reader brings to the text is knowledge about the genre she is about to read. Highly effective readers have read from several different kinds of genres. That way when they come to a how to non-fiction book, they are able to bring their understanding about how the author laid out the content. For example, one would expect to see materials or ingredients that are needed. The reader would also see steps to how to do what is being explained and then some sort of a conclusion. Readers that are not familiar with this genre may skip reading certain areas because they are not aware of how the content is organized and why it is organized that way.
Specific experiences that the reader has had in her lifetime that resonate with the title or the front cover influence a reader when she is reading. Highly effective readers use this information properly, but readers that are not as effective will bring experiences that are distracters vs. enhancers into their reading experience.
Before a highly effective reader begins reading a book, they usually look at the title and front cover to think if they have ever encountered this information before. Highly effective readers will be open to learn new information, but not so effective readers may think they know everything already. These ineffective readers will actually point out that they do not need to learn anything else about the topic, whereas effective readers will be curious about what new information they may learn.
Also, background knowledge consists of beliefs that a reader has about a topic. It is amazing listening to kids who spend time listening to their parents about presidential elections. As soon as a reader sees a book with the title Barack Obama they bring these belief systems with them into the reading that they are going to read. The effective readers may stay true to their stance and not allow the book to persuade them. Other kinds of readers bring these beliefs with them as well, but they may allow the author to persuade them more based on how strongly they hold their beliefs. The effective reader may be comparing these beliefs throughout the reading and agreeing and disagreeing throughout. However, the ineffective reader may be just reading the words and not allowing themselves to interact with the text in that way. They just read what they are told and may be able to give some information at the end. They have difficulty talking about what their beliefs are and comparing them.
All readers are going to bring with them correct and incorrect facts if they have any background knowledge about a topic. However, what a highly effective reader does with these facts and what a less effective reader does is completely different. Highly effective readers will be able to come up with strategies to either verify if what they knew before was really accurate or could have been a mistake. Then they are able to take the meaning from the text and still be able to tell you what it was about.
A less effective reader will take their incorrect concepts and keep them, regardless if those facts were mentioned in the book or not. For example, if a child is asked why do people run races before reading a story, they may answer because people like exercising. But if they then read the text and it is about a race between two trains and they are asked again why do people run races according to the text, they may answer, "Because they like to exercise." These kinds of readers have a hard time adapting this question to the information that was presented in the passage they read, and they stick to what they said in the beginning. While this information may be correct before they read the passage, it is incorrect after they read the passage because the race had nothing to do with exercising.
Background knowledge certainly can aid or hinder readers from understanding what they are reading. A lack of background knowledge will cause confusion for a reader, as well as incorrect background knowledge. Asking a child before she reads what her background knowledge is will help you determine how you can help her with interpreting the text.
How does background knowledge help you as a reader?