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Improving Reading Skills
Improving Reading Skills

Improving Reading Skills, 7th Edition

ISBN10: 0073407313 | ISBN13: 9780073407319
By Deanne Spears
© 2013

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* The estimated amount of time this product will be on the market is based on a number of factors, including faculty input to instructional design and the prior revision cycle and updates to academic research-which typically results in a revision cycle ranging from every two to four years for this product. Pricing subject to change at any time.

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Now in its 7th edition, Improving Reading Skills features a wide variety of carefully chosen readings that engage, encourage, and challenge students. Ideal for introductory and intermediate developmental reading courses, this new edition has been thoroughly revised and now includes two new parts, expanded part introductions, an even broader range of levels for the reading selections, increased emphasis on annotating, paragraphing, and summarizing, and a new section in part five.



To the Student

Improving Your Vocabulary

Five Techniques for Acquiring Words

Using Context Clues

Using Print and Online Dictionaries

Practice Selection

Dave Barry

Tips for Women: How to Have a Relationship with a Guy
We’re not talking about different wavelengths here. We’re talking about different planets, in completely different solar systems. Elaine cannot communicate meaningfully with Roger about their relationship any more than she can meaningfully play chess with a duck. Because the sum total of Roger’s thinking on this particular topic is as follows: Huh?

Comprehension Worksheet

Part 1 Getting Started: Practicing the Basics

Identifying the Main Idea and Writer’s Purpose

The Difference Between Fiction and Nonfiction

The Difference Between an Article and an Essay

Identifying the Main Idea in Paragraphs

Implied Main Ideas

Thesis Statements in Articles and Essays

Identifying the Writer’s Purpose

1. David Sedaris, Hejira
It wasn't anything I had planned on, but at the age of twenty-two, after dropping out of my second college and traveling across the country a few times, I found myself back in Raleigh, living in my parents' basement. After six months spent waking at noon, getting high, and listening to the same Joni Mitchell record over and over again. I was called by my father into his den and told to get out.

2. Sherman Alexie, Superman and Me
A smart Indian is a dangerous person, widely feared and ridiculed by Indians and non-Indians alike. I fought with my classmates on a daily basis. They wanted mc to stay quiet when the non-Indian teacher asked for answers, for volunteers. for help. We were Indian children who were expected to be stupid. Most lived up to those expectations inside the classroom but subverted them on the outside.

3. Joe Abbott, To Kill a Hawk
It was the summer of 1971, and a dozen friends and I had driven down the breathtakingly steep and tortuous road into Shelter Cove in southern Humboldt County to camp on the black sand beaches. We were pretty young then, and ill-prepared, and we quickly gobbled down our meager food supplies. So I and a couple others went down into the cove to poach abalones among the rocks.

4. Rose Guilbault, School Days
“What is that?” Mona scrunched her nose at my doll. “Don’t you have a Barbie?” The other girls twittered. What was a Barbie? I wondered. And why was my doll looked down on? I felt embarrassed and quickly stuffed my unworthy toy back into the paper bag. I would not be invited to play with them again.

5. Colby Buzzell, Johnny Get Your Textbook (blog)
The first day on campus brought back flashbacks. Not of the war, but of high school and my first day of basic training when I was absolutely convinced that I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I found myself spending the majority of my free time asking god please. "Turn me into a bird so I can fly far, far away."

6. John Bussey, Old Hat for the New Normal
"Dad," I teased, "a box of fresh donuts from just $2.50! How can you pass up a deal like that?" "That's nothing," he said. "Wait until tomorrow when they're a day child, they'll be a buck and a quarter."

Part 2 Refining the Basics

Annotating, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing




7. Caroline Hwang, The Good Daughter
My parents didn't want their daughter to be Korean, but they don't want her fully American, either. Children of immigrants are living paradoxes.

