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English L2 Reading

English L2 Reading: Getting to the Bottom offers teachers research-based insights

into bottom-up skills in reading English as a second language and a solid founda-
tion on which to build reading instruction. Core linguistic and psycholinguistic
concepts are presented within the context of their application to teaching. The
goal is to balance or supplement (not replace) top-down approaches and method-
ologies with effective low-level options for teaching English reading.

The text’s pedagogical features engage readers of the text in moving easily from
linguistic details and psycholinguistic data and theory to practical explanations
and suggestions for teaching. Pre-reading Questions challenge them to analyze
their own experience as readers. Study Guide Questions allow readers to review,
discuss, or assess their knowledge. Discussion Questions elaborate on themes
in each chapter. Spotlight on Teaching sections offer practical information and
hands-on experience in preparing lessons or activities. Two Appendices provide
tables that list the graphemes or the phonemes of English.

Many teachers of L2 students are interested in supplementing top-down teaching

approaches to teaching reading with bottom-up reading strategies, but aren’t sure
how to do it. The third edition of this popular, comprehensive, myth-debunking
text continues to fill that gap.

Changes in the Third Edition

• Shift in focus from criticism of whole language methodologies to a more
neutral stance—times have changed and the study of lower-level reading
strategies is now mainstream
• Greater focus on linguistic form, along with function and meaning
• Updated information about reading strategies at each level of the reading
• More Spotlight on Teaching sections, one for each chapter
• New chapter on spelling development

Barbara M. Birch is Professor in the Department of Linguistics at California State

University, Fresno, USA.
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English L2 Reading

Getting to the Bottom

Third Edition

Barbara M. Birch
This edition first published 2015
by Routledge
711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017
and by Routledge
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN
Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa
© 2015 Taylor & Francis
The right of Barbara M. Birch to be identified as author of this
work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77
and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or
reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic,
mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter
invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any
information storage or retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the publishers.
Trademark notice : Product or corporate names may be
trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for
identification and explanation without intent to infringe.
First edition published 2002, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Birch, Barbara M.
English L2 reading : getting to the bottom / By Barbara M.
Birch. — 3rd Edition.
pages cm.—(ESL & applied linguistics professional series)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
I. Title.
PE1128.A2B497 2015

ISBN: 978–0–415–70628–5 (hbk)

ISBN: 978–0–415–70627–8 (pbk)
ISBN: 978–1–315–88612–1 (ebk)

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For my family
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Preface x

1 The Expert Decision-Maker 1

2 Writing Systems 17

3 Low-Level Transfer of Reading Strategies 35

4 Listening Skills in Reading 52

5 Processing Letters 73

6 The English Spelling System 91

7 Approaches to Phonics 108

8 English Morphophonemic Spelling 127

9 Spelling Development 147

10 Vocabulary Acquisition 166

11 Getting to the Bottom of English L2 Fluency 184

Appendix A: English Graphemes 197

Appendix B: English Phonemes and their Principal
Spellings 212
References 215
Index 224

This third edition of English L2 Reading is significantly different from

the first and the second editions. The content and organization of each
chapter is much the same, but the focus has been shifted away from crit-
icism of whole language methodologies and towards a more neutral
stance. When this book was first published in 2002, and even when the
second edition came out in 2006, there were still many reading teachers
and researchers who did not believe that different writing systems or
orthographies mattered very much. There were important myths about
reading and reading instruction that needed to be debunked. However,
times have changed. Now the study of lower-level reading strategies is
mainstream, and there are few teachers or researchers who still believe
that higher level cognitive strategies can make up for deficiencies in basic
language proficiency. There is a greater focus on linguistic form, along
with function and meaning. Besides these substantive stylistic changes,
more specific revisions in this edition include:

• Updated information about reading strategies at each level of the

reading process.
• Changes to the figures, study guide questions, and discussion
• More Spotlight on Teaching sections, one for each chapter.
• A new chapter on spelling development.

