Reading Comprehension: From Research to Practice

Reading Comprehension: From Research to Practice

Reading Comprehension: From Research to Practice

Reading Comprehension: From Research to Practice


This volume summarizes a decade of research highlighting major advances in knowledge concerning the nature of comprehension. It suggests instructional implications of these advances and identifies issues remaining to be addressed. Case studies are provided describing how several school districts have used this research to develop new approaches to teaching comprehension.


When the National Institute of Education (NIE) was created in 1972, a planning group was commissioned to lay out a research agenda on reading. After listening to the views of reading researchers and educators, the group produced a report entitled Linguistic Communication: Perspectives for Research (Miller, 1973). It identified the two most pressing national literacy problems as: imparting basic literacy to those who most need it, and raising language comprehension in the entire population.

By then, the Office of Education had already committed substantial resources to the first of these two problems, mainly through support for research on curriculum development and improvement of reading instruction at the elementary school level, which focused mainly on teaching decoding skills. The new agenda primarily addressed the second issue.

Specifically, the study group's major recommendation was that high priority be given to research to develop an explicit theory of how people communicate:

Comprehension is the purpose of reading, yet we know far too little about the knowledge and conceptual organization needed for advanced reading competence. Although we have learned much about the legibility of type, patterns of eye movements, rates of information processing, and the like, these facts have not been put together in a coherent scientific theory of reading. We must understand better the higher mental processes that control the intentional act of reading. Because principled improvements in current practice will depend on sound theory of the skills to be taught, recommendation V deserves high priority.

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