Usually, “literacy” means competency in reading & writing print matter. Even so, much of the reading people do in everyday life is either visual only or text combined with images. Discussed in the article Develop Visual Literacy, the skills needed to comprehend and make good use of largely visual matter (e.g. signs, announcements, brochures, fliers, cards, and the like) may or may not coincide with the (school-related) “Reading Skills & Strategies” that apply to connected text in paragraphs and longer pieces of writing.
- Which of these kinds of text reading do you do regularly?
- Where do you get them?
- Which interest or attract—or bore or irritate—you? Why?
- One-Liners can include proverbs, aphorisms, slogans, quotes, quips, titles, captions, headlines, and brief comments. They can appear in books, magazines, papers, and online; on signs, posters, or billboards; on calendars, bumper stickers, fliers, and cards; and—especially today, on social media posts that limit the number of characters in each message. They can be traditional, cool, or in vogue; wise, witty, or nonsensical; enlightening, memorable, or forgettable; uplifting, helpful or damaging—and a lot more.
- Short Fiction may be directed at children, new readers or language learners, consumers of a certain genre (fantasy, science fiction, adventure, romance, thriller, mystery, etc.), or the general public. It can be in the form of a fable, a folk or fairy tale, an illustrated comic, or a short story, novella, or novel. It can be dramatic, tragic or funny; engaging, appealing, or boring; stimulating, upsetting, or relaxing. It other words, fiction was be just about anything; contain any kind of backdrop, subject matter, characters, and plot lines; and send any kind of message or teach any kind of lesson.
- True Stories can be perused in newspapers, magazines, and online—and may, of course, be heard or viewed in the media. They can be narratives of current events, unusual happenings, or people’s real experiences, including hero or survival stories. They can contain biographical material. It may be easy or difficult to "get the point, the lesson, or the message” of such accounts. Also, they should be evaluated as to their accuracy or “truth value.”
- Humor can be a part of many kinds of text reading. Even so, there are certain forms meant to be funny. Some common formats of intentional humor are one-frame cartoons (with or without titles or captions); comic-strip sequences (with or without speech or thought bubbles); anecdotes & jokes with punch lines; and witticisms, puns, quips, and formula jokes. Humor can be seen or read everywhere in print and online—and on everyday objects like bumper stickers, labels, T-shirts, mugs, pens, packaging, etc.
- Personal & Business Communication is everywhere in various forms: brochures, booklets, fliers, ads, posters, signs, (greeting, post, or business) cards, letters, announcements, memos, and much more. Though its usual purpose is to inform or connect people, it can also entertain, stir up controversy or dialog, provoke or calm down, and/or help or hurt its readers and other recipients.
- Factual Information in Paragraphs is most common in books, newspapers, magazines, online articles, and blog posts. Its most general purposes are to inform, instruct, and answer people’s questions about what they want or need to know. It can—and probably should—be analyzed for its main ideas & supporting details, organization, tone, message, and purposes.
So what do we need to know (and teach others) about “reading for meaning” with text material that may or may not be visually illustrated? From What’s the Point? Book One: Beginning to Read for Meaning and other sources, here are summaries of the pedagogy related to six kinds of “Text Literacy.” For full explanations from the text—with exercise excerpts to practice using your skills on—click on the underlined Part Titles below.
- To Get the Point of One-Liners: For traditional proverbs (i.e. folk wisdom from many cultures in the past), recognize the standard structure of their phrasing (Don’t . . . ; . . . is . . . ; the . . ., the . . . ; and other simple-present constructions). Then translate their intended meaning in a clarifying paraphrase (i.e. restatement in other words). Comparing each saying with other adages you know, consider their universality and truth value today, if any. For quotes by famous people in history, consider each speaker and his/her circumstances or intents. Paraphrase the meaning of the quote so that it makes sense in your own mind. For one-liners from other sources, judge their accuracy or veracity according to their context and sources. Play with their meaning to decide which conditions they apply to. To really get into the uses of one-liners, create some of your own, either as take-offs based on previous lines or from not-yet-expressed ideas of your own.
