Critical Situation for Critical Reading

Anita Norlund has examined textbooks, interviewed teachers and taken a look at the national tests in the subject of Swedish.

“A common misconception is that critical reading is mainly about staying clear of the ‘falsities’ or about evaluating the reliability of a certain text,” she says.

But critical reading also means being able to read critically-analytically; being able to filter, compare and draw parallels, and being able to see cause and effect.

It also means being able to read critically-integrating; where the reader’s position is integrated into the viewpoints in the text, or where the viewpoints of several different texts are mutually integrated.

Finally it means being able to read critically-ideologically; questioning world views, a way of shedding light on the conditions for underprivileged groups and thereby shedding light on the conditions for students.

Anita Norlunds examination shows that critical reading is often made into something superficial, especially in teaching material for students studying vocational programmes in high school:

“It might come down to the students being given the assignment of checking what facts about their personal idol are available online, and then checking to see if those facts are true or false. I think that is a way of patronizing those students. They too are capable of analyzing texts about societal issues, just like the students on the theoretical programmes are assumed to be,” says Anita Norlund, who noticed that matters of quotation techniques and references are considered important.

“The question is whether that is the most relevant approach for issues of human interaction. True or false and publication details might be less relevant than questions like ‘whose perspective is lacking in this text?’,” she says.

The task of making the students critical readers is integrated in all school subjects, but considering that the subject of Swedish has national tests as well as objectives and grade criteria for reading, the expectations might be greatest on that subject.

Anita Norlund is originally a high school teacher and since 2007 a teacher of teaching at the University of Borås.