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What Is Reading?

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Young-Girl-Reading

What is reading?

Definition of Reading

Reading is like an infectious disease: it is caught not taught. (And you can't catch it from someone who hasn't got it...) - Christine Nuttall (1983)


Aebersold & Field (1997) discuss the 3 elements involved in the reading process: the reader, the text, and the interaction between the reader and the text:

The Reader

The readers' past experience influence their process of reading:

  1. The family inlfuence: family members shape children's reading behaviors, habits, and attitudes.
  2. The community influence: the social events occured in the community shape children's bases of knowledge.
  3. The school influence: children learn how to read at school. They share different experience or values with other classmates.
  4. The cultural influence: culture shapes children's way of interpreting the reading and this world.

The Text

  • Sources of text: authentic materials, such as labels, instructions, advertisements, and notes; artificial materials, such as textbooks.
  • Rhetorical structure: description, classfication, comparison, contrast, cause and effect, process, argument, and persuasion.
  • Syntax and grammar: cohesion
  • Vocabulary: content words and function words

The Interaction between Reader and Text

  • Interaction through reading strategies
    • Effective word recognition
    • Use text features (subheadings, transitions, etc.)
    • Analyze unfamiliar words
    • Read for meaning, concentrate on constructing meaning
  • Interaction through schema: knowledge readers bring to text
    • Content schema: a basis for comparison
    • Formal schema: organization forms and rhetorical structures of texts
    • Linguistic schema: decoding features for word recognition

Models of Reading

Bottom-up theory (decoding)

Constructing the text from small units

Top-down theory

Fitting the text into reader's existing knowledge and checking back when new information appears.

Interactive school of theorists

Top-down and bottom up processes occured alternately or simultaneously.

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