Guest Post by Julie Niles Petersen:

Fresh out of the master’s program in reading, I created a list of things good readers do. The list was to be used with my students in my new reading specialist position. This list included:

  1. Preview the text.
  2. Activate your background knowledge.
  3. Set a purpose for reading. (What do you want to find out? What do you want to learn? What do you want to do?)
  4. Make predictions as you read and modify them when necessary.
  5. When you run across unfamiliar vocabulary words, try to figure out what they mean by using context clues, looking them up in a dictionary, or asking someone else what they mean.
  6. Monitor your comprehension. As you read, make sure you ask yourself if what you are reading is making sense. If it is not making sense, use one or more comprehension strategies to try to make it make sense.
  7. THINK while you read! Don’t just read the words and expect to understand.
  8. Make inferences and then, as you read further, retain them, modify them, or reject them based on additional textual information. Good inferences combine our personal experiences with textual clues. They are supported by the text and consistent with our experiences. (What’s your line of reasoning?)
  9. Make evaluations–especially about what characters do.
  10. Visualize (or act it out).
  11. Draw a picture.
  12. Try reading it aloud.
  13. Reread or read ahead.
  14. Summarize what you read in your own words.
  15. Use study guides when available.
  16. Answer questions.
  17. Ask questions.
  18. WONDER
  19. Read with good fluency.
  20. Know that some answers are found (1) from just the text, (2) from just your head, and (3) by combining information from the text with information in your head.
  21. Read the titles, headings, and captions.
  22. Analyze figures, charts, and maps.
  23. Connect what you read to personal experiences; other texts–including movies, cartoons, TV shows, and songs; and to the world in general.
  24. Determine the most import ideas.
  25. Think about cause and effect. (What caused this to happen?)
  26. Think about the mood of the passage. (Is it happy, sad, scary, intense, dramatic, etc.?)
  27. Think about the author’s purposes for writing the passage.
  28. Think about the time the story takes place and connect it to your background knowledge of that time period.
  29. READ A LOT!!!!!!
  30. Discuss what you have read with someone else who has read the text, too.
  31. Write about what you read. Include your “Ah has” and connections.

Now reading this list, you might be thinking, “That is some list!!!” which it is. It’s a great list of things good readers do while they are reading to help them understand. However, it is loaded with jargon that struggling readers often do not understand, isn’t it? That’s what I thought, too. So I decided to think up some kind of mantra that would help struggling readers. This is what I came up with:

You get out of reading what you put into it. Good readers do MORE than just read the words. Good readers think, wonder, reflect, and connect while they read.”

Julie Niles Petersen is a Reading Specialist and blogs about literacy at .