I was trying to describe my friend to someone else a few days ago, and I called him “the most well-read person I know.” Even though I said it, I’m not entirely sure what I meant–the term “well-read” has always had a hazy, nebulous character to me. It lies somewhere near “reads a lot of classics” and left of “knows about obscure authors I’ve never heard of, especially ones from other countries” and generally around “understands Everything in All The Books and therefore has something interesting to add to almost every conversation” and perhaps even “reads For Fun what most of us read For Guilt And Bragging Rights.” It’s the sort of thing I couldn’t define, but could indentify when I saw it.
So what does it actually mean to be well-read? With over 129 million published books in the world (according to Google), what is the formula that allows you to select a few thousand in order to attain well-readness before you die? What about genre? What about number of books read? We all know someone who reads three or more books a week, but are they books that add to that someone’s well-read factor? And then there are the problematic “Read These 17,583 Before You Die And You Will Be The Well Readinest Person In Your Suburb” lists.
WordNet, Princeton’s English lexical database, defines well read as “well informed or deeply versed through reading.” I agree with this on the surface, but it leaves the gate open for only reading about one thing in your life, ever. You can be well read in medieval poetry written by monks who rode donkeys only on Tuesdays. You can be well read about vampires and the various incarnations of their girlfriends, be they surly or Southern. In my case, I am “well informed and deeply versed” in Victorian-era Western literature because I have read mostly classics in my life. But I don’t think this definition covers a general concept of well readhood.
I crowd-sourced this question on Twitter and I really like the answer I got from Emily of Reading While Female (@ReadWhileFemale): “Well read means reading widely from a broad range of genres and subjects…Reading widely includes, but is not limited to, literary fiction and classics. Reading 200 paranormal romances =/= well read.” If you replace “paranormal romance” with any other genre and then never venture outside of that genre, I would also say that that doesn’t equal being well read. I would add (and I’m sure Emily would agree) that the definition should also include understanding what you read and being thoughtful about it.
While it might sound snobby to some, I agree with Emily’s point about literary fiction and classics. I don’t think you can be well read and skip those areas of literature. I also think that you have to include non-fiction.
So, let’s nail this down. Being well read means reading thoughtfully from a wide variety of genres (not limited to, but definitely including, the classics) and a multicultural array of authors in such a way that allows you to think and converse about the human experience intelligently.
This isn’t a problem-free or final definition. What is a “wide variety,” numerically or categorically speaking? Who defines what is and is not a classic? How many cultures do you have to read from to have read multiculturally? However, I think the openness of a definition like this gives each reader with a desire to be “well read” enough flexibility to pursue his or her own reading journey in a way that is both purposeful and free-form.
Read Well ® is a comprehensive research-based K–3 reading and language arts solution that helps students build the critical skills needed to be successful readers and learners. Through a flexible approach of whole-class instruction, differentiated small-group instruction, and individual student practice, teachers can meet students at their skill levels and adapt instruction accordingly.
Read Well Gives Students a Clear Path to Reading Comprehension, Mastery, and Academic Success
Unique instructional design with parallel scope and sequence
Unique sound sequence based on the most frequently used words
Flexible pacing and grouping options based on individual student needs
Multiple entry points for appropriate student placement with embedded assessments and progress monitoring
Focuses on explicit, systematic instruction in the “big five” of reading
ESSA evidence level: Strong
Who Benefits from Read Well?
Read Well is a comprehensive reading program for students in grades K–3 that addresses the needs of all students—from low-performing to high-achieving. The program adjusts to the need of each student, allowing students to advance at their own pace. Teachers have continuous progress monitoring that enables them to differentiate instruction based on individual student need.
Read Well is a research-based comprehensive K–3 reading and language arts solution that helps teachers effectively target students at all stages of development. This evidence-based approach builds critical skills students need to be successful readers and learners.
Efficacy studies demonstrate effectiveness across all student demographics.