An ideology is more than just a theory or a practice. It is a complex body
of interrelated concepts, opinions, and assumptions about an area of
culture. Different ideologies are the foundations for different social posi-
tions. Nowhere is this truer than in education and, in education, nowhere
is this truer than in the area of reading research and methodology. One
ideology dominated second language reading for quite a while. This
ideology, usually called whole language, has many ideas and practices
P re face xi

that have stood the test of time in research and in the classroom. Many
English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language
(EFL) readers benefit greatly from this instruction, which generally takes
a top-down view of reading, because students learn to take full advantage
of their cognitive abilities to comprehend the text.
This book strongly supports the whole language ideology in general.
The materials are exciting and interesting, and the methods are inviting
and creative. In the hands of an expert teacher, students learn useful
reading and vocabulary acquisition strategies. They learn about the
importance of cultural knowledge and the characteristics of textual
discourse, such as coherence and cohesion. Students learn to enjoy and
appreciate reading and writing. But whole language on its own is incom-
plete in that it seems to deemphasize certain aspects of reading.
A complete, balanced reading ideology (a “truly whole” language
ideology) embraces all reading theories and practices. In particular, it
accommodates researchers and teachers who find that attention to the
details of language, or a “focus on form” approach, helps students learn
to read better. This book takes the position that supplementing whole
language with a bottom-up focus makes reading instruction truly holistic.
In fact, research into native English reading processes includes both the
top and the bottom of the reading process; that is, higher level cognitive
knowledge and abilities are important, but so are low-level linguistic
knowledge and abilities. The result is a more accurate and well-rounded
view of reading and how English-speaking and English-learning children
become successful readers.
In general terms, this book is intended for all ESL and EFL practi-
tioners interested in or involved in teaching reading. It is relevant to
those who are teaching illiterate people to read in English or to those
whose students already know how to read in their native language.
Taking a fairly theory-neutral information-processing perspective for
the sake of the organization and presentation of complex material, the
book is relevant to reading researchers, curriculum designers, and
materials writers. It is for teachers-in-training as well.

Chapter 1 introduces several of the organizing threads to be followed
throughout the book. In this chapter, reading is described as an inter-
active (top-down and bottom-up) process; this model is expanded in each
subsequent chapter. The reading process is also called an expert decision-
making system based on a knowledge base (world and language) and
high- and low-level processing strategies. Early developmental stages of
native English reading are discussed in this chapter that will be applied to
ESL and EFL learners in later chapters.
xii Pre f ace

Chapter 2 is a general discussion of a few of the common writing

systems in the world and their differences.
Chapter 3 begins another organizing thread for the book: that
knowledge and processing strategies develop in response to L1, that
they transfer positively and/or negatively to L2, and that strategies
optimal for reading English may not develop without direct instruction.
This point is illustrated by four sample case histories that are followed
throughout the remaining chapters: MariCarmen, a Spanish reader;
Despina, a Greek reader; Mohammed, an Arabic reader, and Ho, a
Chinese reader.
Chapter 4 is a crucial chapter in the book, because it shows that accu-
rate listening comprehension is directly related to reading; it is more
directly related than perfectly accurate pronunciation. This chapter
discusses the consonant and vowel sounds of English and presents some
of the most critical and complex concepts in linguistics: phoneme, phone,
Chapter 5 introduces the concept of the grapheme (as opposed to
“letter”) and presents charts of the English graphemes.
Chapter 6 argues that English spelling has some organizing principles
based on morphology and spelling conventions.
Chapter 7 describes several approaches to phonics instruction in
English L1 after outlining the strategies that native English-speaking
readers develop to handle English vowels, because the correspondence
between vowel graphemes and phonemes is not very predictable. Recent
research from L1 English reading shows that children go through a
number of different processing strategies until they ultimately settle on
the best strategies for English: the use of onsets and rimes and analogy to
known spelling patterns. A “smart” phonics methodology takes advan-
tage of what is known about how children learn to read.
Chapter 8 revisits the theme that English spelling is systematic by
examining typical morphological and phonological processes in English
and spelling difficulties that stem from them. English writing follows
fairly consistent morphophonemic spelling rules. There is evidence that
readers use different processing strategies to deal with morphological
information in reading L1 and L2.
Chapter 9 is a new chapter about spelling development in English-
speaking children and some of the problems specific to English learners.
Chapter 10 is an exploration of word learning and word recognition,
suggesting that readers build up an ample mental lexicon in L2 by
becoming active word learners.
Chapter 11 discusses the goal of reading instruction, automaticity and
fluency, and discusses some critical aspects about testing and instruction.
In general, this book fits within the emphasis on accuracy of form (along
with meaning and use) as an important component of communication.
P re face xiii

