Reading is probably one of the most researched topics in education and the primary focus of instruction at the elementary levels. There are many theories of reading and different reading programs (Chall, 1967; Pearson, 1984; Singer & Ruddell, 1976). The topic of reading is of great social importance because it pertains to the issues of literacy and intelligence. From a learning perspective, reading is closely related to many other cognitive processes or domains including: attention, concept formation, imagery, language, memory, and perception.
Gibson & Levin (1975) outline a theory of reading based upon principles of perceptual development that include: (1) distinctive features, (2) invariant relations in events, (3) higher order structures, (4) abstraction (5) ignoring irrelevant information, (6) peripheral mechanisms, and (7) reduction of uncertainty. These principles are largely based upon the information pickup theory of J.J. Gibson. Gibson & Levin emphasize that a theory of reading must account for the different types of reading (e.g., enjoyment versus learning) as well as significant differences between beginners and mature readers.
Resnick & Weaver (1979) provide a comprehensive examination of the issues associated with learning to read including: (1) significance of decoding, (2) the nature of reading skills, (3) the relationship between reading and language, (4) factors that interfere with learning to read, (5) and the acquisition of reading competence. The general model that emerges from many different analyses is that early stages of reading depend upon letter-sound correspondence with increasing importance upon semantic-linguistic aspects over time.
The cognitive "stages" theory of Piaget is relevant to the development of reading ability as well as the social development theory of Vygotsky and the constructivist theory of Burner. Thorndike applied his connectionism framework to reading comprehension as did Schank and his script theory. The functional literacy theory of Sticht is also highly relevant to reading skills.
Chall, J.S. (1967). Learning to Read: The Great Debate. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Gibson, E.J. & Levin, H. (1975). The Psychology of Reading. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Pearson, P.D. (1984). Handbook of Reading Research. New York: Longman.
Resnick, L.B. & Weaver, P.A. (1979). Theory and Practice of Early Reading, Volumes I-III. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Singer, H. & Ruddell, R. (1976). Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading. Newark, DE: International Reading Assoc.
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