Read Well K
- Whole-class activities address different learning styles
- Focus on phonics and phonemic awareness with games, songs, stories, art projects, and handwriting activities
- Small-group instruction focuses on decoding, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency
- Composition unit provides explicit instruction in the writing process, writing traits, handwriting, and read-aloud comprehension and vocabulary
Read Well 1
- Features individualized small-group instruction where students:
- Practice story reading
- Learn vocabulary
- Develop decoding strategies
- Improve comprehension
- Master test-taking strategies
- Increase fluency
Read Well 2
- Continues to build the foundational skills necessary to reading more sophisticated narrative and expository text selections
- Focus on low-frequency letter/sound associations, word parts, and multisyllabic word fluency
- Expansion of vocabulary, content knowledge, and comprehension skills
- Spelling and Writing Conventions unit incorporates complementary whole-class instruction
- Composition unit provides explicit instruction in the writing process, writing traits, handwriting, and read-aloud comprehension and vocabulary
Read Well 3
- Expands on Read Well K–2 model, teaching critical comprehension and encoding skills for deeper understanding of content-area text
- Provides modeling, collaboration, and independent practice to develop analytical and abstract thinking skills
- Embedded assessment and progress monitoring helps teachers provide targeted, effective instruction on an ongoing basis
The Read Well Difference
How K–3 students at a high-achieving Title I school are succeeding with Read Well
Hear how Springfield Elementary School has increased the number of students reading at or above grade level more rapidly than any other school in the district.
Support young learners in your school or district
How Read Well Aligns with Your State
Learn more about Read Well. Find state-specific and national correlation guides.
Training and Support Services
We are committed to a long-term partnership with every district that implements our solutions. Each implementation support plan is individually crafted with school and/or district administrators to meet specific needs, including making explicit connections to state standards and/or the CCSS. Districts can choose from a menu of training and support options including in-person, online, or a combination of both.
Despite television, cell phones, and Twitter, traditional reading is still an important skill. Whether it is school textbooks, magazines, or regular books, people still read, though not as much as they used to. One reason that many people don’t read much is that they don’t read well. For them, it is slow, hard work and they don’t remember as much as they should. Students, for example,may have to read something several times before they understand and remember what they read.
Why? You would think that schools teach kids how to read well. Schools do try. I work with middle-school teachers and they tell me that many students are 2–3 years behind grade level in reading proficiency. No doubt, television, cell phones, and the Web are major contributors to this problem, which will apparently get worse if we don’t emphasize and improve reading instruction.
Some of the blame can be placed on the fads in reading teaching, such as phonics and “whole language,” which sometimes are promoted by zealots who don’t respect the need for both approaches. Much of the blame for poor reading skills can be laid at the feet of parents who set poor examples and, of course, on the youngsters who are too lazy to learn how to read well.
For all those who missed out on good reading skills, it is not too late. I summarize below what I think it takes to read with good speed and comprehension.
- Read with a purpose.
- Skim first.
- Get the reading mechanics right.
- Be judicious in highlighting and note taking.
- Think in pictures.
- Rehearse as you go along.
- Stay within your attention span and work to increase that span.
- Rehearse again soon.
1) Know Your Purpose
Everyone should have a purpose for their reading and think about how that purpose is being fulfilled during the actual reading. The advantage for remembering is that checking continuously for how the purpose is being fulfilled helps the reader to stay on task, to focus on the more relevant parts of the text, and to rehearse continuously as one reads. This also saves time and effort because relevant items are most attended.
Identifying the purpose should be easy if you freely choose what to read. Just ask yourself, “Why am I reading this?” If it is to be entertained or pass the time, then there is not much problem. But myriad other reasons could apply, such as:
- to understand a certain group of people, such as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc.
- to crystallize your political position, such as why a given government policy should be opposed.
- to develop an informed plan or proposal.
- to satisfy a requirement of an academic course or other assigned reading.
Many of us have readings assigned to us, as in a school environment. Or the boss may hand us a manual and say “Here. We need you to read this.” Whether the order comes from a teacher or boss, we need to ask, “What do you want me to learn from this?” In the absence of such guidance, you should still formulate your best guess about what you should learn and remember from the reading.