I acknowledge the reviewers and editors whose perceptive comments at
various stages have made this manuscript what it is today. I am very
grateful for the unfailing support I have received from Naomi Silverman
at Routledge and Eli Hinkel, Series Editor for the ESL & Applied
Linguistics series. I would like to remember Dr. David Eskey, who was
the inspiration for this book.
I am also indebted to all of my colleagues in the Department of
Linguistics at California State University-Fresno for their encouragement
and help and for providing me with the opportunity to teach Linguistics
and Reading, which was where this manuscript began over 20 years ago.
I must also thank those students of Linguistics 132 and graduate students
who read earlier versions, gave insightful feedback, and helped me pilot
materials. I am grateful to Dean Vida Samiian for some time released
from teaching so that I could rewrite this book for a third edition. Any
mistakes are still, of course, my own.
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Chapter 1

The Expert Decision-Maker

Prereading Questions
Before you read, think about and discuss the following:

1. How do people read? What happens in your mind when you are
2. Do you remember learning to read as a child? Was it a positive or
negative experience?
3. Do you enjoy reading now? Why or why not?
4. What do you have to read? What do you like to read? How are these
reading experiences different for you?
5. If you are a nonnative speaker of English, do you like to read English
as well as your native language? Why or why not?
6. What problems do you have with reading? What is the cause of the

Study Guide Questions

Answer these questions while or after reading the chapter. Try to put
your answers into your own words.

1. What are the two models that help people understand or explain the
reading process?
2. Explain the components of Figure 1.1.
3. Explain the components of Figure 1.2.
4. What are the developmental stages in reading?
5. What does Figure 1.3 represent?
6. What are the Acculturation Principle, the Phonology Principle, the
Interactive Processing Principle, and the Mapping Principle?
7. What special considerations make English reading difficult for
English as a second language (ESL) and English as a foreign language
(EFL) learners?
2 T h e E x p e rt D e c i s i o n -M a k e r

When people sit down to read something, their eyes move across and
down the page understanding the message that the text contains without
apparent effort. Such an unconscious process seems simple, but in fact,
like many of the other mental activities people habitually do, reading is
complex when examined in all its detail. It is complicated because it
involves a great deal of precise knowledge that must be learned and many
processing strategies that must be practiced until they are automatic.
This chapter deals with several introductory topics necessary to under-
stand the reading process. First, the reading process is very complex and
abstract; it is not easy to explain or understand. Researchers often use
models to compare such complex and abstract mental processes to some-
thing people understand more easily. Models are pedagogical tools or
analogies that permit explanation of some of the details of reading in a
systematic way. Models provide a coherent framework on which to
arrange the linguistic information that expert readers need to acquire and
that teachers need to know.
Second, this chapter explores the stages that English-speaking children
go through as they learn to read, and some universal principles that seem
to be involved in learning to read. This discussion is a starting point for
examining English L2 (English as a second or foreign language) reading.
English L2 readers face some special circumstances when they learn to
read English: interference from their first language, incomplete know-
ledge of English, and missing processing strategies for English.

Two Models of the Reading Process

A complex mental ability like reading can be compared to a computa-
tional flowchart that organizes and presents graphically the information
known or hypothesized about it and how that information is related
within the model. It is useful to think of reading first as a kind of infor-
mation processing system and second as a kind of expert decision making
system, because those models capture some essential characteristics of
the reading process.

The Interactive Information Processing System

The Interactive Information Processing System includes different parts
and procedures that illustrate the different skills of reading and their
interaction for successful reading. There are two basic parts to the
processing system, a knowledge storage component and a dynamic
processing component that uses strategies to cope with the text. Such a
model might look like Figure 1.1.
The reading system includes storage for cultural and linguistic know-
ledge in long-term memory. The knowledge is organized into memory
T h e Expe rt De cis ion- Mak e r 3

Processing Strategies Knowledge Base

Cognitive Processing Strategies World Knowledge

Inferencing People
Predicting Places
Problem-solving Events
Constructing meaning Activities


Language Knowledge
Language Processing Strategies
Chunking into phrases
Accessing word meaning
Identifying words
Recognizing letters