8. Studs Terkel, Somebody Built the Pyramids
Mike Fitzgerald . . . is a laborer in a steel mill. "I feel like the guys who built the pyramids, Somebody built'em. Somebody built the Empire State Building, too. There's hard work behind it. I would like to see a building, say The Empire State, with a footwide strip from top to bottom and the name of every bricklayer on it, the name of every electrician. So when a guy walked by, he could take his son and say, 'See, that's me over there on the 45th floor. I put that steel beam in."'

9. Sherry Turkle, The Nostalgia of the Young
One high school senior recalls a time when his father used to sit next to him on the couch, reading. "He read for pleasure and didn't mind being interrupted." But when his father, a doctor, switched from books to his BlackBerry, things became less clear. "He could be playing a game or looking at a patient record, and you would never know... He is in that same BlackBerry zone."

10. Elizabeth Bernstein, How Facebook Ruins Friendships
Notice to my friends. I love you all dearly. But I don't give a hoot that you are "having a busy Monday," your child "took 30 minutes to brush his teeth," your dog "just ate an ant trap" or you want to "save the piglets." And I really, really don't care which Addams Family member you most resemble.

11. Chris Rose, Hell and Back
For all of my adult life, I regarded depression and anxiety as pretty much a load of hooey. I never accorded any credibility to the idea that they are medical conditions. Nothing scientific about it. You get sick, get fired, fall in love, get laid, buy a new pair of shoes, join a gym, get religion, seasons change, whatever; you go with the flow, dust yourself off, get back in the game. I thought antidepressants were for desperate housewives and fragile poets.

12. Virginia Morell, Minds of Their Own
Many of Alex's cognitive skills, such as his ability to understand the concepts of same and different, are generally described only to higher mammals' parlicularly primates. But parrots, like great apes (and humans), live a long time in complex societies. And like primates, these birds must keep track of the dynamics of changing relationships and environments.”

13. Olivia Wu, Alfresco Marriage Market
Sitting on a bench with his sign resting on his half--bared chest, shirt unbuttoned in the sweltering heat, he says the son he is trying to marry off is his last-"1976, Year of the Dragon, 1.74 meters," a computer engineer, 3,000 RMB ($375 monthly salary), seeking a female 2 to 3 years younger with an associate degree."

Part 3 Tackling More Challenging Prose

Making Inferences

14. Carla Rivera, From Illiterate to Role Model
Even now, [Eileen, his wife] said, it's hard for her to believe his reading ability was so limited. "He just seemed to do fine," she said. "He learned to compensate. If we went to a restaurant, he [already] knew what to order off a menu or he could tell by the pictures. When he couldn't, he would just order a hamburger."

15. John Schwartz, Extreme Makeover: Criminal Court Edition
When John Ditullio goes on trial on Monday, jurors will not see the large swastika tattooed on his neck. Or the crude insult tattooed on the other side of his neck. Or anv of the other markings he has acquired since being jailed on charges related to a double stabbing that wounded a woman and killed a teenager in 2006.

16. "The Waiter" (Steve Dublanica), Why Be a Waiter
Quite a few waiters have lives that are train wrecks. A famous chef once observed that the restaurant business is a haven for people who don't fit in anywhere else. That's true. The restaurant business can be like the French Foreign Legion-without the heavy weaponry.

17. Steve Striffler, Undercover in a Chicken Factory
I learn quickly that "unskilled" labor requires immense skill. The job of hariner is ertremely complicated. In a simple sense the harinero empties 5O-pound bags of-flour all day.The work is backbreaking, but it takes less physical dexterity than many other jobs on the line. At the same time, the job is multifaceted and cannot be quickly learned. The harinero adiusts the breader and rebreader, monitors the marinade, turns the power on and off, and replaces old flour with fresh flour. All this would be relatively manageable if the lines ran well. They never do.

18. Martin Lindstrom, Fear and Ice Chips: Selling Illusions of Cleanliness
Knowing that even the suggestion of fruit evokes powerful associations of health, freshness and cleanliness, brands across all categories have gone fruity on us, infusing everything from shampoos to bottled waters with pineapple, oranges, peaches, passion fruit and banana fragrances-engineered in a chemist's laboratory, of course.

