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The Reading Process

The reading process involves readers looking at print, decoding the marks, and deciding
what the marks mean. In addition, readers are also thinking about what they are reading,
what it means to them, how it relates to other things they have read, to things they know, and
to what they expect to come next in the text. Evidently, many different things can be going on
when a reader reads: the process is likely to be dynamic, variable, and different for the same
reader on the same text at a different time or with different purpose in reading. And it is even
more likely that the process will be different for different readers on different texts at different
times and with different purposes.
The reading communication process involves the transmission of ideas, thoughts and
feelings from the writer to the reader. The process which starts with the message a writer
intends to convey is also referred to as encoding. The written message must be used to
reconstruct the writers thoughts and the success of this effort depends on the readers
ability to decode the message. !nfortunately, there are many factors that might hinder the
reader from getting the right message from the text. A text that seems easy to one reader
may seem difficult to another.
Encoder Encoding $ecoding
(riter )E""A*E (%ITTE# )E""A*E+
The communication process
The Reading Event
(hat makes a text difficult+ It is important that the writer and the reader should have certain
things in common if communication is to be effective. The most important thing about
reading is comprehension. %esearchers and practitioners agree that comprehension is the
ultimate goal of reading and that instruction should be designed to engage students more
deeply in the process of making meaning -&ollins./lock, 0 1ressley, 23324 5eene 0
6immermann, 78894 %oe, "toodt.:ill, 0 /urns, 233;<. %eading comprehension involves
ac=uiring meaning from written text which covers a range of materials from traditional books
to the computer screen.
(e change our reading strategies -processes< depending on why we are reading. If we are
reading an instruction manual, we usually read one step at a time and then try to do
whatever the instructions tell us. If we are reading a novel, we tend not to read for
informative details. If we read a biology or chemistry textbook, we read for understanding
both of concepts and details4 particularly if we expected to be tested over our
comprehension of the material. >ur goals for reading will affect the way we read a text. #ot
only do we read for the intended message, but we also construct a meaning that is valuable
in terms of our purpose for reading the text. (e interact with the print and are involved in
making sense of the text, extracting and constructing meaning through interaction and
involvement with written language.
There are multiple aspects of the reading event that affect on a readers reading
performance. (alker -233?< identifies five variables which contribute to the effectiveness of
a reading event. %eading difficulties can arise from interactions among the task, text, reader,
techni=ue, and the situational context. %eading difficulty is not a deficit in a reader but rather
results from interactions that occur among all variables in the reading event. The variables
do not act in isolation but affect one another. As shown in @igure 7, these five variables
influence reading performance and continuously interact.

-what is done< -what is read<
-where instruction occurs<
TE&:#IB!E %EA$E%
-how instruction occurs< -who is reading<
@igure 7 'ariables influencing reading performance
The Cognitive View of Reading
In understanding reading, it is important to understand how children learn and how language
develops. %eading theories have had their transitions and can be categoriCed into two broad
areas: behaviorism and cognitivism -*unning, 2373<. /ehaviorism places importance on
observable responses to stimuli. In this approach, learning consists of the ac=uisition of new
behaviors. /ehavioral instructional methods for reading centered on reducing tasks to
smaller components, and repeated drills. In addition, immediate feedback to errors and
reinforcement for correct responses is important.
According to $ole et al. -7887<, in the traditional view of reading, novice readers ac=uire a
set of hierarchically ordered sub.skills that se=uentially build toward comprehension ability.
%eaders are passive recipients of information in the text. According to #unan -7887<, reading
in this view is basically a matter of decoding a series of written symbols into their aural
e=uivalents in the =uest for making sense of the text. :e referred to this process as the
'bottom-upD view of reading. This approach to reading has almost always been under attack
as being insufficient and defective because it relies on the formal features of the language,
mainly words and structure. :owever, the knowledge of linguistic features is also necessary
for comprehension to take place.