Figure 1.1. A hypothetical Interactive Information Processing Model of the

reading process with some sample processing strategies and types
of knowledge

structures like images, networks, schemas, and frames, which are

discussed in later chapters. The knowledge base is not sufficient for
reading by itself, because it cannot interact directly with the text without
processing mechanisms. The processing component consists of a variety
of strategies that the reader must intentionally learn or acquire by
practice. The strategies allow the reader to take the text as a source of
information and, drawing on the knowledge base as another source,
make sense of what is on the printed page. The processing strategies can
be consciously or unconsciously applied; that is, they can operate auto-
matically beneath the level of awareness or they can kick in selectively
because of conscious attention to something perceived.
The Top and the Bottom of the System. The processor uses cultural
and world knowledge and generalized cognitive processing strategies at
the “top” to construct a meaning for texts (sentences, paragraphs, or
stories). Using these high-level processing strategies the reader makes
predictions about what the text is going to be like, inferences about the
motivations of the characters, decisions about how certain events are
related in the reading, and the like. The bottom of the model contains
4 T h e E x p e rt D e c i s i o n -M a k e r

precise bits of knowledge about language and writing as well as mental

processing strategies that turn squiggles on the page into meaningful
In the reading system, the processing strategies work together in parallel,
that is, at the same time, with access to the knowledge base to permit
readers to construct ideas and meaning from the printed text. When people
are reading, they need both the information flowing upward from the
bottom to the top and the information flowing downward from the top to
the bottom in order to understand the meaning successfully. For example,
perception and recognition of letters leads to recognition of words, from
which people construct meanings. In the other direction, contextual infor-
mation, inferences, and world knowledge influence the processing stra-
tegies at lower levels. World knowledge can affect people’s expectations
about words and meaning, which can allow them to recognize some words
faster than others or understand some meanings faster than others (see
Aebersold & Field, 1997, Day & Bamford, 1998, Urquhart & Weir,
1998, and other recent reading theory texts for similar views).
Although researchers now know that information flows in both direc-
tions while people are reading, there is still some debate among teachers
and teacher-trainers about which is the most important for successful
reading. Some emphasize the top-down flow of information, sometimes
to the neglect of the bottom levels of processing. This point of view is
generally associated with an approach called whole language instruction.
Others place more importance on bottom-up flow of information to the
detriment of comprehension of meaning and world knowledge. This is
most often called the phonics approach to reading.
A Balanced Approach. In this book, a balanced or integrated approach
is adopted because neither direction of information flow is more impor-
tant than the other. Successful readers must be adept at both bottom-up
and top-down processing. Instead of focusing on bottom-up processing
to the exclusion of top-down or vice versa, an approach that emphasizes
the interactive nature of reading is chosen. Indeed, reading is interactive
in three ways:

• The different processing strategies, both top and bottom, along with
the knowledge base, interact with each other to accomplish the reading.
• Readers’ minds interact with the written text so that they can under-
stand the message.
• Readers interact indirectly with the writer of the text across time and
space because it is the writer who is communicating information to
readers, but readers must grasp the information from the writer.

After describing an interactive approach to reading much like this one,

Eskey (1988: 97) advocated an approach to English L2 reading that
T h e Expe rt De cis ion- Mak e r 5

balances top-down whole language methods with bottom-up phonics


In practical terms, my concern is thus to keep the language in the

teaching of second language reading. That may not sound very contro-
versial, but I think that in promoting higher-level strategies – like
predicting from context or the use of schemata and other kinds of
background knowledge – some researchers have been sending a
message to teachers that the teaching of reading to second language
readers is mostly just a matter of providing them with the right back-
ground knowledge for any texts they must read, and encouraging them
to make full use of that knowledge in decoding those texts. Though
that is certainly important, it is also, I think, potentially misleading as
a total approach . . . We must not, I believe, lose sight of the fact that
language is a major problem in second language reading, and that even
educated guessing at meaning is not a substitute for accurate decoding.

