The Reading Matrix
Vol. 2, No.3, September 2002
Instructor's Edition Ten Steps to Advancing College
Reading Skills, 3rd Edition
Townsend Press, W. Berlin, New Jersey USA
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
1. Vocabulary in Context
2. Main Ideas
3. Supporting Details
4. Implied Main Ideas and the Central Point
6. Fact and Opinion
8. Purpose and Tone
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.
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.
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