Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning. It is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas. It is a complex interaction between the text and the reader which is shaped by the reader’s prior knowledge, experiences, attitude, and language community which is culturally and socially situated. The reading process requires continuous practice, development, and refinement. In addition, reading requires creativity and critical analysis. Consumers of literature make ventures with each piece, innately deviating from literal words to create images that make sense to them in the unfamiliar places the texts describe. Because reading is such a complex process, it cannot be controlled or restricted to one or two interpretations. There are no concrete laws in reading, but rather allows readers an escape to produce their own products introspectively. This promotes deep exploration of texts during interpretation. Readers use a variety of reading strategies to assist with decoding (to translate symbols into sounds or visual representations of speech) and comprehension.
Readers may use context clues to identify the meaning of unknown words. Readers integrate the words they have read into their existing framework of knowledge or schema.
Reading is an activity with a purpose. A person may read in order to gain information or verify existing knowledge, or in order to critique a writer's ideas or writing style. A person may also read for enjoyment, or to enhance knowledge of the language being read. The purpose for reading guide is the reader's selection of texts.
Reading research shows that good readers
- Read extensively
- Integrate information in the text with existing knowledge
- Have a flexible reading style, depending on what they are reading
- Are motivated
- Rely on different skills interacting: perceptual processing, phonemic processing, recall.
Reading is an interactive process that goes on between the reader and the text resulting in comprehension. The text presents letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs that encode meaning. The reader uses knowledge, skills, and strategies to determine what that meaning is.
Reader knowledge, skills, and strategies include:
Linguistic competence: the ability to recognize the elements of the writing system; knowledge of vocabulary; knowledge of how words are structured into sentences.
Discourse competence: knowledge of discourse markers and how they connect parts of the text to one another.
Sociolinguistic competence: knowledge about different types of texts and their usual structure and content.
Strategic competence: the ability to use top-down strategies.
The purpose for reading and the type of text determine the specific knowledge, skills, and strategies that readers need to apply to achieve comprehension. Reading comprehension is much more than decoding. Reading comprehension results when the reader knows which skills and strategies are appropriate for the type of text, and understands how to apply them to accomplish the reading purpose.
Effective reading is essential for success in acquiring a second language. After all, reading is the basis of instruction in all aspects of language learning: using textbooks for language courses, writing, revising, developing vocabulary, acquiring grammar, editing, and using computer-assisted language learning programs. Reading instruction, therefore, is an essential component of every second-language curriculum. Moreover, reading should be given more priority in the teaching process, because reading indicates knowledge of a language, enhances experiences, facilitates the intellectual development of the learners.
Among the many definitions of reading that have arisen in recent decades, three prominent ideas emerge as most critical for understanding what «learning to read» means:
- Reading is a process undertaken to reduce uncertainty about meanings a text conveys.
- The process results from a negotiation of meaning between the text and its reader.
- The knowledge, expectations, and strategies a reader uses to uncover textual meaning all play decisive roles way the reader negotiates with the text's meaning.
Reading does not draw on one kind of cognitive skill, nor does it have a straightforward outcome — most texts are understood in different ways by different readers.
For foreign language learners to read, they have to be prepared to use various abilities and strategies they already possess from their reading experiences in their native language. They will need the knowledge they possess to help orient themselves in the many dimensions of language implicated in any text. Researchers have established that the act of reading is a non-linear process that is recursive and context-dependent. Readers tend to jump ahead or go back to different segments of the text, depending on what they are reading to find out.
Asking a learner to «read» a text requires that teachers specify a reading goal. One minimal goal is to ask the learner to find particular grammatical constructions or to identify words that relate to particular features or topics of the reading. But such goals are always only partial. For example, a text also reveals a lot about the readers for which it is written and a lot about subject matter that foreign language learners may or may not know or anticipate.
Ideally, each text used in such a curriculum should be pedagogically staged so that learners approach it by moving from pre-reading, through while reading and into after reading. This sequence carefully moves the learner from comprehension tasks to production tasks. In addition, these tasks should build upon each other in terms of increasing cognitive difficulty.
Pre-Reading: The initial levels of learning, as described in Bloom's Taxonomy, involve recognizing and comprehending features of a text. As proposed here, pre-reading tasks involve Pre-reading activities motivate the students and encourage involvement in the topic and theme of the text.
Examples of Pre-Reading Activities:
Oral Discussion or a short written activity
Brainstorming the theme
Playing music to set the tone
Eliciting vocabulary around the theme
Doing an enactment around the theme
Asking a thought-provoking question
Asking lead-in questions
Showing a short YouTube clip or a scene from a movie
Cartoon, riddle, joke
Thinking about the title
Pre-reading activities may be designed to motivate student interest, activate prior knowledge, or pre-teach potentially difficult concepts and vocabulary. This is also a great opportunity to introduce comprehension components such as cause and effect, compare and contrast, personification, main idea, sequencing, and others.
English language learners have great difficulty jumping into new texts without any background support. Students should know at least something about the topic before reading. Some topics may be unfamiliar to students, such as recreational activities at the beach if students have never been to the beach before. Pictures, drawings, or short skits can help develop relevant background information.
Students need to know at least 90 to 95 % of the words they read if they are going to comprehend the text. Therefore, it is important to use several strategies to build background knowledge that leads to better reading comprehension and overall achievement for ELLs. It doesn't hurt to review many words we often take for granted — not only for the benefit of ELLs, but also for students who may not come to school with a rich vocabulary background or exposure to certain experiences.
