Chapter 2: page 11

Chapter 2: Reading your World – Strategies for Academic Reading

chapter written by Dan Curtis-Cummins

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Chapter Learning Objectives:

  1. Engagement in Active Reading: Introduce various “active reading” strategies to help you with the readings for this course, and for college in general. These strategies include various ways of annotating for different learning styles.
  2. Persistence: Introduce persistence as an academic habit of success, and prepare students with various strategies to persist through difficult reading situations in college.
  3. Understanding Reading and Writing as Recursive Processes: Understand active reading processes as a way to become a more effective writer.

The College Mindset for Reading

We have just established that there are multiple ways of thinking, learning, and expressing ourselves. It is no surprise, then, that there are multiple ways of reading, and that reading and writing are connected. An important part of growing as a reader and writer is understanding who you are as a learner, but also learning from the models provided to you by readers and writers who came before you. The best way to increase your vocabulary, formality, or other skills, habits, and choices that professional writers make, for example, is by reading, and specifically reading in the discipline in which you wish to write.

Therefore, for a long time now, English Departments across the country have recognized the interdependence of teaching adult reading strategies to the successful teaching of writing. Where we teach at SF State, Sugie Goen Salter and Helen Gillotte founded the Integrated Reading and Writing curriculum that has informed many of our philosophies and practices herein. As a basic introduction: Using reading as a way into writing helps you make connections, solve problems, and make texts meaningful for you and others around you.


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Just like active learning described above, active reading is more effective because the reader—you—is more involved in your own reading process. An early pioneer of reading theory, Louise Rosenblatt described reading as a “transaction of meaning.” In the “transactional” view of reading, reading is not a process where information or knowledge is transferred from the page or screen to the reader, who mechanically memorizes the information and that’s it. Paulo Freire described this as the “banking method” of education, which certainly characterizes the mainstream public school model that you’ve likely experienced until now.

Image Source: Dan Curtis-Cummins

In the transactional view, the reader creates meaning from the text by integrating the information on the page or screen with their own prior knowledge or schema. Readers can create meaning in any number of ways as they read actively, from asking questions in the margins, to making connections with other texts and other authors. In other words, the reader is not a robot or a passive bystander in the rhetorical situation below, but an active meaning-maker in conversation with the author of the text.

Image Source: Dan Curtis-Cummins

When you are more active in your own reading process, you not only comprehend and retain the information better — reading becomes dynamic and interactive. When you start to see reading as a conversation with authors, who have life experiences similar to yours, and for some of whom your life experiences could teach, reading engages you in solving real issues in the world that have meaning for you beyond the page.

While this may seem lofty to you now, these types of interactive and dynamic connections make up make up much of the desired outcomes of this textbook. The labor we ask you to engage in with active reading and research in this book should be done in service to your real interests and passions; to research topics you find important in your life or your view of society; to solve problems you see in a text or piece of literature that nobody else seems to notice.

Paulo Friere, who you will notice contributes a lot to our growing conversation, describes the active reading process above as “reading the world.” Reading the world, according to Freire, happens before we “read the word”(s) on a page, and involves “reading” through visuals and physical objects, reading through experiences, reading through your earliest childhood memories. Freire’s ideas are important here because who you are as a reader matters: your experiences, your memories, your knowledge from other literature, other courses, and other texts – are all very important to bring to your reading process.

Supplemental Reading #7:

The Importance of the Act of Reading by Paulo Freire

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