La Rivista per l'insegnamento e l'apprendimento delle lingue

The Successful Reader

Jean Rudiger-Harper

A Complex Skill

To start this article with a truism, let me state that reading successfully is a complex process and many people never become successful readers, even in their mother tongue, as the PISA 2000 Study has shown.
To read well it is necessary to bring to bear many skills other than merely combining individual letters to form words, or combining subjects, verbs and objects to form sentences. Indeed, the study of individual sentences does not necessarily help the student to become a successful reader either. Reading involves the comprehending of a whole text and as discourse analysis has proved, the relationship between stretches of text, is a different one from the grammar syntactical relationship of discrete items in a sentence. In other words, the whole text has a very different meaning than the sum of its parts.

A Global Approach to Text

In view of this, the most fruitful way of approaching a text is to take a global view of it first, and then gradually work down to specific details. In her book ‘Developing Reading Skills’, Françoise Grellet (Grellet, 1981) advocates the following process:
“Study of the layout: title, length, pictures, typeface, then - Making hypotheses about the contents and the function + anticipation of where to look for confirmation of these hypotheses.
Skimming through the passage.
Confirmation or revision of one’s guesses + further prediction.
Second reading for further detail, confirmation or revision of one’s guesses.”

Reading Sub Skills are necessary

Summed up like this the process seems straightforward enough but if we break it down into all the sub skills required to carry out the process then we begin to see how much is demanded of the reader.
First of all, the reader’s knowledge of what goes on in the world and the cultural mores pertaining to text types and situations must be sufficiently profound to enable them to decipher layout clues. And we have an analogous situation when it comes to being able to making hypotheses and predictions about the contents. But not only this, the reader must be prepared to bring this knowledge to the text and interact with the text. If there is no interaction between reader and text there can be no interpretation and without interpretation there can be no meaning. [...]

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