Before reading a selection aloud or before students read a text, try taking seven to ten minutes to build word and background knowledge. This should increase all students' comprehension of the text.
Begin by reviewing the selection and identifying the main concepts you want to teach. Take into account your students' potential knowledge of these concepts, including your ELLs. Decide how you might best make these concepts relevant and accessible to all of your students. This might be through a film, discussion, student reading assignment, or a text read by you. Try using a combination of three or four of the following strategies:
You can use any activity that interests students in the text and motivates them to read it. For example, you can bring a real frog to class before reading a frog story.
Activate students' prior knowledge of a topic so that they can consciously use it as they read their text. For example, before reading a text with a jungle as the setting, ask students what they already know about jungles and discuss.
This is a powerful way to motivate students to read and to help them understand what they will be reading. Before reading a story about winning and losing a race, for example, you might want to have your students reflect on the times they have won or lost a race or a contest.
In addition to pre-teaching traditional vocabulary words, include words that convey concepts that English language learners already know. For example, students may know the concept of finding something, but do not know the word find or finding. Write these words on the board and review with the class.
You can focus students' attention on what is important to look for as they read their text. Making predictions about what might happen in the book gives students a purpose for reading. Setting a direction means using questions that peak students' interest. It also means focusing students on the purpose for the reading. For example, «Today we are going to read about differences in climates and regions. Let's read first about the climate in our community».
You can also engage students by: 1. Showing a film on a related topic. 2. Conducting an experiment.3.Going on a field trip.4. Asking students to bring something related to «show and tell».
While-reading. While-reading activities take place at any stage where the learner is still reading the book. These activities may be continuous activities, such as keeping a reading journal or predicting what comes in the next section of the reader.
1. Story web. Students keep a log of the main characters and their relationships in a visual ‘web’ diagram starting with the story title in the middle. As they read, they add the add descriptions of the characters, settings and events.
2. Chain story.Two students each have a different story book, of approximately the same level. After reading the first chapter of their book, they relate the events to their partner. They then exchange books and the read the second chapter of their partner’s book. They then relate the events in Chapter Two and exchange and repeat with Chapter Three and so on.
3. Plot log. Learners keep a log of the plot as they are reading, for example, by summarizing each chapter in a single sentence after they read it, or keeping a note of the key events as they happen. However, because not all stories are linear (with flashbacks, and two or more things happening at the same time) this task can be challenging for lower level learners.
4. Vocabulary log. Learners record new words (or idioms and other expressions) they meet when reading (or after reading). The teacher can set them a goal (for example, 10 words or expressions per book) or let them decide as they read. However, just writing words down doesn’t mean they have been learnt. Learners need to review them. Here is an example of how a learner might record a word and related information.
Name ________________ Book ________________________
1.Word/expression ____________________________________________________ Page _____
Definition ___________________ Example sentence __________________________________
After reading. After-Reading Activities.
Students often finish a reading, close the book, and don't think about it again until they arrive in class. The following activities can be used after a readingto help students analyze concepts for a deeper understanding of ideas and organize information for later retrieval:
Graphic Organizers. Encourage students to use graphic organizers to help them visualize concepts and key relationships between ideas from their readings. These should be started right after students have completed a reading, whereas revisions and additions can be done after class discussions. It's a good idea to show students several examples of graphic organizers and explain which ones work well with different text patterns. Many reading skills texts have examples of various graphic organizers with explanations of how they might best be used. Here is an example of one type of graphic organizer for comparing two concepts:
Quiz Questions. After students read a chapter or section of a chapter in the course textbook, ask them to develop questions for a quiz. This activity forces them to analyze the information in the chapter and decide on the most important concepts to remember. Formulating questions can also help them to organize the concepts into logical chunks of information for easier retrieval. Working in groups on this activity is helpful for further discussion of concepts.
Students can then present their questions to the class and see who can answer them correctly. The students trying to answer the questions may offer suggestions on how to write a question more clearly so that it can be easily understood. Teachers might also offer suggestions for revision of questions. Other SEA Site modules, for example, "WH-Questions" and "Passive Voice" can be useful for teachers in providing guidance in using structures that will be more easily understood by students.
Summary Writing. Ask students to write a summary of the main points of a text or passage. Figuring out what to include in a summary is often a difficult task for students, so passing out a handout with the criteria for a good summary can serve as a reminder to students. Modeling the process of good summary writing during class is also helpful. For example, when students have finished a portion of text, begin a discussion of the most important points from the text. Write all the points that students suggest on the board. Discuss which ideas should be included in the summary. In addition, show how ideas can be paraphrased and written in the student's own words. Remember to emphasize those minor details, specific examples, and opinions should not be included in a summary of a text.
Outlining. Writing outlines is also a good way to organize and remember concepts. The emphasis here should be on how students see the relationships between ideas being presented. Don't worry if students don't use the correct Roman numerals or other markers. What is important is that they are able to distinguish the main ideas from the supporting details and organize the information in a logical format.
1. Adams, Marilyn Jager. Beginning to read: thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. pp. 21–25..,2009
2. McKeown, Margaret; Isabel Beck; Ronette Blake (2009). «Reading Comprehension Instruction: Focus on Content or Strategies?" (PDF). Expert Perspectives on Interventions for Reading: A Collection of Best-Practice Articles from the International Dyslexia Association.
3. The importance of teaching reading strategies. Expert Perspectives on Interventions for Reading: A Collection of Best-Practice Articles form the International Dyslexia Association. Mc. Namara. Danielle.,2009.