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Reading Critically: A Short How-To

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There’s been much attention drawn to students being able to read critically – especially with the integration of more Non-Fiction texts. But what does it mean to “read critically?”  Critical readers learn to recognize not only what a text is saying, but also how that text is portraying the information.  The text operates under specific discourse(s) and it’s important to question how it may influence the content. Reading critically asks the reader to construct their own understanding by questioning aspects of the text; that includes (but is not limited to) which sources are used, what information is presented and even what information is not being presented. Personally, I think it’s a skill that can be practiced and improved… good news for students who may not feel comfortable doing it for the first time after years of not being asked to.


Critically reading may lead to a deeper and broader grasp of the subject matter. There are common goals this type of reading usually asks students accomplish:

  • to recognize an author’s purpose – why are they taking this stance? is there an agenda?
  • to understand tone and persuasive elements – how does the author portray information?
  • to recognize bias – what is informing their understanding?  who are the sources of information and from which discourses do they operate?

Reading critically forces the student to recognize that any author may be offering a specific portrayal of the topic. Readers should learn to look closely as the author’s choices and frameworks. Then, students can come to some conclusion about how those choices about content, language and organization effect the meaning.


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