In the decades since 1988, the importance of a balanced approach to

reading instruction in the English L2 classroom has been confirmed.
Beginning readers need maximum support for higher level processing to
supplement deficiencies at the lower level with language but they also
need to improve their abilities with language details and low-level stra-
tegies for automatic reading. For this reason, this book focuses on the
bottom part of the reading model as an information processor such as
that pictured in Figure 1.2.
Bottom-Level Strategies. Phonological strategies allow people to recog-
nize the sounds of their language as they hear speech. Phonological infor-
mation is also used in processing words during reading in many languages
and in word recognition strategies, especially in languages which use an
alphabet for writing. Orthographic strategies permit readers to recognize
letter shapes of a writing system (often called decoding), and match them
with the sounds of a language, forming a visual/auditory image of a word
(often called recoding) in the mind.
Lexical strategies are the processing strategies used to identify and
recognize words and access word meaning. For frequent words, it is
possible that people use a decoded visual image with a direct connection
to meaning. For less frequent words people may use a recoded visual/
auditory image to recognize the word through sound first and then access
the meaning secondarily. Lexical strategies also help readers deal with
unknown words. Syntactic strategies allow readers to unconsciously
arrange the recognized words accurately and quickly into phrases and
sentences, so that the meaning can be constructed at the top of the reading
process. The different strategies each do their own specialized work in
coordination with the others so that people can read successfully. Each of
6 T h e E x p e rt D e c i s i o n -M a k e r

Cognitive World
Processing Strategies Knowledge Base

Phrases and
Syntactic Processing

Words and
Text Lexical Processing
Word Meanings

Letters and
Orthographic Processing

Phonological Processing Sounds

Language Processing Knowledge Base

Strategies for Language

Figure 1.2. A hypothetical model of the bottom of the reading processor,

showing how processing strategies mediate between language
knowledge and the text to create a basic understanding of the

these sections of the reading system (except for syntactic strategies, which
are omitted from this treatment due to space limitations) is discussed in
detail in later chapters.

The Expert Decision Making System

Building on the interactive information processor discussed earlier, I
suggest a second model, that of reading as an expert decision-making
T h e Expe rt De cis ion- Mak e r 7

system. Generally speaking, an expert system is an artificial intelligence

application that takes information processing one step further to emulate
the abilities of a human expert (Medsker and Liebowitz, 1994). An expert
system is a computer program that uses both symbolic processing stra-
tegies and a large number of facts and several hundred rules (or heuris-
tics) stored in the knowledge base to make quick decisions about
something that is perceived. Heuristics are rules of thumb learned either
directly (i.e., through instruction) or indirectly (i.e., through experience)
that guide the expert decision maker to its decisions. Expert systems are
appropriate when there is consensus on the proper solution or decision,
when decisions sometimes need to be based on incomplete or uncertain
information, and when incorrect or nonoptimal results can be tolerated.
In other words, in reading, decoding/recoding is the processing of
written symbols with strategies based on facts, patterns, and heuristics.
There is consensus about the proper outcome in low-level processing
because people agree (barring dialect differences) on the relationship
between the written symbols and what they represent: letters and sounds,
sequences of letters and sequences of sounds, written words and spoken
words, and so on. In higher level processing of texts, there is also general
consensus on what specific passages are supposed to mean, but they can
be subject to individual interpretation at times. For example, in poetry,
readers may agree that certain words have a particular meaning or they
may think that the words are being used in an individual way. The overall
meaning of the poem may be accepted by many, but individual readers
may also find different meanings.
In addition, in reading, incorrect outcomes, like misread letters or
misinterpreted words, can be tolerated in specific tasks because there is
quite a bit of redundancy in texts. Words and meanings are repeated
several times, so readers have several chances to correct an incorrect
outcome. Also, in reading, readers’ eyes can travel backward on the page,
going back to check earlier outcomes if they detect conflicting informa-
tion. The information that readers have is often incomplete or uncertain;
certainly this is true in reading a stranger’s handwriting, but it is also true
in reading anything that might have errors, incompleteness, or ambigu-
ities. Thus, an expert reading system is a highly sophisticated “mental
computer” that allows good readers to make split-second decisions about
what they are reading in such an effortless and unconscious way that they
don’t even realize they are doing anything special.
The model of the reader as an expert decision maker is a fine-tuning of
the information-processing model. Good readers effectively use their
high- and low-level knowledge and processing strategies to assign
meaning to letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, and so on by making
informed decisions at strategic points. How does an English reader
become an expert decision maker?
8 T h e E x p e rt D e c i s i o n -M a k e r

The Development of Low- level Reading

The interactive information-processing system and the expert decision-
making system both suggest that there are important bits of linguistic
knowledge and different strategies that must be developed over time in
order for a reader to become expert at reading a writing system. Learning
to read is dynamic; the knowledge is learned and restructured, and the
processing strategies change as the reader advances. Booth and Burman
(2005) report experiments that show that as English-speaking children
become better and better readers, they rely less on a meaning-based
top-down strategy to recognize words and more on the interaction of
orthography and phonology.

