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What is involved in adults’ reading?

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Last updated 26 October 2012 15:28 by NZTecAdmin

The theoretical framework for the reading progressions stems partly from the “simple view” of reading.29 The simple view suggests that reading consists of two components: decoding and language comprehension. According to the simple view, if the learner is unable to decode, then they are not a reader. Likewise, if the learner is unable to comprehend, they are also not a reader.

The reader is one who has good decoding and good comprehension skills. A sub-component of language comprehension is vocabulary. Both language comprehension and reading comprehension are at risk if the listener or reader does not know what most of the words mean. Nagy and Scott (2000) claim that the reader needs to know the meaning of 90–95 percent of the words in the text for adequate comprehension. In fact, vocabulary plays such a major role in comprehension that some researchers do not separate vocabulary from comprehension.

There is also a high correlation between spoken and written language comprehension: “the potential for comprehending a written text is set by the ability to comprehend that same text when it is spoken,” (Rayner, et al. 2001).

Researchers suggest that when the cognitive processes of decoding that a reader uses to decode letters and words no longer require conscious attention, the reader’s brain has more capacity available to focus on comprehension.30 Thus, in the reading progressions, there is an emphasis on fluency of decoding to the point where decoding becomes automatic and the reader’s vocabulary and knowledge of language (which are part of comprehension in this “simple view”) take over.

The reading progressions are also based on research evidence that indicates the need for all learners to develop a knowledge base, a repertoire of strategies and an awareness of how to put their knowledge and strategies together to comprehend written texts. More specifically, research summaries describe reading as the development of phonological awareness, decoding (which includes accuracy and fluency), vocabulary and comprehension.31

These elements are all incorporated into the progressions that describe the development of adult expertise in reading.


Self-efficacy is the reader’s opinion of their reading ability, as well as how they believe others view their reading.

Readers who feel that they are effective readers (efficacious about their reading) will put more effort into both reading and reading-associated tasks. The belief readers hold about their reading ability and the result of their efforts impacts on how they behave towards reading.

Research has shown that people engage in activities they feel competent in and avoid tasks that they do not feel competent in. Reading is no exception.

Research shows that young readers are very positive and optimistic about their reading abilities even if they are experiencing reading challenges. However, their optimism and positive attitude towards reading do not necessarily continue over time. Connie Juel (1988) found that poor readers became more negative about reading as they progressed through school. Learners who do not read well usually develop low levels of self-efficacy over time and will try to avoid tasks that require reading.

Self-efficacy affects performance as it influences the readers’ effort, persistence and willingness to persevere. Readers with high self-efficacy, regardless of their ability, will put in more effort and persevere longer than those with low self-efficacy.

29 Gough, 1996; Gough and Hillinger, 1980; Hoover and Gough, 1990.

30 LaBerge and Samuels, 1974.

31 Snow, 2002.


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