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The Trouble with Reading (Part II)—Reading to Learn

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I recently had some eye-opening experiences regarding reading that I want to share. I love to read, have a reading specialist credential, and am a retired educator of 34 years. I also love to learn, and I did just that this week in reading two different books. I gained a new appreciation of the struggles some readers have with reading. If you want to read Part I of The Trouble with Reading which deals with dyslexia, click here.

The other book I read that was a learning experience was a printed copy of a nonfiction book I purchased to read with my book club. It is a well-researched book that focuses on a part of my country’s history. Reading it was a great reminder of the differences in reading a fiction and a nonfiction work. “Work” is an appropriate word here, because of the extensive research effort of the author and the extra time and focus the reader needs to devote to reading the book. There are so many historical figures that play into the book along with settings of note. It is hard, but important, to keep track of them all. It is a very good and well written book and appropriate for book club discussion. I had to schedule reading it into my day so that I finished it by the time of our meeting. In other words, reading it was a chore; to do it justice, I took extensive notes and found the process tiring. Also, it did not focus on a subject that is my primary strength which makes the book intrinsically less interesting and more difficult to read. I brought less background knowledge to the table.

The book was not entertaining, but I am glad I read it. Although nonfiction varies widely, in general it is not my favorite genre. As all teachers should know, I was reminded that nonfiction, which is the foundation of most subject area texts, requires a different set of reading skills and those should be explicitly taught after students master the general reading process. Early elementary focuses on “learning to read” and grades above that should focus on “reading to learn.” Some middle and high school teachers believe that students leave elementary school with the skills they need for content area reading. This knowledge, however, is developmental; what is needed to process a middle grade text is not sufficient for comprehension of a high school text. Unfortunately, many students do not leave elementary school reading on grade level, making the gap even larger. To some degree, all teachers must be reading teachers.


  1. WendyW says:

    Wow, Linda, this is eye-opening. I recently read a couple of nonfiction books, and you’re right, it’s so different than reading fiction. And I agree, I do prefer fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      Fiction is my go-to when I want to relax; it’s what I choose for pleasure. I’m glad to be reading with my book club friends as we read books that have more depth to them and broaden my horizons.


  2. Nancy says:

    Funny… we just read a nonfiction book for our Book Club and like you said… IT WAS A CHORE! We all agreed we would not do that again…
    We want a story and we want fiction.
    Have a lovely week my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      Great comment and good to hear what others think. I don’t know that my group will abandon nonfiction entirely, but we all seemed to be in agreement on the level of difficulty with nonfiction at least for that one book. We aren’t reading for school or for a job; WE get to make our reading choices! 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Carla says:

    This is an excellent post Linda and you are absolutely right. When is was a teacher librarian and worked with intermediate teachers we worked together to teach students how to research and present what they learned without plagiarizing and just regurgitating what they read. We had high school teachers contacting our school to find out what we had done because our graduates were doing so well. It seemed like a no brainer to me, but content as opposed to skills is often what is front and center.

    Liked by 1 person

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