- To Get the Point of Short Fiction: Determine what kind of narrative you’re reading—a fable, a folk or fairy tale, or what? Check that you understand the structure of that type of story. Keeping the notion of time sequencing in mind, read its sentences in order with fluidity, slowing down to figure out grammar or vocabulary only when necessary. In your mind and memory, answer these questions as you read: “What’s the story title?” “What’s the setting?” “Who are the characters?” “How does the story begin?” “What happens?” “How does it end?” Interpret the narrative by formulating its moral, lesson, or point, if any. Summarize story events in light of their overall meaning or significance.
- To Get the Point of True Stories: Determine what kind of narrative you’re reading—a news brief or article; a local, regional, national, or international report; an account of a real experience or occurrence; a biographical segment—or what? Check that you understand the framework of that type of writing. Keeping the notion of time sequence in mind, slow down to notice sentence structure or key vocabulary only If you have to—to get general meaning. If necessary, look up any background info that will help you understand. To summarize, answer these questions for yourself while and after reading: “What does the article headline refer to?” “What are the main events in the story—in which order?” “What’s the point of the information? Why do you think so?” “Does the story send a message or teach a lesson? If so, what is it?” If you haven’t already done so—and if the truth value of the piece determines whether or not to share it (or what else to do about it)—analyze the accuracy of its information. If it’s false or untrue news, put it where it belongs.
- To Get the Point of Humor: Notice what kind of humor you're looking at--a comic strip, cartoon, anecdote, joke, quip, pun, or something else. While looking at visual clues, take note of any associated words—titles, captions, quotes, or speech/though in balloons. As you read text for meaning, pick out what seems to be the important bits of info. Try not to miss any key words or details. Remember—your goal is to "get the joke." If the gag falls flat with you, recall the common elements of humor (surprise, unexpected connection, illogical reasoning, exaggeration, repetition). See if any of these apply to the point of the humor. To make sure you "got it," try to retell the story. Leaving out the irrelevant trivia. emphasize essential info words. Use effective timing.
- To Get the Point of Personal Communication: Recognize which kind of communication you’re looking at: a greeting card, an announcement, a postcard, a letter, or something else. Determine its intended purpose: to congratulate, express sympathy, or just keep in touch; to announce an event, invite guests, or observe an occasion; to express or react to an opinion, get heard, or have an impact. Collect the background knowledge you need to understand the function of the communication. Notice its tone: solemn, light-hearted, fervent, joyful, appreciative, or what? React appropriately and constructively to the information.
Here’s more instruction and some informative or amusing pieces to understand and react to. They’re from the end of Part 7: The Point of Personal Communication (Cards, Letters).
- To Get the Point of Factual Information in Connected Text: To stay aware of its purposes, note the source of the info: a textbook or reference work or other educational materials; an article from a publication; the media or the Internet. For yourself, verbalize or mark the general—and then specific topic of the reading. Recognize, choose, and/or put into words the main idea (the message or point) of the selection. Check your answer. Ask and answer a “Main-Idea Question” about the material. Make use of cues and clues to find, select, and/or formulate your best response in a list, an outline, or paragraphs. Continue to develop your ability to apply the most fundamental “Reading Skills & Strategies” in comprehending, remembering, coordinating, and making good use of credible data or knowledge.
Here’s more detailed pedagogy with guided practice in understanding expository (explanatory) prose and process descriptions (how-to articles). Extracted from of Part 8: The Point of Factual Information in Paragraphs, they’re a basic intro to pedagogically constructed material for language improvers that want to progress in reading & writing.
For more of the same and beyond, take a look at full chapters from the following full textbooks by Authors & Editors—as well as the plethora of other reading guides available in print and online. And keep applying the principles you’ve acquired to whatever valuable material you come across in your schooling, work, and life!