19. Lawrence Shames, The Hunger for More
Americans have always been optimists, and optimists have always liked to speculate. In Texas in the 1880s, the speculative instrument of choice was towns, and there is no tale more American than this. What people would do was buy up enormous tracts of parched and vacant land, lay out a Main Street, nail together some wooden sidewalks, and start slapping up buildings. . . . The developers would erect a flagpole and name a church, and once the workmen had packed up and moved on, the town would be as empty as the sky.

20. Val Plurnwood. Being Prey: Surviving a Crocodile Attack
When the whirling terror stopped again I surfaced again, still in the crocodile's grip next to a stout branch of a large sandpaper fig growing in the water. I grabbed the branch, vowing to let the crocodile tear me apart rather than throw me again into that spinning, suffocating hell. For the first time I realized that the crocodile was growling. as if angry.

Part 4 Mastering Reading about Complex Ideas

Patterns of Development

Patterns of Development

List of Facts or Details


Reasons - Cause and Effect

Description of a Process


Transitional Elements

Some Final Considerations

21. Debra Dickerson, Raising Cain
. . . I just mean to say that children primarily meant to me that I’d always be taking care of someone, a fate too many women accept as given. When you grow up a poor black girl in a huge family you spend your life caring for the whole world. Children, I knew, meant that I’d be a human mop and short-order cook forever.

22. Tamara Lush, Living Inside a Virtual World
ln 2007, Van Cleave had three different World of Warcraft accounts (each at a cost of $14.95 a month). A secret Paypal account paid for two of the accounts so his wife wouldn't hound him about the cost. He spent $224 in real money to buy fake gold, so he could get an in-game "epic-level sword" and some "top-tier armor" for his avatar. Changes in Van Cleave's personality began to appear.

23. Dan Ariely, The Problem of Procrastination and Self-Control
As a university professor, I'm all too familiar with procrastination. At the beginnilg of ever), semester my students make heroic promises to themselves-vowing to read their assignments on time, submit their papers on time, and in general, stay on top of things. And every semester I've watched as temptation takes them out on a date, over to the student union for a meeting, and off on a ski trip in the mountains-while their workload falls farther and farther behind. In the end, they wind up impressing me, not with their punctualitv, but with their creativity-inventing stories, excuses, and family tragedies to erplain their tardiness.

24. Carlin Flora, Hello, My Name Is Unique
Increasingly, children are also named for prized possessions. In 2000, birth certificates revealed that there were 298 Armanis, 269 Chanels, 49 Canons, 6 Timberlands, 5 Jaguars and 353 girls named Lexus in the U.S.

25. Marc Ian Barasch, Why Do We Walk On By?
My panhandling skills are nil. Each rejection feels like a body blow. I can see the little comic-strip thought balloon spring from people's brows- Get a job! I work!

26. Stephanie Banchero and Stephanie Simon, My Teacher Is an App
Noah and Allison Schnacky, aspiring actors who travel frequently, initially chose Florida Virtual for its flexibility. Noah says that he likes expressing his thoughts at the keyboard, alone in his room, instead of in a crowded class. But there are downsides. After falling behind in algebra, he tried to set up a 15-minute call with his teacher. She was booked solid-for a month.

27. Jared Diamond, Easter's End
As ve try to imagine the decline of Easter [Island's] civilization, we ask ourselves, "Why didn't they look around, realize what they were doing, and stop before it was too late? What were they thinking when they cut down the last palm tree?"

Part 5 Reading About Issues

Persuasive Writing and Opinion Pieces

The Principles of Persuasive Writing

The Aims of Persuasive Writing

How to Read Persuasive Writing

Types of Claims

Kinds of Evidence

The Refutation

The Structure of an Argument

Practice Editorial

Practice Editorial: Elizabeth Royte, “A Fountain on Every Corner,” The New York Times
An entire generation of Americans has grown up thinking public faucets equal filth, and the only water fit to drink comes in plastic, factory-sealed. It’s time to change that perception . . .

