Why Teach Critical Reading?

Julia Bickel, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English and Reading
Indiana Wesleyan University

As instructors and professors determine and develop their curriculum and lesson plans for their college reading courses, they are severely constrained by time, and therefore, must separate the lower priority skills from those essential skills that must be taught. Often, the skill of critical reading is relegated to the lower priority list. However, in this day and age, the ability to read critically is essential for anyone who plans to enter the workforce, and especially for those students who plan to enter college or who have recently begun their college career.

Critical reading can be defined as the process of thinking critically—in a logical and organized manner—about what is being read. A critical reader asks questions about the material, understands implied meanings, and learns to evaluate and consider what is being read. A successful college student absolutely must learn to be a critical reader. Instructors and professors require students to think logically as they evaluate and ask questions about their reading assignments. Often, students must discuss reading material in class or write a paper about what they have read. The regurgitation of factual information about an article or essay is not appropriate at the college level.

Therefore, students need to learn to read critically. Yet, as was recently reported by AP news service, high school students are rarely taught that skill.

“The ability to handle complex reading is the major factor separating high school students who are ready for college reading from those who are not, according to a new report.
The study by ACT, a nonprofit company that tests students, found that most states contribute to the lack of college preparedness by not requiring complex reading comprehension in high school” (Feller, 2006).1

Further, according to the ACT report, of the 1.2 million high school seniors who took the ACT in 2005, the scores of only 51 percent of those students indicated that the students were prepared to handle the reading requirements of first year college courses (Feller, 2006)1. Based on these alarming statistics, instructors and professors who teach college reading and college success skills courses must focus on the teaching of critical reading skills as well as on the basic comprehension skills.

Throughout its entirety, the WiseSoft Reading Program teaches students to determine the subject or topic, the main idea, and the details that support that main idea. These basic skills are absolutely essential for comprehension to take place. Now, college students can also learn and develop critical reading skills. New lessons provide instruction, demonstration, and practice for students as they learn to use their newly acquired critical reading skills. Articles are longer, have more difficult vocabulary and more complex sentences. Questions after the reading require the reader to think about—or read critically—the information being presented. The reader must learn to determine the author’s purpose and point of view, understand connotative meanings, make inferences, and recognize common thought patterns used in writing. By using the WiseSoft Reading Program at the two highest levels, students can now learn to become critical readers.

1Feller, Ben. “Compels Reading in High School Key to College Success.” AP News Service, March 1, 2006.