The Big Picture: Stages in English L1 Reading

Chall (1983) is a useful and classic description of the five general develop-
mental steps in learning to read English.
Stage 0. Chall’s first stage of reading is numbered 0 because it is actu-
ally a pre-reading stage. It describes the optimal prereaders who can
name and recognize the letters of the alphabet and write their own names.
They can hold a book right side up and pretend to read it by remem-
bering the words and looking at the pictures. They use clues in the
pictures to guess what the story is. If prereaders pretend to read a book
without knowing how to read, they are relying on top-level abilities to
get the information from the book: memory, guessing from context, and
knowledge of the world. For this reason, Chall suggests that optimal
prereaders seem to be using a top-down reading style.
Stage 1. This is the beginning of reading, when readers begin to learn
to decode/recode the written marks on the page and associate them with
sounds, syllables, and words. Stage 1 readers learn the alphabetic prin-
ciple: that the letters on the page “mean” the sounds of the language.
They become preoccupied with learning the lower level skills of ortho-
graphic and phonological processing, and this preoccupation is seen in
beginning readers’ preference for reading out loud. They are linking the
written symbols (letters) with the spoken symbols (sounds), and this
linkage must become automatic in order for fluent silent reading to
develop. As orthographic and phonological processing strategies become
more automatic, they do not become less important, but they do become
less perceptible. The strategies become so inaccessible to perception that
readers don’t realize what they are doing while they are reading.
Stage 2. In this stage, successful readers’ abilities to decode and recode
the written medium improve substantially. Automatic, fluent, and mainly
unconscious bottom-up processing gives these readers the needed time
T h e Expe rt De cis ion- Mak e r 9

and attention to do more and better top-down processing of the written

material, using context and world knowledge to make inferences about
the reading material and to improve comprehension. Researchers are
beginning to understand how this automaticity and fluency is achieved in
successful readers, and this is a topic for later chapters.
In Stage 2, however, some readers begin to lose momentum; they must
be motivated to read extensively and abundantly with texts at their inde-
pendent reading level. If for some reason this does not take place (because
they are forced to read texts that are too difficult or unmotivating or
because there are other social obstacles), readers often cease to improve
their reading skill because they stop practicing. At this stage and the next,
top-down comprehension processes can supplement deficient bottom-up
decoding/recoding processes, but readers who cannot process English
text automatically will face a handicap if they need to do rapid extensive
reading. A vicious cycle can develop. Poor readers avoid reading, and
lack of reading practice means they do not improve.
Stages 3, 4 and 5. During stage 3, reading joins other learning methods:
tasting, touching, listening, and watching. Readers begin to be able to use
reading as a tool to acquire knowledge. Stage 3 readers are occupied with
learning new vocabulary that encodes the information they are learning,
so it is vital that reading material at this stage begins with the knowledge
that learners have already acquired to establish a supportive framework
for further learning. Vocabulary enrichment strategies are important for
the reader at this stage. Top-down processing becomes especially impor-
tant because readers must learn to look for facts, concepts, and points of
view. Readers begin to use critical analysis while reading, but this ability
becomes even more crucial in stages 4 and 5, when reading becomes the
primary method of learning in school. Stage 4 reading takes place in high
school and stage 5 reading develops in those readers who go to college.
These advanced readers must read ever more complex academic texts
and they must comprehend subtle nuances of meaning. They must be
skillful at analysis, criticism, synthesis, and detecting secondary mean-
ings. Throughout their lives people continue to improve their abilities to
read as long as they read challenging and thought-provoking materials.

Zooming in on Stages 0 and 1: The Lexical

Restructuring Hypothesis
Recent research permits a more detailed view of what goes on in Chall’s
stages 0 and 1. Crucially, during these stages, children develop phono-
logical awareness and orthographic knowledge which are the basis for
alphabetic writing. In the Lexical Restructuring Hypothesis, the driving
force behind phonological awareness in children is the growth of chil-
dren’s spoken (pre-reading) vocabularies (Metsala & Walley, 2003). As