Reluctant Readers – Identifying Good Reading Practices
The act of reading requires readers to build a personal representation of the text that they read. We can further understand this idea as a way of linking the written word on a page to one’s experiential world.
Children can develop a deeper understanding, knowledge and appreciation of literature when they learn a few skills on how to read. We know that some children have difficulty doing this activity in and out of the classroom, and they are characterized as being reluctant readers. Some children get bogged down at the word level, and they have difficulties in recognizing words accurately; therefore, they do not advance to the sentence, conceptual or thematic level. Research affirms that children who invest excessive amounts of time in their attention to the words on the page, conversely are not able to synthesise the demands of higher order thinking, which is the processing of the information. In short, they cannot decode the sentences and make connections with the conceptual information which is given. Consequently they are absorbed with “excessive amounts of their attention or ‘thinking space’ reading… they have less attention available for other demands of the reading task.” (Byrd & Cholson 1985)
This month I will look at exactly what the reading process entails. There are many excellent frameworks or definitions of the reading process; however, this is one model that I use in the classroom. It is good for parents as it succinctly summarises some ideas to promote good reading practices. The thing that I hope to address here is the recognition of good reading and how to assist reluctant readers who might be labelled as non-strategic or ‘passive’ readers.
Before giving you the framework of reading practices, it is necessary to understand the way a teacher views reading within the school; this will assist in identifying where your child might be located on the reading continuum. Up to grades 3 and 4, the child is taught how to decode the language, which essentially means acquiring the skills needed to automatically and fluently read. From about grade 4 on, the child is using these skills to understand and comprehend what is written. This second stage of the process can be viewed as reading to make meaning or learn. Merely assigning a reading task to a child does not teach a child how to untangle or decode the language. Reading is a meaning-making process, and there are certain skills that parents can be doing at home that can assist a child in his/her learning.
To understand why your child might be experiencing difficulty in reading and hence a reluctance in his/her reading, it is necessary to determine what that difficulty might look like. Peter Freeebody (1990) offers a framework that can help guide parents into thinking about what are the roles of a reader. Such a paradigm assists parents in identifying weaknesses in their child’s learning. Once a parent identifies possible weaknesses in their child’s reading, it follows that then the problem can be addressed. This is a summary of Freebody’s four roles of the reader. Freebody offers a model that demonstrates what a reader needs to be doing to be successful in processing information; he/she needs to be proficient in four different aspects or reading. It is useful to consider each role when planning to teach your child a reading programme; be that at home or at school.
FOUR ROLES OF THE READER
Peter Freebody and Allan Luke (1990) have proposed that a successful reader in our society needs to be proficient in four different aspects. These are now referred to as the ‘four roles of the reader’. It is useful to consider each role when planning and teaching a reading program at home or at school.
Code breaker: How do I crack this?
In the role of code breaker, readers recognise and use sounds in words, spelling and structural conventions, and patters - such as the grammar of the language - to break the written code. This enables them to interpret words, sentences, paragraphs and whole texts.
Text participant: What does this mean?
In this role, readers actively construct meaning from the text and pictures. To do this, they must draw on their own prior knowledge about life, school, the subject matter and other texts to infer a personal meaning from the text they are reading. Teachers need to encourage students to value their prior knowledge, to make links with previous experiences and to draw from what they already know as a basis for making and extending their reading experiences.
Text User: What do I do with this here and now?
Readers become aware of the various types of text that apply to different audiences and situations. In this role, readers develop knowledge about where and when to use a variety of texts, both at school and in the wider community. The tone, formality and sequencing of texts are important aspects of this role.
Text Analyst: What does all this mean?
In this role, readers become aware that texts are constructed according to the views and interests of the author. Readers recognise that texts are not neutral, but express particular views that can be challenged. They recognise that texts may present a selective grouping of facts, in which some views predominate and others are marginalised, or a perspective among many possible perspectives equally; texts may hide or reveal their author. Students need to realise that text places readers in particular stances – stances that may be challenged in a way that opens up other viewpoints.
By Lariane Reason