chapter  11
35 Pages

Learning to Read

Learning to read is a complex and diffi cult task. Yet, for skilled readers, silent reading feels no more effortful than any other act of perception (e.g., listening). As we have seen in previous chapters, many component processes operate nearly automatically in skilled reading. These processes include recognizing familiar words, decoding new words, reading with intonation, comprehending the text, and learning the meaning of new words. The eventual automaticity of these processes in skilled readers underlies the common intuition that reading is an easy task. However, a few moments spent observing a beginning reader will reveal the tremendous effort that is initially expended when learning to read. Beginning readers often read aloud in a plodding, staccato fashion, pointing as they pronounce each individual word. Later, as children get faster at recognizing words, their reading becomes smoother and refl ects the intonation patterns of speech, but many still misread and stumble over unfamiliar words for a few years. Thus we see the paradox of reading-that a skill that is so easy for adults can be quite diffi cult for children to learn.