The Psychology of Reading: From Research to Practice in the Classroom

The Psychology of Reading:
From Research to Practice in the Classroom
Volume 1, Issue 3
February 21, 2007
Psychology Month, Dufferin-Peel C.D.S.B.
Seventy per cent of reading difficulties can be
prevented by the early
identification of the atrisk child. Current scientific research supports the
view that the reading
process consists of two
separate, but interacting,
components: Decoding
(e.g., the ability to recognize words using the phonemic-graphemic code)
and Language Comprehension (e.g., vocabulary,
reasoning, etc.). One can
be proficient in either
area, but both are necessary for skilled reading.
Children with a reading
disability typically have
difficulty acquiring decoding skills due to deficits in phonological processing, but possess appropriately developed language comprehension
abilities. On the other
hand, some children with
language-based learning
disabilities can decode at
grade level, but experience difficulty in understanding what they have
many poor readers have
weaknesses in both of
these areas.
There is overwhelming
evidence that all children
benefit from direct in-
struction in decoding.
Furthermore, children in
the kindergarten and the
early primary grades are
at a developmentally
critical period to take advantage of such instruction. Thus, an instructional emphasis on phonological awareness,
sound-symbol mapping,
and sound blending and
segmentation, is critical
in facilitating the development of decoding skills
in all children. Practice
in applying this knowledge, coupled with a focus on developing fluency, contributes further
to the development of
skilled reading. Research
indicates that these types
of instructional interventions may even prevent
reading disabilities in
young children and can
remediate reading disabilities in older children.
As the emphasis from
“learning to read” during
the primary grades turns to
“reading to learn”, all children benefit from direct
instruction in learning reading comprehension strategies, such as summarization, question-asking, prediction, visualization, and
making connections. These
strategies are best taught
using think-aloud techniques and modeling within
either small-group or largegroup situations. The effectiveness of these instructional interventions in improving reading comprehension in all students has
been supported by many
studies. Direct teaching of
these strategies across the
curriculum further reinforces their effectiveness
resulting in the internalization of these skills in students.
For teachers who encounter
students with reading difficulties, it is important to
determine initially whether
your students can adequately decode (i.e., read
words in isolation). If this
process is extremely effortful, students will not have
sufficient working memory
capacity to understand the
text. If your students can
decode, then determine
how well your students can
extract meaning from the
text they read. Given appropriate instructional interventions, we know that
all students can improve
their reading skills!
For further information and
resources, please refer to
the following Ministry
Guides: A Guide to Effective Instruction in Reading
– Kindergarten to Grade 3;
A Guide to Effective Literacy Education – Grades 4
to 6; Supporting Student
Success in Literacy –
Grades 7 to 12; and Education for All.
For questions or concerns
regarding specific students
in your class, please speak
to the psychological consultant at your school.