chapter  1
20 Pages

Introduction and Preliminary Information

Reading is a complex skill that is pretty much taken for granted by those who can do it. About 35 years ago (when cognitive psychologists fi rst became interested in studying reading) one of the authors, then a graduate student, got into an elevator in the Engineering Department at a famous university in the northeastern part of the United States with a copy of Smith’s book Understanding Reading (1971) under his arm. A bright young freshman engineering student, upon seeing the book, was quick to remark: “Oh, reading ; I learned how to do that 15 years ago.” That remark is pretty consistent with most people’s attitudes about reading. Those who can do it take it for granted. Yet it is an extremely complicated process that is sometimes diffi cult to learn (particularly in comparison to the ease with which children learn to speak). And illiterate adults fi nd attempts to learn to read agonizingly frustrating.