• Sunday, June 16, 2024
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Learning to read and reading to learn: What teachers of “Reading Comprehension” should know

Learning to read and reading to learn: What teachers of “Reading Comprehension” should know

Reading, being one of the four major language skills, has different meanings to different people. While some people see reading as an act of interpreting graphic symbols for the generalisation of meaning intended by the author, others, especially young ones, view it as a monotonous exercise that should only be embarked on for the purpose of passing an examination.

The definition of reading is as vast as the concept itself. For the purpose of this article, reading will mean a systematic process which involves visualisation of printed symbols or linguistic items through the mind for the actualisation of meaning. This suggests that to read, the eyes and mind must be ready as they are pivotal in the process of reading. Also, the very essence of reading is comprehension; and to comprehend, the meaning of every linguistic item in the comprehension passage must be understood by the reader.

The continued failure of many students in the various achievement tests given to them in schools suggest that these students have not mastered the art of reading, and therefore have found it almost impossible to read to learn. The importance of reading as an art cannot be overemphasised. It is the fulcrum of other school subjects because achievement in these subjects rely heavily on the extent of the reading habits developed over time. Therefore, for a child to be proficient in reading, such a child must have fully gone through the stages involved in reading before such a reader can be ready to internalise properly.

How then does a child learn to read? Many researchers have given positions as to how a child learns to read. Some argue that reading, like speaking, is a natural phenomenon. That if a child—an emergent reader— is surrounded with books and other reading items, such a child’s schemata will be activated, and thus, such a child will read with little or no assistance. However, it is evident that human language is a written code that can only be decoded by one who has learned the skill. This invariably implies that for one to read for comprehension, one must be taught.

A beginning reader must be aware of different sounds that make up spoken language—phonics. Besides this, such a reader must be able to connect these sounds to written letters to make meaning. Thereafter, vocabulary building becomes vital. To read effectively, the reader must have acquired a certain level of vocabulary needed to ace his/her speed as well as comprehension.

Teachers of reading must understand the primacy of punctuation in the reading process, and must therefore make efforts to ensure that beginning readers understand when to have a short and/or long pause and how their voice modulation should be managed when asking questions. By doing all these, the reader becomes armed with the very detail required to become a developmental reader which is the next phase of readership.

Building on an existing reading level is the focus of developmental reading. Here, the child develops certain competencies such as the ability to quickly look at a printed text for specific information known as scanning, and the ability to glance through texts to come up with the general gists therein —skimming. Also, the reader can now read and give literal interpretations of what had been read.

For a child to be able to read to learn, then such learner must have attained the stage of advanced reading which involves interpreting, applying, analysing, reflecting, exploring and making inferences from what had been read. The moment a learner can read and connect what has been read to his/her background knowledge seamlessly or give examples of related situations from the text, then such a reader can read any text and comprehend effectively.

Advanced reading is reading for life-long learning and personal development. Efforts must be made by English teachers to ensure that every learner attain this stage before the end of upper basic classes as survival in senior secondary school solely depends on this attainment.

Another very important question begging for an answer is: how does the teacher make learners attain an advanced readership stage? Well, there are lots of factors at play which must be considered: age, background, the teacher him/herself, school etc. Attaining an advanced reading stage requires that the learner is cognitively mature and his/her background in reading is solid.

Then, the willingness as well as qualifications of the teacher taking reading comprehension also determines the extent of the growth of the learner in reading. The teacher remains the strongest motivator in learning, and by extension, reading. Availability of reading culture in schools can equally accelerate the reading pace of a learner, thereby creating the needed muse to become an advanced reader.

In conclusion, since reading is central to every academic pursuit, teachers and every stakeholder must ensure that concerted efforts are put into the reading processes, remediation is given to struggling readers and reading culture is cultivated in homes, schools and even religious spaces.