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beforehand or what he aims to find out. Everything else is unimportant. As Superintendent F. E. Spaulding, a pioneer in this field, has well said :*
“When one reads a selection for the sake of the information it contains, he may want all the facts, or only the most important facts, or the argument, or the trend of thought; he may want certain facts, or he may want simply to determine whether certain facts are there or not. Each of these distinct purposes requires that the selection be read in a way adapted to the end sought.
Variation in Pace
It has been found by many experimenters, and may be verified by any teacher, that children vary among themselves greatly in their pace in reading; that they read everything, from the newspaper to the highest literature, at about the same pace; and that there is practically no relation between rapidity and retentiveness, some rapid readers being the most retentive and some the least.
It is no uncommon thing to find in an ordinary class some pupils who read three times as fast as others. In one class a girl read one hundred fifty-six pages of a book in an hour; another pupil in the same class, sixteen pages of the same book in the same length of time. It will be obvious that the word “read" is used somewhat loosely, for the girl could answer every question asked about what she
Preventing and Correcting Defective Reading.
had read; the other pupil recalled practically nothing. On the other hand, one pupil who “read” one hundred thirty-five pages of the book, recalled little of the story; whereas another pupil who read twentyfive pages retained practically all of it.
These data awaken a teacher to the importance of the matter. What would it not mean if each pupil could double his rate of reading and his retentiveness! How much time we should have in the geography and history and other classes for that work which is now crowded out by lack of time! The gravity of the matter weighs upon us when we realize that the habits early acquired in reading, like those in any other activity, tend to persist throughout life.
Some fear that an insistence upon a change in pace in reading, as suggested above and as discussed by the anonymous writer in the “Atlantic Monthly,'' cited in the first chapter of this book, will result in bad habits. Here let us quote Superintendent Spaulding again:
“No doubt many teachers, accustomed to insist on literal thoroughness, will see, in such half-way reading and ‘skimming as is here advised the sure road to most careless and slovenly habits, which, even with all their thoroughness,' they are unable wholly to correct. A little careful thought on the subject, however, can hardly fail to convince them that careless and slovenly habits, in reading as in other things, are largely due to lack of definite purpose. Consistently working for the realization of any definite end, and employing the most effective means, no matter what they are, for compassing that end, leave no room for carelessness. On the other hand, the mere literal reading of every word, just for the sake of thoroughness, gives opportunity, and is really the most fruitful source of careless and ineffective habits of real reading."
Three Causes of Bad Habits These bad habits of silent reading are due to many causes. The causes which concern us, at which we can get for improvement, are three: a wrong notion of what reading is, dawdling, and “indirect," which will be explained presently. Many people have impressed upon them that reading is the conscientious inspection of every word on the page, the looking at the word instead of through it. Many of us have re-read a page, although we had got all the ideas from it, merely because we had not drudged through it as we were taught to do. A realization of what reading is and of its purpose on each particular occasion, will prevent anyone's doing so unnecessary and wasteful a thing.
Dawdling over a book, “hammock reading," some one has called it, tends to establish bad habits for reading of all kinds. It is probably wise never to read when so physically tired as to drag through the pages. There may be some recreation in so doing; but there is also apt to be a corresponding bad effect when one begins again to read in earnest. Any one can get good results by consciously increasing his pace. Huey says:
"I have considerably increased my own speed in reading by waking up to the fact that my rate was unnecessarily
slow, and then persistently reading as fast as possible with well-concentrated attention, taking care to stop short of fatigue until the new pace was somewhat established.”
One must do this over and over again, however, until the new habit acquires some stability. Most people find that they get the whole thought better by the faster than by the slower reading, especially if a rapid mental review is made at the end of each chapter or other large unit of reading. Rapid readers are, according to Quantz, 37 per cent. superior to slow readers in the quality of their work in college.
“Indirect” reading is the kind that involves other organs than those required, an imitation of oral reading. Here the words are seen, articulated, perhaps heard, and finally comprehended, instead of awakening immediately in the reader the thoughts. This topic is sufficiently discussed in the chapters on primary reading, and there lessons are outlined that will prevent such bad habits. It is far easier to prevent than it is to cure. But when a child has learned to read by the oral method alone, he can, and often does by himself, change to good silent reading habits. This he can do by strictly inhibiting lip movements, by keeping his finger from the page, and by much practice in reading, in this way, material which is so interesting that he will not find time for any false motions.
Learning to read silently as well as orally, the inhibition of lip movement and finger pointing, much
practice in rapid and thought-acquiring silent reading, the understanding of what each kind of reading is for and deciding when each should be used, “good will, concentration, and the habit of dispatch”—all these will help one to acquire good habits of silent reading. But there are, moreover, many devices that will aid a reader, even if he has become habituated in reading wastefully.
In the first place, most of the points already mentioned should be steadily insisted on, and the reader must be shown that he can read better if he holds
✓ his book squarely before him so that both eyes can move readily across the page and easily find the right line when they jump back from right to left.
A class exercise to promote speed and accuracy is this: Give the children a general idea of what a paragraph contains; then set them to find the details. As soon as each one is through, he closes his book, , ready to report, the teacher noting the order in which each pupil finishes, thus introducing the spirit of contest. “Here is a paragraph," the teacher may say, “that tells us how the Great Stone Face looked. Let us see how quickly you can find out." The pupil first closing his book may report first, the others supplying the details that he omits. If he omits anything essential, he has failed, however rapidly he went over the lines. By insisting on this, the teacher will soon make the class realize that they must be accurate as well as rapid.
One teacher reports excellent results from directing the reading of a story or other article by a series