Some anthologies do not present the readings in units, but simply as individual works. This approach is fine, but the readings still benefit from brief introductions. These introductions can be confined to a single paragraph per reading, although it’s fine to write more if the author–editor wishes to do so.
What Goes into an Introduction to an Individual Reading?
The introduction should answer the following questions:
- What is the reading about? This can be summarized in a sentence or two. It’s just important to briefly, concisely describe the topic of the reading without giving away its perspective. Students benefit from knowing what they will read about. However, they should discover the perspective, approach, information, opinion, etc., of the reading for themselves.
- Why was this reading chosen?
- What, if any, information about the author of the original reading does the student need to know to better understand the reading?
Of course, there is always some flexibility here.
- Some author–editors write both unit introductions and introductions to each individual reading.
- Some author–editors have other information they want to include in their unit or reading introductions.
- Some author–editors feel it is important to provide detailed information about the author of the original piece or the time period in which it was written, to help students understand historical, cultural, social, or political perspectives.
The main thing to remember is that all introductions, whether for units or for individual readings, help provide context. This context enhances the reading experience and supports better comprehension.
These original pieces of writing also make the anthology more attractive to potential adopters, creating a win-win-win situation.