Learning to Read

Authored by: Emily Fox , Patricia A. Alexander

Handbook of Research on Learning and Instruction

Print publication date:  December  2010
Online publication date:  February  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415804608
eBook ISBN: 9780203839089
Adobe ISBN: 9781136882159


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Our view of learning to read aligns with that articulated by Strang, McCullough, and Traxler more than fifty years ago: “Learning to read is a lifetime process” (1955, p. 82). Understanding learning to read as a lifelong process has strong entailments in terms of what reading is taken to be. In particular, it means that the nature of reading changes as the reader develops. As Strang and her colleagues put it:

From birth to old age, each period of life makes its contribution to the development of reading abilities, interests, and attitudes. Reading ability, as part of the individual’s total development, increases with [his] growth in interests and general ability and with the challenges of increasingly complex and difficult reading tasks at each successive educational level.

(1955, p. 90) Further, the view of reading across an entire lifespan necessarily incorporates context. Reading becomes viewed as essentially embedded in the context of the reader’s life and as oriented toward contextually meaningful purposes. When thus contextualized, reading is positioned as a behavior (Russell, 1961) rather than as a skill set or ensemble of processes.

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