A Theoretical Overview of the Reading Process: Factors Which Influence Performance and Implications for Instruction
Zakaluk, Beverley L.
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Of universal concern to early years teachers is ensuring that their students become fluent readers. When children are learning to read they often sound out words letter by letter, make innumerable hesitations, add words not on the page, omit words altogether, or are overly dependent upon pictures as an aid to word recognition. Readers may mispronounce words and stop both to repeat words or to go back and self-correct, all in efforts to make sense of or comprehend the text. For numerous students, oral reading is laboured with both improper phrasing and repetition. Punctuation may be ignored altogether. Some pupils may even exhibit reluctance to read aloud orally, while others are overwhelmed by the task of reading a whole page of text silently. For many, learning to read is thus an extremely difficult task, to which this lack of fluency attests. Our contention is that the reading difficulties described above are indicative of normal reading development and distinguish beginning readers from readers who are more fluent and skilled. Reading is an involved and complex process and many factors interact to inhibit and prevent reading success. It is, however, through increased understanding not only of the factors that influence reading development but also what is involved in the process of reading that the reading behaviours noted in the foregoing are placed in proper perspective. This monograph therefore discusses both the difficulties faced by beginning readers as they acquire fluency and the complexity of the reading task. Discussion begins with an overview of past and prevailing models of the reading process and the introduction of an interactive model of reading. Subsequently, within the framework of the interactive model, factors which influence and affect reading acquisition including the orthographical, lexical and syntactical demands of text in relation to either the cultural experiences or semantic knowledge of students will be discussed, together with implications for reading instruction.