The Reading Matrix
Vol. 2, No.3, September 2002

Instructor's Edition Ten Steps to Advancing College Reading Skills, 3rd Edition
John Langan:
Townsend Press, W. Berlin, New Jersey USA
199p,
ISBN: 0944210457
US : $24.00
Reviewed by Greg Decker
University of Kansas

This text is largely identical to the student edition. The only difference is that the instructor's version has answers to questions posed in the text and also contains teaching suggestions. Exams and mastery tests are available to the instructor on disk.

The book is divided into three main parts covering the author's 10 steps for reading skill advancement followed by reading selections and finally, further study suggestions.

Part 1.
1. Vocabulary in Context
2. Main Ideas
3. Supporting Details
4. Implied Main Ideas and the Central Point
5. Relationships
6. Fact and Opinion
7. Inferences
8. Purpose and Tone
9. Argument

Part 2.
Reading Selections
Each reading selection includes Basic and Advanced Skill Questions that offer the student workspace to review the author's program. Discussion questions and activities are presented for outlining and summation skill development.

Part 3.
For Further Study
This section was added to help students prepare for standardized reading exams. Rounding out this comprehensive exam preparation section is a review of summarizing and outlining skills as well as the logic that underscores writing assignments.

Omnibus Text Comments

This is an interesting text because it provides the student with workbook elements and practical instruction at once. The author creates a step-by-step process by which the novice reader might develop reading skills. Rather than merely explain each skill, the author provides various levels of interactivity. This way, the student will participate actively in this learning to read process.

Throughout the text, the student is required to check learning in a variety of ways. The author provides ample fill-in activities, short answer spaces, check box review, and a host of other interactive tools to keep the reader connected to the material and the learning. Additionally, these tools provide the instructor with a quick site check on the student's progress. If the boxes aren't checked, if the blanks aren't filled in, then the reading is likely, incomplete. The author skillfully makes it rather challenging for the reader to skip over these interactive steps.

The readings have been selected for not only interesting content, but also for the sheer enjoyment the student might from reading them. They are engaging and therefore will capture and maintain the attention of an array of readers with varied abilities.

Once the reader passes the introduction, the prose is casual and geared for the novice reader. The author's use of "you" and "your" brings to life his voice as if the author was personally instructing the reader. This strategy is a nice change from traditionally less user-friendly prose styles.

The text section that handles Fact and Opinion is especially helpful as the student develops critical-thinking skills in reading. The author provides several tests and practice activities for the student, affording ample opportunity to explore the difference between Fact and Opinion and how each plays a part in both reading and writing.

Development

Perhaps the primary area where the book might be more fully developed is in the layout. White space ought to be more readily offered throughout the text. The fact that the layout is phenomenally dense is puzzling because the text itself is so well developed.

It would be helpful if both between and within each section more unprinted area was presented to the student so that the text on each page and the general layout didn't appear quite so cluttered. The implementation of spatial organization and text on the pages can more fully engage and direct the reader's attention, prioritize information, and facilitate more enjoyable and more efficient interactions with the text.

Eventually, with well-chosen graphics and design, visual logic will be enhanced and the author will approach an optimal balance between graphic and text information.

Without the visual impact of shape, color, and contrast, I found the pages often graphically barren. This lack of visual interest might prove less than successful regarding the reader's motivation. At least one major design challenge remains. It's important to motivate the reader to investigate the contents of the book.

I am not suggesting that the author change the content. Book pages that are graphically "heavy" often disappoint the reader by not offering a balance between visual and text information.

In order to balance this graphics/text problem with a minimal of expense and time, I'd suggest that whenever the author changes main ideas, white space be added so that the reader has the very strong visual cue that they've come to the end of a section. This will help relieve the fledgling reader's stress while learning to incorporate reading skills and to allow space for the reader to write in their own free-form notes and comments. Perhaps graphic and icon sets might be developed for future editions.

Final Comments on Layout

It's not always clear where the author is taking the student. It would be helpful as the student moves through the text, to know where they are (in terms of the learning process) and where they are going. This will help organize their cognitive map and strategic planning as well as help lessen the reader's anxiety.

I would suggest that at least midway through each main section (or chapter), a graphical map be inserted that shows where the student is working, what they've accomplished and what needs yet to be completed (see included example page). Finally, these cognitive maps could also include page numbers to assist text navigation during the learning process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Greg Decker received his BA in psychology from the California State University, Chico. He received his MA from the University of Kansas (KU) in Psychology and is working on his Ph.D. at KU. Research interests include the use of phonology in reading and the affect of emotions on disambiguation.