To counteract on form in the traditional view of reading, the cognitive view was
introduced. The focus was in the inner workings of the mind. The cognitive view reading as a
process in which readers sample the text, make hypotheses, confirm or reEect them, make
new hypotheses, and so forth. :ere, the reader rather than the text is at the heart of the
reading process. The schema theory of reading also fits within the cognitively based view of
reading. %umelhart -7899< has described schemata as "building blocks of cognition".
Top Down and Bottom-Up Approaches to Reading
/oth these processes are complementary ways of processing a text. >n one end of the
continuum are those who espouse a sub.skills, or bottom.up approach while on the other
end, are those who advocate a holistic, or top.down approach. In top.down processing,
readers draw on their personal intelligence, experience, and the schemata they have
ac=uired to understand a text. In bottom.up processing, readers build up meaning from
recogniCing letters and words, working out sentence structure -#uttal, 233F<.
Features of Bottom-Up Approach
The reader needs to:
identify letter features
link these features to recogniCe letters
combine letters to recogniCe spelling patterns
link spelling patterns to recogniCe words, and
then proceed to sentence, paragraph and text.level processing.
Features of Top-Down Approach
The reader needs to:
comprehend a selection even though they do not recogniCe each word.
use meaning and grammatical cues to identify unrecogniCed words.
read for meaning is the primary obEective of reading rather than mastery of letters,
letterGsound relationships, and words.
re=uire the use of meaning activities rather than the mastery of a series of word.
recognition skills.
make the focus of instruction to reading of sentences, paragraphs, and whole
focus on the most important aspect about reading is the amount and kind of
information gained through reading.
In reality, a reader continually shifts from one focus to another, sometimes adopting top.
down processing and then moving to bottom.up processing. This has become known as
the interactionist -interactive< approach. The approach to teaching reading that is accepted
as the most comprehensive description of the reading process is an interactive approach.
This combines elements of both bottom.up -fundamental basics of letter and sound
recognition< and top.down -comprehension is achieved by using background knowledge
and making predictions< approaches. The best readers in any language are those who
combine elements of both. @or example, most readers begin reading by using top.down
reading strategies until there is a problem, and then they shift to bottom.up strategies. An
interactive reading model is a reading model that recogniCes the interaction of bottom.up
and top.down processes simultaneously throughout the reading process. )ost teachers
are more pragmatic and borrow practices from both ends of the continuum -*unning,
The Three Dimensions of Reading
The reading comprehension process includes three dimensions: the reader, the text, and the
activity -"weet and "now, 2332<. These three dimensions are interrelated in dynamic ways
that vary across pre reading, during reading and post reading stages. The process of
comprehension also changes over time with experience and instruction.
%eading is an active, constructive, meaning.making process. %eaders construct a meaning
they can create from a text, so that what a text means can differ from reader to reader.
%eaders construct meaning based not only on the visual cues in the text but also based on
non.visual information such as their prior knowledge, their experience with reading as an
activity, and, especially, what they know about reading different kinds of writing. This kind of
non.visual information that readers bring with them before they even encounter the text is far
more potent than the actual words on the page.
To comprehend, a reader must have a wide range of capacities and abilities. These include
cognitive capacities -e.g. attention, memory, critical analytic ability, inferencing, visualiCation
ability<, motivation and various types of knowledge -e.g. vocabulary, topic knowledge,
linguistic and discourse knowledge, knowledge of specific comprehension strategies<.
The features of a text have a significant impact on comprehension. &omprehension does not
occur by simply extracting meaning from text. $uring reading, the reader constructs different
representation of the text. These representations include the surface code or the exact
wording and the text base or idea units representing the meaning. (hether a text is easy or
difficult depends on the following factors:
the content presented in the text4
readers knowledge4
abilities of the reader4 and
activities in which the reader is engaged.
Reading Activit!
%eading is done for a purpose to accomplish a particular task. A reading activity involves one
or more purpose, some operations to process the text, and the conse=uences of performing
the activity. 1rior to reading, a reader has a purpose. $uring reading, the reader processes
the text with regard to the purpose. @inally, the conse=uences of reading are part of the
activity. 5nowledge, application and engagement can be viewed as direct conse=uences of
the reading activity.
