The Reading Process and the Struggling Reader: A Quick Look

The Reading Process and the Struggling Reader: A Quick Look

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5007-5.ch001
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This chapter defines the reading process, as well as the struggling reader, whose ability to interact with the text to gain meaning is hindered by difficulties in the use of skills and strategies, making it difficult to independently and flexibly adapt to varying reading situations. When reading is done superficially, it lacks the ability to be a tool for thinking and learning. Unfortunately, this can lead to giving up on reading and finding other, possibly limited, resources that convey information without having to be read. Neuroscientific research reveals that readers who are proficient activate prior knowledge, use strategies both independently and flexibly, and adapt to varying reading situations. The reading experience can be effective if the relationship between the printed word and the reader is grounded in the reader's language development, background knowledge, interest in the topic, past experiences with printed words, and what he or she intends to gain from the experience.
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The classroom is a crucible, a place where the special mix of teacher, student, and text come together to create wonderfully complex human interactions that stir the minds and spirits of learners. Some days, of course, are better than others. (Richard and Jo Anne Vacca, 2008)


What Is Reading?

Reading is a dynamic process where the reader interacts with the text to gain meaning. A former, older definition of reading, as the translation of printed symbols into oral language, is unfinished, given the progress made in understanding the complexity of the reading process. Without having relevant prior knowledge activated by a cognitively active reader, and without then melding that prior knowledge with information gained from the text in a purposeful way, there can be no real reading of that text.

In a recent informal discussion with inservice teachers, conversation surrounded the question “What is reading?” There was immediate consensus that the former, older definition of reading as turning printed word into spoken word was unacceptably inaccurate, and that reading entailed much more than eyes looking at print on a page, and saying the words orally or silently. The discussion led to contemplation of the definition of reading. The following working definitions were created independently, before a large-group dialogue:

  • Reading is a cognitive process involving decoding, synthesizing, interpretations, and visualizing, all leading to visual intake of some needed information.

  • Reading is a process that begins before looking at the printed word, during the act of looking at the word, and after the word is seen. It is about ultimately making meaning by connecting to prior knowledge, using schema, and connecting to known vocabulary, which leads to understanding.

  • Reading is intended to gain meaning about something. From letters, sounds, onset and rime, to fluent oral reading, reading the printed word should lead to making meaning.

  • Reading involves using schema from life experiences, having real-world communication, challenging our thoughts and opinions, and understanding the message conveyed through print.

  • Reading is the ability to understand a written message.

  • Reading is the ability to decode and analyze a text, figure, diagram, or other form of print that is intended to communicate a message or idea.

  • Reading is a visual intake of information in the form of print, an output of sounds, and ultimately an understanding of the output, the print’s message.

The group then discussed some of the common language used by each individual definition. Common language included the words decoding, print, communicate, schema, prior knowledge, understand, and make meaning. This is much broader than defining reading as the translation of printed symbols into oral language.

The same question was posed to preservice teachers, less than a year away from finishing their teacher-preparation program and searching for their first classroom-teaching position. “What is reading?”

  • Reading is a skill that involves drawing meaning from text and being able to comprehend what is being said in the text, using decoding techniques.

  • Reading is being able to look at each letter to form words and make meaning by decoding the alphabetic system.

  • Reading is the ability to comprehend and decode print. Readers should be able to make connections with the text and read fluently.

  • Reading is being able to decode and comprehend written print. It is being able to make connections, have fluency, and being able to retell what the print was about.

  • Reading is the process of decoding letters and sounds to find meaning in the text.

  • Reading is recognizing and understanding words in a particular sequence in a fluent manner.

  • Reading is the combination of decoding words and understanding the meaning of the text.

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