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What is reading

Updated: Apr 14, 2021



Tim reads a passage. He breezes through it, pronouncing every word clearly. However, when asked for the main idea of what he has just read, he replies with a "I don't know". When pressed further, he provides details that are not what the passage is primarily about.


Pete recoils and makes a face when asked to read. Reluctantly, he tries. He stumbles. He tries. He stumbles yet again over words that he has recently encountered. It is as if he is seeing the words for the first time. Then he gives up. However, when the passage is read to him, he is able to answer the questions correctly when asked.


Who has a reading difficulty? Tim or Pete?


Before we get to the answer, let's look at what reading is. In 1986, Researchers Gough and Tunmer presented a formula that showed two components of reading.

Simple View of Reading


Reading = Word Recognition X Language Comprehension


This view seeks to clarify the role of word recognition in reading. In the US, and perhaps in Singapore as well, it is thought that if a beginning/struggling reader's language abilities are strong, he/she can use other strategies to figure out unfamiliar words to achieve reading comprehension. For example, children are encouraged to use picture cues or the first letter of the word to guess the word and context clues to see if a word makes sense in a sentence.


However, according to the Simple View of Reading, a child needs to be strong in both word recognition and language comprehension in order to read well. A dyslexic child will fit the profile of one who is weak at word recognition. Conversely, it does not mean that a child who is weak at word recognition is dyslexic.


So, let's get back to the question of who has a reading difficulty. Tim or Pete? I shall leave you to come to the conclusion.


In the next post, we shall take a look at how to help a child in the area of word recognition and in later posts, we will address the challenges of language comprehension.


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