Reading in a Second Language: Theory and Pedagogical Implications
An overview of proficient reading and its instruction
"Reading is something many of us take for granted" (Grabe, 2009). Being a basic reader, says Dr. Grover Whitehurst, is someone who can read a basic text that is age appropriate. The reader is able to understand the sentences and comprehend the material to a point where they are able to answer basic questions about the material. Furthermore, individuals who are deemed basic readers have enough fluency to get through the material in an allotted amount of time and then answer questions (Whitehurst, 2003). Taking a reader from this basic level and deeming them proficient means that a reader has more skills when it comes to the material and are able to make inferences about the subject matter or characters; essentially, proficient readers can understand the material at a deeper level than a basic reader can (Whitehurst, 2003). Being a proficient reader means more than just reading words on a page, it means that people can translate what they are reading and are able to transform the words on the page into a more rewarding experience where the words jump out of them and they are able to understand the text at a different level (Whitehurst, 2003). Reading competence is also described as another "fundamental construct" in reading comprehension by Kieko Koda (Koda, 2004). Reading competence falls under the larger concept of proficient reading as it also encompasses "linguistic knowledge, processing skills and cognitive abilities" (Koda, 2004).
To arrive at this point of proficiency, a reader must be appropriately instructed in how to get there. The National Institute of Literacy had a panel that provided analysis and discussion into areas of reading instruction that were the most vital to ensuring that a child became a good reader- among the areas included phonics, fluency, vocabulary, text comprehensive and phonemic awareness (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn). Phonemic awareness is the comprehending of the sounds of the spoken language work together to make words (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn). Phonics is a very important component in that it helps individuals learn the relationship between the letters in the text and the individual's sounds of text (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn). For someone to become a proficient reader they must understand the phonics of the words that are being read. Fluency is also imperative as it allows for a proficient reader to string together the words that are being read and form the ideas that are trying to be conveyed by the author. Fluency for a proficient reader allows the reading of the text quickly and with accuracy, which is important when trying to draw inferences and being able to comprehend the information and ultimately ask questions about it like a proficient reader would be asked or needed to do (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn). Vocabulary is also very important in instruction of helping a reader become proficient. Readers need to understand the topic and the vocabulary of something is imperative. If the reader does not understand what the word is trying to communicate, it becomes impossible for the reader to truly understand what is going on. "Language-focused learning" is also another important concept that is closely related to vocabulary (Nation, 2009). It "involves deliberate attention to language featured both in the context of meaning-focused input and meaning features both in the context of meaning-focused input and meaning focused output" (I.S.P Nation, 2009). An individual has to be truly comprehending the words and focusing on their meaning to understand the text. When instructing a reader, building their vocabulary is absolutely imperative and in reading instruction, it would be beneficial for teachers and other instructors to build the students or individual's vocabulary. Phonemic awareness, when examined through the lens of the Whitehurst interview and the assertions of the National Institute of Literacy panel, will likely help bring a basic reader to the next level as being able to the understand the relationship between the words will help bring the text to life, so to speak, and help the reader draw a more extensive information from it, like inferences. The last area identified by The Report of National Reading Panel includes that of text comprehension which allows for readers to be purposeful and active as they read. The purpose of the reading may be in a certain subject area or with a specific goal in mind, but there is a purpose to what individuals are reading that aids in their text comprehension. Also, being an active reader also aids in text comprehension because they are engaged and are thinking actively about what they are reading- reading the words on the page and not thinking about the deeper meaning can inhibit someone from being a proficient reader. Integrating the information that one reads is a requirement "to learn" and bringing information from multiple texts is a "long and complex" process but is necessary (Grabe, 2009). Being a proficient reader ultimately help in the process of learning, which does require skills to integrate what is being read, as Grabe point out.
When instructing a reader, it is important to take these different areas into account, by taking these and applying them to a reader it might be that they are able to go from being a basic reader to a more proficient one. Proficient reading is highly valuable and has a great impact on an individual's life, either from a young age to an older age. Instructions in phonics, fluency, and vocabulary, text comprehensive and phonemic awareness are the crux, asserts The Report of National Reading Panel, to ensure that individuals are instructed in proficient reading.
Though, there is the possibility of "reading causalities" which can negatively impact the ability for someone to become a proficient reader. Statistics show that about thirty-eight percent of students nationally have a difficult time learning how to read, and ninety-five percent of that thirty-eight percent, Dr. Reid Lyon asserts, have never been taught (Lyon, 2003). This instructional casualty falls under the broader concept of a reading casualty, as teachers may have not been able to successful instruct students on how to be a basic, let alone, a proficient reader. Teachers face troubles in teaching a child to learn how to read including: what it takes to teach a child, why are students facing some of the difficulties that they are and after that, how to make the situation better for the student and help them learn how to read. In addition to the instructional causality, there is also instructional confusion, which also falls into the category of a reading causality, which is essentially when a student is in the school system and there is instruction that is not fitting with the child or were the instructions is misleading (Lyon, 2003).
Shame in the context of reading
Having a reading casualty for a student, may lead to shame when reading in the classroom and beyond. When a student or an individual is unable to make out what is on the a page of text, that inability is a catalyst for feeling shame and ultimately, it interferes with the ability to comprehend the text because of the so-called "cognitive shock" (Nathanson, 2003). Nathanson has developed a theory, The Compass of Shame, which says that there are four behaviors that people exhibit when shame is the dominant emotion that is being felt- withdrawal, self-attack, avoid, or attacking others (Nathanson, 2003). Withdrawal allows people to withdraw from the situation that they are in, specifically in this one; it would be the shame of reading. The compass of shame theory also includes that of "self-attack" meaning that an individual might belittle themselves and make someone else feel more powerful, and the powerful person will take pity on them. This might be a useful mechanism when children experience shame when reading in a classroom perhaps. If they belittle themselves and say for instance 'I am so dumb, can you help me reading this' when getting help from another student, the student helping will feel powerful and help. The beauty in this behavior is that the student helping will feel powerful doing so and concentrate on that instead of concentrating on the student that does not have strong reading skills.
Furthermore, Nathanson also says that people exhibit avoidance when it comes to reading, meaning that students may simply avoid trying to read in class and pretend that they are doing something else or not making eye contact with the teacher that is choosing students to read out loud. Avoidance, Nathanson mentions, is a rather significant part of American culture (Nathanson, 2003). Finally, another important aspect of the theory that encompasses sham is that of attacking others. Individuals who struggle with reading may attack others in the classroom may threaten those that make fun of them; still they try to exude their power and preserve their self-respect by still being on top.