2) Skim First
Some reading tasks require no more than skimming. Proper skimming includes putting an emphasis on the headings, pictures, graphs, tables, and key paragraphs (which are usually at the beginning and the end). Depending on the purpose, you should slow down and read carefully only the parts that contribute to fulfilling the reading purpose.
Even material that has to be studied carefully should be skimmed first. The benefits of skimming first are that the skimming: 1) primes the memory, making it easier to remember when you read it the second time, 2) orients the thinking, helping you to know where the important content is in the document, 3) creates an overall sense and gestalt for the document, which in turn makes it easier to remember certain particulars.
Browsing on the Internet encourages people to skim read. The way content is handled on the Web is even causing writers to make wider use of Web devices, such as numbered or bulleted lists, sidebars, graphics, text boxes and sidebars. But the bad news is that the Web style makes it even harder to learn how to read in-depth; that is, the Web teaches us to skim, creating bad reading habits for in-depth reading.
3) Get the Mechanics Right
For in-depth reading, eyes need to move in a disciplined way. Skimming actually trains eyes to move without discipline. When you need to read carefully and remember the essence of large blocks of text, the eyes must snap from one fixation point to the next in left- to right-sequence. Moreover, the fixations should not be one individual letters or even single words, but rather on several words per fixation. There are reading-improvement machines that train the eyes to fixate properly, but few schools use them. I know from personal experience with such machines that they can increase reading speed markedly without a cost in lower comprehension. Poor readers who stumble along from word to word actually tend to have lower comprehension because their mind is preoccupied with recognizing the letters and their arrangement in each word.That is a main reason they can’t remember what they read. Countless times I have heard college students say, “I read that chapter three times, and I still can’t answer your questions.” When I ask thought-provoking questions about the material, they often can’t answer the questions because they can’t remember the meaning of what they read. Even with straightforward simple memorization questions, they often can’t remember, because their focus on the words themselves kept them from associating what their eyes saw with their own pre-existing knowledge and thus facilitating remembering. In short, to remember what you read, you have to think about what the words mean.
I am not arguing against phonics, which in my view is vital for the initial learning of how to read. But phonics is just the first step in good reading practice. At some point, the reader needs to recognize whole words as complete units and then expand that capability to clusters of several words.
Among the key tactics for good mechanics of reading, I list the following:
- Make eye contact with all the text not being deliberately skimmed
- See multiple words in each eye fixation
- Strive to expand the width of each eye fixation (on an 8.5″ width, strive for three fixations or eventually two per line). This skill has to be developed in stages. First, learn how do read at five or six fixations per line. Then work on four per line. Then three.
- Snap eyes from one fixation point to another (horizontal snaps on long lines, vertical snap if whole line in a column can be seen with one fixation).
Learning how to do this takes practice. If you can’t do it on your own, consider formal training from a reading center.
Being well-informed is not the same as being a know-all. The former is about being able to ask intelligent questions in seminars, engage in debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and realise that two of your tutors are having an affair. The latter is about passing on information on all of these subjects to everyone you know, even if you are not entirely sure the information is true.
Also, being well-informed involves knowledge about lots of different things, while being a know-all can mean knowing all there is to know about an obscure period of Latvian history but not about how to tie your shoelaces.
So, one of the things to remember if you want to be well-informed is to be broad in your interests. Don’t spend every waking minute in libraries and lectures. Find time to talk to fellow students about books and talks they have attended, flick through a periodical analysing recent world events, or watch the final eviction on Celebrity Big Brother.
Attending a play or art exhibition, or even pondering the positives and negatives of Coolio may spark ideas useful to your topic of study, even if the connection isn’t immediately obvious. So keep an eye on arts and events listings, and don’t dismiss every invitation to socialise as a distraction.
Meanwhile, remember that it can be tricky to be on top of your subject if you’re always thinking about entirely different things, or watching reality TV. So do spend some of your time in libraries and lectures. And while you’re there, ask for advice about the most useful publications and online resources available in your subject.
Then, read. Start with all those bits of paper you were given at the beginning of term where you will find loads of useful information. Try reading emails from tutors, and comments on the bottom of assignments. You can make all sorts of interesting discoveries by simply casting your eyes over noticeboards and reading some of the posters stuck around the student union. It’s even worth reading things like your course handbook.
