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“Read What’s There”: How I Learned to Avoid Shortcuts

I vividly remember analog media and the switch to digital. Sometimes I'm still amazed that I can check a word's definition by tapping on it. As a public elementary school student in the 1990s, to define an unfamiliar word, I would have needed to walk to a heavy dictionary on the other side of the room. My disability would have made this time-consuming and dangerous, if not impossible. So, instead, I relied on that often hindered my vocabulary and reading comprehension. Note: I'm not an educator or a parent. So, this is strictly my own perspective as an adult writer remembering her childhood. My elementary school teachers were excellent, so the few tips that didn't work for me stick in my memory. Around 4th grade, teachers taught us to skim long paragraphs for keywords and guess unfamiliar words' meanings from context clues. We hadn't been reading long enough to benefit from these shortcuts. They only slowed down and confused many of us. Although it may seem automatic to many adults, isolating the main ideas was a separate skill set we hadn't yet . Teachers' suggestions to skim long passages directly contradicted my mom's . She's a retired elementary school teacher who taught me to love reading by preschool. When I guessed or skipped words, she always said to me: “Read what's there.” Although this advice worked for me, she knew it wouldn't help every kid. She meant something like: reading is about discovery. Be surprised; don't make assumptions. […]

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