Characteristics of "ood Readers
The act of reading is designed to increase our knowledge, open up new ways of thinking,
and achieve new levels of understanding. The key to good reading is understanding. (hen
skilled readers have difficulty comprehending what they are reading, they develop specific
ways to understand what they are reading. (hat are the characteristics of good readers and
what strategies do they use when they comprehend a text+
Table 7 &haracteristics and strategies of good readers
Characteristics of "ood
#trategies of "ood Readers
:ave clear goals in mind for their reading and evaluate
whether the text, and their reading of it, is meeting their
Aook over the text before they read, noting things like the
structure of the text and text sections that might be most
relevant to their reading goals
)ake predictions about what is to come
%ead selectively, making decisions such as what to read
=uickly, what not to read, what to reread
&onstruct, revise, and =uestion
Try to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words and
$raw from, compare, and integrate their prior
knowledge with material in the text
Think about the author of the text such as their style,
beliefs, and intentions
)onitor their understanding of the text
Evaluate the texts =uality and value, and react to the
text intellectually and emotionally
%ead different kinds of text differently
Attend closely to the setting and characters when
reading narrative text
@re=uently construct and revise summaries of what
they have read when reading expository text
Think about text before, during, and after reading
"killed readers face difficulty when comprehending a reading selection, they often become
strategic in the way they approach the challenging and difficult text. They develop strategies
that they put into practice to understand what they are reading. As $uke and 1earson -2332<
explain, we know a great deal about what good readers do when they read: H%eading
comprehension research has a long and rich historyImuch work on the process of reading
comprehension has been grounded in studies of good readers -p.23F<. Table 7 identifies
what good readers do when they engage in the process of comprehending a text.
$%PR&V$'" READ$'" C&%PRE(E'#$&' $'#TRUCT$&'
As teachers, not only must we be good readers, we must also be aware of how to provide
effective comprehension instruction to our students. @or some students, good reading
comprehension comes easily. @or others, it is a difficult and often confusing challenge.
Teaching students to develop the ability to be good comprehenders is also a challenging
task because reading is such a complex process. In order to increase comprehension,
teachers must develop motivational context for reading, provide interesting and appropriate
texts, and teach research.based comprehension strategies -&ollins./lock, *ambrell, 0
1ressley, 2332<.
)otivation to read plays a crucial role in the development of comprehension skills. An
important goal of reading instruction is to foster an intrinsic desire to read. "tudents will be
more motivated and engaged in reading when teachers use interesting and appropriate text.
To be effective comprehenders, students must possess both the skill and the will to read.
This is because as students read more, they read better and learn more about the world.
This will result in better comprehension, which then leads to better academic achievement.
%esearchers have identified many strategies that teachers can teach students in order to
increase understanding and memory of texts. There is a repertoire of comprehension
strategies that can be applied at critical points during the reading process. 1roviding
comprehension strategy instruction empowers readers to independently increase their
understanding of text. The %eport of the #ational %eading 1anel -2333< and the %A#$
%eport on %eading &omprehension -2332< drew several conclusions about effective
comprehension instruction which includes the following:
Instruction can be effective in helping students develop a repertoire of strategies that
promotes and fosters comprehension.
"trategy instruction, when integrated into subEect matter learning, improves students
comprehension of text.
"truggling readers benefit from explicit instruction in the use of strategies.
'ocabulary knowledge is strongly related to text comprehension and is especially
important in teaching English learners.
Effective comprehension strategies include =uestion generation, =uestion answering
routines, comprehension monitoring, cooperative learning, summariCing, visual
displays known as graphic organiCers, and knowledge of different text structures.
"tudents benefit from exposure to different types or genres of texts -e.g.
informational and narrative texts<.
Teachers who provide choices, challenging tasks, and collaborative learning
experiences increase students motivation to read and comprehend texts.