Then there are newspapers, magazines, websites. It is also worth joining the odd online discussion group in areas that interest you. Oh, and don’t forget to Twitter, or to check what your friends are up to on Facebook, although no more than five times an hour.
One danger with information-gathering is that it can become so addictive you never get around to doing anything with it. Remember that no one will realise how well-informed you are if you keep all the information to yourself.
Seasoned conversationalists are usually great storytellers and can carry on a conversation about a wide range of topics. When you’re knowledgeable and well-read, small talk can become more than an opportunity to pass the time. Instead, it’s an easy way to have interesting conversations with clients and colleagues.
If you’d like to take your networking ability to the next level, set out to acquire a well-rounded repertoire of conversational subjects. Read newspapers, books and magazines. Listen to podcasts and TED talks. Sign up for classes and attend cultural events. Travel to exotic locations.
If you invest in personal development, you’ll stand out as an entrepreneur who is intelligent, experienced and interesting. Here are eight ways to learn a little about a lot in just a few minutes a day.
1. Subscribe to a daily newspaper. You could subscribe to your local paper or opt for a daily with national distribution such as The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. If you would prefer not to have the actual paper delivered to your home or office, most offer a digital edition for a reduced subscription rate. Go online and read newspapers from other parts of the world. When you travel, pick up the local paper at the airport. It’s an opportunity to spur conversation with clients, colleagues and friends.
2. Read for 20 minutes a day. As the saying goes, “readers are leaders.” Pick up one or two books on an interesting subject you know very little about. Read fiction and non-fiction. If you have a very busy schedule, or often become distracted later in the day, read first thing in the morning or over your lunch break.
3. Multi-task on your commute to work. Podcasts and audiobooks can help you pass the time in traffic or on the train — and teach you a little something at the same time. Research which podcasts and audiobooks are available on the topic you’d like to learn more about. Read reviews and download a few to your smartphone. Even a short commute will give you enough time to learn a couple new tidbits.
4. Listen and learn. You may be tempted to walk away from a group conversation if it segues into a topic with which you’re not familiar. Instead, stick around and listen. Ask questions. Offer any insight you have based on your unique experience and perspective.
5. Sign up for a class. Many municipalities offer adult education classes in a variety of topics that range from painting, creative writing to foreign languages. These classes are typically small, inexpensive and will give you the opportunity to explore an area of interest. If your city or county doesn’t offer classes, contact your local community college or university.
6. Attend local events. Chances are your area has dozens of groups that regularly get together for social and professional reasons. Most are focused on one thing: an industry or profession, a particular culture or a shared interest. Sign up and go when you have the chance. It’s an opportunity to make new connections and learn something new.
7. Visit museums and cultural centers. Take advantage of the historical and cultural exhibitions in your area. Visit museums that focus on an area you know very little about. If you have a particular question, most museums have docents who are extremely knowledgeable and would be glad to speak with you or give you a tour.
8. Venture outside your comfort zone. If you consciously look for opportunities, there are thousands of ways to meet new people and learn about new things. Take advantage of the knowledge your neighbors, colleagues and acquaintances have to offer. Ask questions and be curious. If a particular topic piques your interest, reach out to an expert with a specific question. The world is full of surprises; all you have to do is keep your eyes open.
Reading is an extremely important skill. It is by reading that you learn much of what you need to know for your different school subjects. Reading is also an excellent way to improve your general English. You can only learn from reading, however, if what you read is not too difficult. For this reason, it is important to know what makes texts difficult and how you can improve your chances of understanding them.
What makes texts difficult to understand
Most of your reading difficulties will be caused by a problem on the list below. Of course, when two or more of these problems happen together, your chances of understanding will be even smaller.
