Digital Reading Fluency and Text Presentation Medium Preference in EFL Context

Digital Reading Fluency and Text Presentation Medium Preference in EFL Context

Jaleh Hasaskhah (Department of English Language and Literature, Guilan University, Rasht, Iran), Behzad Barekat (Department of English Language and Literature, Guilan University, Rasht, Iran) and Nahid Farhang Asa (Department of English Language and Literature, Guilan University, Rasht, Iran)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/ijdldc.2013070105
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Abstract

With the advent of digital literacy, fluency in reading from the screen has become a key category in shaping reading proficiency. Furthermore, research focusing on digital reading fluency, especially in the English as Foreign Language (EFL) context, is scarce. Therefore, this study first seeks to explore the differences in the participants’ reading fluency in paper and digital reading environments, and second to examine the participants’ attitude towards text presentation medium. To this end, the reading fluency of 30 students doing their Master’s was examined in two reading environments. Then, by using a checklist, the participants self- assessed themselves for their preference for either type of the texts. The results revealed that not only were the EFL participants more fluent in the traditional paper texts than digital ones, but also the majority had a stronger preference for the former. The findings call for greater ‘diversity adjustment’ in scholarship on digital literacy.
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Literature Review

It is commonly believed that reading fluency fosters positive attitudes toward reading on the one hand, and a more positive self-concept in the readers themselves, on the other (Rasinski & Padak, 2000). For such reasons, this skill has long been a major concern in educational research, especially in L1, (Allington, 1984; Breznitz, 2006; Kuhn & Schwanenflugel, 2008; Kuhn & Stahl, 2000; Samuels, 2002; Samuels & Farstrup, 2006; Rasinski, Blachowicz, & Lems, 2006). Most studies sought methods of developing reading fluency in L1 in the hope of improving reading comprehension. However, unlike its role in L1 studies, reading fluency has attracted scant attention in ESL/EFL, perhaps due to the common belief that once reading skills develop, fluency will naturally follow (Taguchi, Gorsuch, Sasamoto, 2006).

Nevertheless, researchers such as Gebhard (1996) and Redfield (1999), highlighting the significance of reading fluency in L2, criticize treating such an important skill with this naivety, and ask for further attention to this knowledge acquisition tool for ESL/ EFL learners. They argue that slow readers do not read much, and therefore do not gain sufficient knowledge.

Admitting the importance of fluency in proficient reading, Allington (1984) suggests fluency to be instructed because it can help readers improve their reading performance. In the same vein, other researchers (e.g., Pinnell et al., 1995; McGlinchey and Hixon, 2004; and Silberglitt, Burns, Madyun, & Lail, 2006) showed that fluency was significantly associated with reading proficiency; that is, more fluent readers scored higher on reading assessment. Similarly, Day and Bamford (1998) go further and claim that it is only through this skill that EFL readers can acquire the complex linguistic, world, and topical knowledge needed to improve their reading skills (p. 19). Moreover, systematic research reviews (Chard, Vaughn, & Tyler, 2002; Kuhn & Stahl, 2000) indicate that reading fluency is certainly a critical component of learning, and that fluency instruction has to be incorporated into an effective reading program. Therefore, EFL researchers, for many theoretical and pedagogical reasons, emphasize the need for finding effective methods to develop reading fluency (Day & Bamford, 1998; Grabe, 1991, 2004; Silberstein, 1994).

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