Cris Tovani’s “I Read It, but I Don’t Get It” is an excellent resource for teachers trying to encourage reluctant readers, provide skills to less skilled readers, and in general is great for attempting to understand what really happens when we read. It’s the perfect book when considering students that don’t read the book and instead choose to look at spark notes or some equivalent. Tovani presents her teaching philosophy in a very easy to access way. It’s written through classroom conversations between herself and students, which helps the audience connect with her principles.
I found it particularly important how she discusses that in elementary school, students are primarily taught how to read, but not how to access the information within literature. In other words, we are taught how to sound out words in our head and fluency type skills, but not how to identify the deeper meaning of the text. Then, when students reach middle school they are expected to understand informational texts and analyze literature automatically, skills that students are not taught. I really resonated with this part because although I am very good at reading fiction and deriving meaning from it, I really struggle with effectively reading informational texts (like a textbook). Even to this day! This is because I was never taught. I had one AP EURO teacher that helped me figure out how to take notes, but not actually absorb the information in a useful manner. I think we are doing our students—and ourselves, as teachers—a disservice when we don’t take the time to teach our kiddos how to read. How can we expect them to learn the content if we don’t at first teach them how to read about it? Every teacher that assigns reading of some sort should be held responsible for teaching their students how to read that text.
Another thing I appreciated about Tovani’s book was that she actually goes in depth with reading strategies by both listing and describing them, but also by showing us what that looks like via anecdotes. Reading about how kids need to learn to read deeply, would not do me much good. I am an excellent reader, and I always have been. So to ask me, “what makes you a good reader?” would totally stump me. I couldn’t answer that question beyond “I just am”. Tovani actually breaks down what good readers do and how to teach your kids to do them. I ended up recognizing my thinking patterns while reading in the strategies she described.