How to Follow a Reading Passage

howtofollowareadingpassagecorn

Basics
When you are asked to follow a reading passage, you must be ready to follow the signs of reading comprehension.

You will be asked the three key questions of reading comprehension: main idea, detail, and inference (including context).


Passage
The Dawn of J. Alfred Drydock
– Scott Solomon
– fiction

1  In my early days, when I was first and shortest, I was supposed to have an advantage.  But even though I gave my best little-lost-lamb look, the Wall Street Women’s Auxiliary walked on by.  Some women whispered, “What a shame for a white child.”  They only lingered by boys up the line.

2  After the lineup, Father Cask offered the Auxiliary an array of refreshments.  “Just coffee,” said the ladies, “and let the boys have the doughnuts,” thinking we were starving (false) or they weren’t (true).

3  I sort of sniffled when they left, and Father, a stocky man with graying temples who looked good in black, took me aside.

4  “I’m sorry, J. Alfred.  Most people, even in these ‘enlightened’ ’60s, prefer to adopt white children, particularly babies, but you were jaundiced when you were found.”

5  “What does that mean?” I said.

6  “Your skin was yellow.”

7  “Is that what the Wall Street Women meant when they called me s-s?”

8  “Sallow.  With some, it lingers.”

9  “What can I do about it, Father?”

10  “I’m not sure.  However, I’m sure faith will show you the way.”

11  On my way through seven, L. Huxley Greasetrap, a hefty white nine-year-old who somehow slipped through the cracks, gave added recognition to my sallowness.

12  “Hey, chink,” he hailed, “got any fortune cookies?”

13  L. Huxley and his buddies thought this was hilarious, and most of the boys in St. Anthony’s took to calling me chink.  But not all.  Not the real Chinese.  Their eyes fixed as I turned the other cheek.

14  “Father?”

15  “Yes, J. Alfred?”

16  “Could you show me your gym?”

17  He lit up as if he’d been promoted to Boys Town.  “Why, yes.  Yes, indeed!”

18  We walked down a long hall usually avoided for fear of nuns and secretaries until we came to a small door.  Father turned the key and hit the switch and there it was: a closet.
In fairness, it was a closet slightly bigger than a closet with room for a bench, a bar, dumbbells, and nary a windowpane.

19  I could see why the others made fun of Father’s gym and opted for the one with a basketball court.

20  “Thank you, Cousin Alfreda,” said Father.

21  “She donated this?” I said.  “I thought all your cousins were boys.”

22  Father contended our Christian names combined with our surnames made for a marriage not made in heaven meant to make us tough, as well as memorable, outside the womb of St. Anthony’s in the real world.  I was christened J after Father’s skill at jacks, Alfred for his cousin, and Drydock for where I was found.  A Hispanic boy earned the title R. Nigel Stoop for the color of Christ’s blood, Father’s cousin, and nothing to do with conquest.  A black kid dubbed F. Winston Dumpster commemorated family, Father’s cousin, and the obvious.

23  “Would you rather be named J. Alfreda?”

24  “No.”  I scratched my head.  “What do I do?”

25  As a kindness to elementary readers, the proffered pamphlet provided illustrations.

26  “Thank you, Father,” I mumbled.

27  “You’re welcome.”  He shook my hand (the closest his person ever came) before leaving and shutting the door behind him.

28  I sat on the bench.  Who was behind me?  How was I to begin?  With faith?

29  That’s how I began.


Question
What is the main idea of this passage?
A.  The sixties represented a decade of turmoil.
B.  Father Cask has all the answers.
C.  A young boy named J. Alfred Drydock is introduced.
D.  J. Alfred Drydock is not Caucasian.

Answer
C.  A young boy named J. Alfred Drydock is introduced.

Answer Process
What kind of question is this?
Main Idea

Where can the answer to a Main Idea question be found?
The main idea is often found in the title and early paragraphs of a passage.  The main idea also weaves its way throughout a passage.  The main idea might be repeated for emphasis in the last paragraph of a passage.

