ABSTRACT

Reading is a complex skill that is pretty much taken for granted by those who can do it. In the early-seventies (when cognitive psychologists became very 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 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. While those who can do it fluently take it for granted, its complexity is more apparent to those who are having trouble. Reading is sometimes difficult for children to learn (particularly in comparison to the ease with which they learn to speak), and illiterate adults find learning to read agonizingly frustrating.