28. John Stossel, The College Scam (
What do Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Mark Cuban harre in common? They're all college dropouts. Richard Branson, Simon Cowell and Peter Jennings have in common? They never went to college at all.

29. John Edgar Wideman, The Seat Not Taken, The New York Times
I'm a man of color, one of the few on the train and often the only one in the quiet car, and I've concluded that color explains a lot about my experience. Unless the car is nearly full, color will determine, even if it doesn't exactly clarify, why 9 times out of 10 people will shun a free seat if it means sitting next to me.

30. Andy Brooks and Steve Weber, "Disarming the Hooligans Among Us," San Francisco Chronicle
This new virtual stadium certainly can be a nasty place. It's no holds barred on some teams' Facebook pages, and you don't have to look hard to find videos of fan-on-fan violence on YouTube.

31. David Brooks, "lf It Feels Right. . ." The New York Times
When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn't answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.

32. Courtney E. Martin, Is the American Dream an lllusion? (
You know the story: Once upon a time there was a hardworking, courageous young man, born in a poor family, who came to America, put in blood, sweat and tears, and eventually found riches and respect. But knowing the statistics on social mobility and the everwidening gap between rich and poor, I just can't stomach this "happily ever after" scenario. It is too clean. Real life is full of messy things like racism and the wage gap and child care and nepotism.

33. Peter Turnley, The Line-Photographs from the U.S.-Mexican Border

Part 6 Reading Short Fiction

34. J. Robert Lennon, Town Life
A small town not far from here gained some small notoriety when a famous movie actress, fed up with the misanthropy and greed of Hollywood moved there with her husband, children, and many dogs and horses.

35. Yuyun Li, Souvenir
The girl looked at the old an, unconvinced by his widower's sorrow. This was not the last time she had been approached this way, older men claiming that she reminded them of their dead wives and first loves.

36. Guy de Maupassant, The Necklace
She was one of those pretty and charming girls who, as if through some blunder of fate, are born into a family of pen-pushers.

37. Jack London, To Build a Fire
Fifty degrees below zero meant eighty-odd degrees of frost. Such fact impressed him as being cold and uncomfortable, and that was all. It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature,, and upon man's frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man's place in the universe.

Part 7 Everyday Reading

Reading Newspaper and Magazine Articles (Print or online)

David Brown, Test Rat a Good Samaritan, The Washington Post

Lisa M. Krieger, Uncovering Glimpse of Young Universe, San Jose Mercury News

"Comfort Food on the Brain." Utne

Reading Warranties

Warranty Information for a Sentry Fire-Safe Box-Owner's Manual

Reading a Credit Card Insert

Chase Sapphire Visa Credit Card-ldentity Theft Protection

Reading and Comparing Package Labels-Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner vs. Annie's Macaroni & Cheese

Reading Recipes

Two Macaroni and Cheese Recipes

Reading Blogs

Interpreting Graphic Material-Pie Charts, Bar Graphs, and Line Graphs

Using e- Readers-An Overview

Reading Comprehension Progress Chart

Index of Authors and Readings

Inder of Vocabulary Preview Words

Reading Comprehension Progress Chart

About the Author

Deanne Spears

Deanne Spears is originally from Portland, Oregon. She now considers herself a native Californian, having moved to Los Angeles when freeways and smog were relatively new concepts. During her childhood and adolescence, she spent carefree summers i na small farming community in northwest Iowa. After receiving a B.A. and an M.A. in comparative literature from the University of Southern California, she began teaching composition and reading at City College of San Francisco. She continues to tutor students in reading and composition and to conduct teacher-preparation workshops for the college. In addition to her primary interests - reading and studying Italian - she and her husband David enjoy cooking, watching movies (there are over 100 titles in their Netflix queue), kayaking in Princeton Harbor, camping (especially in the Gold Lakes Basin area of Northern California), and searching out inexpensive ethnic restaurants. Deanne is the author of Improving Reading Skills (7th edition, 2013) and, with David Spears, In Tandem: College Reading and Writing (2007), also published by McGraw-Hill.

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