Where, in this case, is the answer found?
The title and early paragraphs (1 through 4) serve to introduce a character, a young boy named J. Alfred Drydock.  This characterization weaves its way throughout the passage, giving J. Alfred Drydock’s age as seven in Paragraph 11.  The character’s youth is reemphasized in the last paragraph of the passage with the statement, “That’s how I began.”


Question

Father Cask’s gym is described by which of the following?
A.  a basketball court
B.  slightly bigger than a closet
C.  a large room
D.  multi-windowed

Answer
B.  slightly bigger than a closet

Answer Process
What kind of question is this?
Detail

Where can the answer to a Detail question be found?
A detail question is usually asked without using the term “detail.”  Specific words are brought up instead.  Details can be found anywhere in a passage.

Where, in this case, is the answer found?
Paragraph 18 specifically states the space that has been designated as Father Cask’s gym is “slightly bigger than a closet.”


Question
Which of the following, from earliest at the top to latest at the bottom, is the correct order of events?
A.
• I sort of sniffled.
• Lineup.
• “Hey, chink,” he hailed, “got any fortune cookies?”
• That’s how I began.

B.
• That’s how I began.
• “Hey, chink,” he hailed, “got any fortune cookies?”
• I sort of sniffled.
• Lineup.

C.
• Lineup.
• “Hey, chink,” he hailed, “got any fortune cookies?”
• I sort of sniffled.
• That’s how I began.

D.
• Lineup.
• I sort of sniffled.
• “Hey, chink,” he hailed, “got any fortune cookies?”
• That’s how I began.

Answer
D.
• Lineup.
• I sort of sniffled.
• “Hey, chink,” he hailed, “got any fortune cookies?”
• That’s how I began.

Answer Process
What kind of question is this?
Detail

Where can the answer to a Detail question be found?
A detail question is usually asked without using the term “detail.”  Specific words are brought up instead.  Details can be found anywhere in a passage.

Where, in this case, is the answer found?
Paragraph 2:  Lineup.
Paragraph 3:  I sort of sniffled.
Paragraph 12:  “Hey, chink,” he hailed, “got any fortune cookies?”
Paragraph 29:  That’s how I began.


Question
Which of the following can you infer from this passage?
A.  J. Alfred Drydock knows the identity of his parents.
B.  J. Alfred Drydock lives in an orphanage.
C.  J. Alfred Drydock feels sorry for himself.
D.  J. Alfred Drydock is named after his parents.

Answer
B.  J. Alfred Drydock lives in an orphanage.

Answer Process
What kind of question is this?
Inference

Where can the answer to an Inference question be found?
An inference question requires you to form a reasonable opinion from some or all of the passage.

Where, in this case, is the answer found?
Paragraph 4 uses the word “adopt” as J. Alfred Drydock discusses his situation with Father Cask.  Paragraph 22 mentions how J. Alfred’s surname, Drydock, came from where he was “found.”  By the time paragraph 29 is reached, it is clear that J. Alfred Drydock began life as he knew it residing in an orphanage called St. Anthony’s.


Question

What does the word sallow mean in Paragraph 8?
A.  ruddy
B.  pimply
C.  rosy
D.  yellow

Answer
D.  yellow

Answer Process
What kind of question is this?
Context

Where can the answer to a context question be found?
When you are unfamiliar with a word, its meaning can be inferred from its context—the way it is used—in a passage.  Clues to meaning include synonyms, antonyms, definitions, and substitutions.

Where, in this case, is the answer found?
Paragraphs 6 – 8 define sallow as meaning yellow.


Question
Which of the following are character traits of J. Alfred Drydock?
A.  Yellowish.  Inquisitive.  Plucky.
B.  Hopeless.  Helpless.  Yellowish.
C.  Inquisitive.  Helpless.  Hopeless.
D.  Yellowish.  Plucky.  Hopeless.

