Reading Instruction

reading (mental process)

reading, process of mentally interpreting written symbols. Facility in reading is an essential factor in educational progress, and instruction in this basic skill is a primary purpose of elementary education. The ability to read was not considered important for most laymen until sometime after Johann Gutenberg's invention of the printing press (c.1450) and the Protestant Reformation, with its emphasis on individual interpretation of the Bible. Until that time reading was generally restricted to the clergy and certain members of the nobility. Although illiteracy is still a problem in many areas of the world, compulsory childhood education laws have assured that most citizens of advanced industrial nations can read.

Physiological and psychological studies suggest that the process of reading is based on a succession of quick eye movements, known as fixations, across the written line, each of which lasts for about a quarter of a second. In each fixation more than one word is perceived and interpreted, so that a skilled reader may take in more than three words per fixation when reading easy material. Depending on the rate of fixations and the difficulty of the material, an adult can read and understand anywhere from 200 to 1,000 words per minute.

There has been considerable difference of opinion about the best method of teaching children to read. By the end of the 20th cent. the educational concensus was largely that a combination of phonics, which emphasizes sound, and the whole-language method, which emphasizes meaning, is the most effective way to teach the skill. Most educators also agree on the importance of remedial work for students whose progress is impeded by impaired vision, faulty eye movements, developmental disabilities such as dyslexia, or personal handicaps resulting from poor teaching.


See G. Hildreth, Teaching Reading (1958); I. A. Richards, How to Read a Page (1959); G. Cuomo, Becoming a Better Reader (1960); H. Diack, Reading and the Psychology of Perception (1960); J. S. Chall, Learning to Read: The Great Debate (1967); M. Cox, The Challenge of Reading Failure (1968); M. J. Adler and C. Van Doren, How to Read a Book (rev. ed. 1972); M. C. Robeck and J. A. R. Wilson, Psychology of Reading (1974).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Reading Instruction: Selected full-text books and articles

Motivating Reading Comprehension: Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction By John T. Guthrie; Allan Wigfield; Kathleen C. Perencevich Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Instructional Models in Reading By Steven A. Stahl; David A. Hayes Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
Linking Reading Assessment to Instruction: An Application Worktext for Elementary Classroom Teachers By Arleen Shearer Mariotti; Susan P. Homan Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001 (3rd edition)
Content Area Reading and Learning: Instructional Strategies By Diane Lapp; James Flood; Nancy Farnan Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004 (2nd edition)
Reading Comprehension: From Research to Practice By Judith Orasanu Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1986
Librarian's tip: Part III "Instructional Implications"
Handbook of Reading Research By P. David Pearson Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002
Librarian's tip: Part Three "Instructional Practices: The State of the Art"
Handbook of Reading Research By Rebecca Barr; Michael L. Kamil; Peter B. Mosenthal; P. David Pearson Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, vol.II, 1991
Librarian's tip: Chap. 29 "Comprehension Instruction," Chap. 30 "Teachers' Instructional Actions," and Chap. 31 "Grouping Students for Reading Instruction"
Handbook of Reading Research By Michael L. Kamil; Peter B. Mosenthal; P. David Pearson; Rebecca Barr Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, vol.3, 2000
Librarian's tip: Chap. 26 "Beginning Reading Instruction: Research on Early Interventions," Chap. 30 "What Should Comprehension Instruction Be the Instruction Of?," and Chap. 31 "Literature-Based Reading Instruction"
The Psychology of Reading Instruction By Ediger, Marlow Reading Improvement, Vol. 41, No. 3, Fall 2004
Facilitative Reading Instruction: Preservice Teachers' Voices and Perceptions By Cheek, Earl H., Jr.; Steward, Frances A.; Launey, Byron L.; Borgia, Laurel G Reading Improvement, Vol. 41, No. 2, Summer 2004
The Causes of High and Low Reading Achievement By Ronald P. Carver Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000
Developing Engaged Readers in School and Home Communities By Linda Baker; Peter Afflerbach; David Reinking Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996
Librarian's tip: "Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction: An Integrated Curriculum to Develop Motivations and Strategies for Reading" begins on p. 165
Reading Instruction for Elementary-Age Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: Academic and Behavioral Outcomes By Barton-Arwood, Sally M.; Wehby, Joseph H.; Falk, Katherine B Exceptional Children, Vol. 72, No. 1, Fall 2005
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Balanced, Strategic Reading Instruction for Upper-Elementary and Middle School Students with Reading Disabilities: A Comparative Study of Two Approaches By Manset-Williamson, Genevieve; Nelson, Jason M Learning Disability Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 1, Winter 2005
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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