I teach reading comprehension and critical thinking at a community college.
I teach reading comprehension to college students because an increasing amount of college freshmen are underprepared for college level reading. This is hardly news, but I still get surprised looks from people when I tell them I teach reading comprehension at a community college. My course provides reading improvement to students who are virtual non-readers (functionally illiterate), as well as others, who simply need to acquire greater focus and comprehension skills to read more efficiently.
In fact, many people may not read as efficiently as they realize. We live in a world with an emphasis on instant access. It stands to reason that students think they shouldn’t have to put any effort or concentration into reading.
The timed reading portion of the ACT , for example, emphasizes that students should be able to read quickly. Granted, there is an eventual need to amp up one’s reading rate, but we expect many of our young people to be able to do this when they don’t have efficient comprehension skills nailed down. Students are routinely tested on their reading rate throughout their elementary educations. If a 3rd-grader can read quickly at a 3rd-grade reading level, what difference does this make? Shouldn’t the educative emphasis be on forming a habit of reading in a thoughtful, meaningfilled manner? If a student isn’t yet reading at a level high enough to contain any substantial, meaningful content, reading rate is irrelevant.
If we get students to read thoughtfully first, their thinking skills will improve and increased reading rates will come when the time is right–when the student is a fully efficient reader.