Answer
A.  Inquisitive.  Yellowish.  Plucky.

Answer Process
What kind of question is this?
Inference

Where can the answer to an Inference question be found?
An inference question requires you to form a reasonable opinion from some or all of the passage.  In this case, you are being asked to infer the traits of a character.

Where, in this case, is the answer found?
This answer requires a general understanding of the entire passage.  J. Alfred Drydock is sallow in color (yellowish), asks a lot of questions (inquisitive), and shows courage (plucky).


Question

How old is L. Huxley Greasetrap?
A.  seven
B.  eight
C.  nine
D.  ten

Answer
C.  nine

Answer Process
What kind of question is this?
Detail

Where can the answer to a Detail question be found?
A detail question is usually asked without using the term “detail.”  Specific words are brought up instead.  Details can be found anywhere in a passage.

Where, in this case, is the answer found?
Paragraph 11 specifically states that L. Huxley Greasetrap is nine years old.


Question

This passage implies which of the following?
A.  Faith is an absolute.
B.  Faith is part of the Bible.
C.  Faith is open to interpretation.
D.  Faith is the same as coffee and doughnuts.

Answer
C.  Faith is open to interpretation.

Answer Process
What kind of question is this?
Inference

Where can the answer to an Inference question be found?
An inference question requires you to form a reasonable opinion from some or all of the passage.

An inference question can be asked without using the term “infer”:
• What is this passage suggesting?
• What is the author implying?
• In your judgment, what is being said?

Where, in this case, is the answer found?
In Paragraph 10, Father Cask indicates that he believes in faith.  In Paragraph 28, however, J. Alfred Drydock wonders about the value of faith.  By creating this contrast, the passage leaves faith open to interpretation.


Question

What does the word proffered mean in Paragraph 25?
A.  offered
B.  metallic
C.  concealed
D.  flimsy

Answer
A.  offered

Answer Process
What kind of question is this?
Context

Where can the answer to a context question be found?
When you are unfamiliar with a word, its meaning can be inferred from its context—the way it is used—in a passage.  Clues to meaning include synonyms, antonyms, definitions, and substitutions.

Where, in this case, is the answer found?
Offered is the only word that works as a substitute for proffered in Paragraph 25.


Question
Which of the following shows the correct point of view?
A.
J. Alfred Drydock’s Point of View
• “She donated this?”
• “Would you rather be named J. Alfreda?”
Father Cask’s Point of View
• “I’m sure faith will show you the way.”
• How was I to begin.  With faith?

B.
J. Alfred Drydock’s Point of View
• “She donated this?”
• How was I to begin.  With faith?
Father Cask’s Point of View
• “I’m sure faith will show you the way.”
• “Would you rather be named J. Alfreda?”

C.
J. Alfred Drydock’s Point of View
• “I’m sure faith will show you the way.”
• “Would you rather be named J. Alfreda?”
Father Cask’s Point of View
• “She donated this?”
• How was I to begin.  With faith?

D.
J. Alfred Drydock’s Point of View
• “She donated this?”
•”I’m sure faith will show you the way.”
Father Cask’s Point of View
• How was I to begin.  With faith?
• “Would you rather be named J. Alfreda?”

Answer
B.
J. Alfred Drydock
• “She donated this?”
• How was I to begin.  With faith?
Father Cask
• “I’m sure faith will show you the way.”
• “Would you rather be named J. Alfreda?”

Answer Process
What kind of question is this?
Detail

Where can the answer to a Detail question be found?
A detail question is usually asked without using the term “detail.”  Specific words are brought up instead.  Details can be found anywhere in a passage.

Where, in this case, is the answer found?
J. Alfred Drydock’s Point of View
Paragraph 21:  “She donated this?”
Paragraph 28:  How was I to begin.  With faith?

Father Cask’s Point of View
Paragraph 10:  “I’m sure faith will show you the way.”
Paragraph 23:  “Would you rather be named J. Alfreda?”

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