- the text has many unknown words
- the text has long, complicated sentences
- the text is about a topic you know nothing about
- the text is about a topic you find boring
- the text has small print, long paragraphs, no pictures
- the text has been badly written
- you are feeling tired
- you are distracted
- you don’t know the important cohesion markers
- you don’t know why you have been asked to read the text
How to understand more of what you read
You can do nothing about some of the reading difficulties: for example, you can�t change the print in a book or make poor writing better. But there are many things you can do that will give you a better chance of understanding what you read. Here are some suggestions:
1. Know your reading purpose – The way you read a book or a text depends very much on your reasons for reading it. This is why it is so important to know your reading purpose. You should read a question in your math exam differently from an entry in an encyclopaedia which you are looking at quickly to find out the date of an event. The kind of reading you do in class or for your homework is different from how you read a novel for pleasure in the summer vacation.
If you know your reading purpose – perhaps by looking first at the questions you must answer after reading – you can choose the best reading method.
If your teacher gives you something to read and doesn’t tell you what you need to find out from the text or what you will do after the reading, ask her (or him)!
In general, students should be trying to increase their reading speed. (Click to do some speed reading practice.)
You can sometimes get background information from the text itself. Many writers include a conclusion or summary; if you read this first, it may give you a good start.
Another aspect of good writing is that each paragraph has a topic sentence. A topic sentence is a sentence, usually the first one in a paragraph, that contains the main idea of the paragraph. If you concentrate on understanding the topic sentence, this may help you to understand what comes next.
Here are some important cohesion markers: also, therefore, except, unless, however, instead, (al)though, furthermore, moreover, nevertheless, on the other hand, as a result, despite, in conclusion.
Important : If you have tried the advice above and you still cannot understand a text, then it is simply too hard for you. Stop reading and ask someone to help you (your ESL teacher, for example!). Nobody likes to give up, but you will just be wasting your time if you continue to work at a text that is beyond you.
What to read
Most of the time you have to read what your teachers tell you to read. But as you know, reading is an excellent way to improve your English, and so you should try to do some extra reading each week. Here is some advice on how to choose what to read:
No doubt, most of the readers will be students with little or no experience in reading poetry out loud, especially to such a large group. And we know that a poem will live or die depending on how it is read. What follows, then, are a few pointers about the oral recitation of poetry. The readers, by the way, should not read cold; they should be given their poem a few days in advance so they will have time to practice, maybe in the presence of a teacher. In addition to exposing students to the sounds of contemporary poetry, Poetry 180 can also serve as a way to improve students’ abilities to communicate publicly. Here are a few basic tips:
- Read the poem slowly. Most adolescents speak rapidly, and a nervous reader will tend to do the same in order to get the reading over with. Reading a poem slowly is the best way to ensure that the poem will be read clearly and understood by its listeners. Learning to read a poem slowly will not just make the poem easier to hear; it will underscore the importance in poetry of each and every word. A poem cannot be read too slowly, and a good way for a reader to set an easy pace is to pause for a few seconds between the title and the poem’s first line.
- Read in a normal, relaxed tone of voice. It is not necessary to give any of these poems a dramatic reading as if from a stage. The poems selected are mostly written in a natural, colloquial style and should be read that way. Let the words of the poem do the work. Just speak clearly and slowly.
- Obviously, poems come in lines, but pausing at the end of every line will create a choppy effect and interrupt the flow of the poem’s sense. Readers should pause only where there is punctuation, just as you would when reading prose, only more slowly.
- Use a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words and hard-to-pronounce words. To read with conviction, a reader needs to know at least the dictionary sense of every word. In some cases, a reader might want to write out a word phonetically as a reminder of how it should sound. It should be emphasized that learning to read a poem out loud is a way of coming to a full understanding of that poem, perhaps a better way than writing a paper on the subject.
Poetry 180 has been designed to be easily implemented by your school. Of course, the success of the program ultimately depends on the cooperation of interested teachers and administrators. A meeting of such people at the beginning of the semester would help to determine what needs to be done and who is willing to do it. The program is easy to join and carries only a few responsibilities such as printing out the poems and enlisting readers.
Whoever contributes to the operation of this program has my deepest thanks. High school teachers are some of the most devoted, hardest working people in any field, and any help you can give this program deserves fervid appreciation. I am hoping that the rewards of Poetry 180 will be felt as immediately as possible and that those involved will find gratification in knowing that high school students across the country are being exposed to poetry in a unique and stimulating way.
And it’s because you’re preparing for a special occasion where you are going to stand in front of others to deliver the poem you’ve chosen. Perhaps a birthday celebration. A wedding. Maybe a funeral. Or a class presentation?
For many people this is totally terrifying.
They’re scared they’ll stumble over the words, won’t understand what the poem is about and, consequently make a complete fool of themselves.
If that is you, relax.
A poem is not a poisonous snake. It will not bite and you do not have to tip-toe around it.
Learning how to read poetry aloud is relatively straightforward and with practice you may even get to enjoy it!
Read your poem through silently several times to familiarize yourself with its core ideas and images.
The more you understand the poem, the more likely your audience will be able to understand it too.
Allow yourself to see the images created by the words in your imagination. Likewise feel the emotions.
The more strongly you identify with or own the poem the easier it will be for your audience to follow.
Do you know how each word should be said?
Be sure to look up any unfamiliar words in an online dictionary for their meaning and pronunciation.
How to eat a poem
American poet, Eve Merriam has inspired countless people all over the world to play with poetry by making it accessible and fun.
Try her poem aloud.
It’s truly delicious!
“Don’t be polite.
Pick it up with your fingers and lick the
juice that may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now, wherever you are.
You do not need a knife or a fork or a spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth.
For there is no core
to throw away.”
Read the poem quietly aloud to yourself following the guidelines given by the punctuation, listening for its musicality or beat.
If you need them, there are tips for interpreting punctuation here.
Read slowly . Allow each word its space. The temptation is to rush. Resist it.
Once you’ve ‘got the flow’, stand up and read the poem aloud authoritatively.
Now that you’re more confident ‘play’ with your delivery, experimenting with vocal variety.
For example, what happens if you stress this word rather than that word?
Say your poem as many ways as you can. Say it loud. Say it soft. Say it gathering speed, getting faster and faster. Say it slow and low. In short, have fun. Experiment! And record what you do.
When you play the recordings back you’ll find some of the ways you’ve tried will sound much better than others. Take the ways that work, blend them and try again.
Poems are very forgiving. You can flub the words and mangle the meaning but they will not break.
5 different readings of How to eat a poem
To illustrate how a poem is said, alters how it’s experienced by those listening to it, I recorded Eve Merriam’s poem ‘How to eat a poem’ five different ways.
Click the link to find out more about playing with vocal variety, the way you say words.
Rehearsal and feedback
Rehearse in front of several friends before going ‘live’.
Have them give you feed back on:
Could they hear and understand your words?
Did they understand the images and feelings of the poem?
- speaking rate
Were you speaking too fast or too slowly?
Too loud, too soft, too high, too low.
Incorporate their feedback and then present your poem.
Extra tips on reading poetry aloud
- Y ou do not need a ‘dramatic’ voice to be successful. An assumed voice will seem artificial and strained.
Reading poetry aloud is a gift
The ability to read poetry aloud is a gift of immense value. Because the right poem, read well, expresses with grace and clarity thoughts and feelings that are often difficult to find appropriate words for in ordinary prose.
For instance I recently read this beautiful Bub Bridger poem – Wild Daisies at my niece’s wedding. (See the excerpt below. This is the last segment of the poem.)
If you’re wanting a reading about love that is both simple and profound do take a look. At the reception I got numerous compliments for choosing the poem and for the way I delivered it. Sadly I could only accept half of them – those about its performance as Ruth, my niece, selected it.
(What great taste she has! ☺)
Would you like to listen to some poems?
You’ll hear me, Susan, reading them.
I recorded these to help people searching for poems to read at a funeral.
- I am Standing Upon the Seashore
- Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
- Funeral Blues
- Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi
All four are popular choices.
And there’s also recordings of 6 much loved children’s nonsense poems. You’ll find those here: poems for kids
Or perhaps you’d like to write and read a poem of your own?
It’s not as difficult as you may think to craft something original and special. The result may not be award winning! However that’s not the aim of the exercise. If your wish is to express your thoughts and feelings uniquely, you can.