Handbook of Reading Research - Vol. II

By Rebecca Barr; Michael L. Kamil et al. | Go to book overview

PREFACE

To collect the essential knowledge of the field of reading is an unattainable goal. Those of us who participate in such an effort become parties to the myth that the goal can be attained. By opening the pages of this book, you, as a reader, have opted for the convenience of seeing the field represented in a single space (and time) and decided, consciously or unconsciously, to live with the illusion that any living endeavor, such as a field of inquiry, can be represented as a static set of truths. As writers, we made the same compromise when we set pen to paper. But you know and we know that this static image is only an illusion. And we make the compromise because we fully expect that our partners in this communicative act know that these chapters represent points of departure rather than final destinations. Those of us who wrote them know each chapter invites its own destruction; the very act of reading any review should encourage readers to question the adequacy of the representation and to begin to contemplate better representations. Such is the nature of progress.

Since this is the second handbook of research in the field of reading, comparisons with the first handbook are inevitable and instructive. The most obvious difference is in organization. In volume II, we decided to offer readers an examination of literacy through a variety of lenses, some to permit a microscopic view and others, a panoramic view. Part One, edited by Rebecca Barr, is labelled Society and Literacy; obviously, this is the widest lens that we provide. Part Two, Task and Format Variables in Reading Research, is edited by Michael Kamil; its chapters more or less define the range of activities that we have culturally determined to be a part of this enterprise we call literacy. Part Three, Constructs of Reading Process, edited by Peter Mosenthal, focuses more on the processes that individuals engage in when they perform this act we call reading. Part Four, Literacy and Schooling, edited by David Pearson, takes us into the environment in which the knowledge that comprises literacy is passed on from one generation to the next. The last section, an Epilogue to the whole enterprise of reading research, consists of a single chapter by Peter Mosenthal and Michael Kamil entitled Understanding Progress in Reading Research. Our overall plan is to start with the broadest possible societal view of literacy; then to look inward, first to the materials and tasks of literacy and then within the individual; and finally to work our way out, first to the context of schooling and then to a philosophical reflection upon this enterprise in which we are engaged. This conceptual structure contrasts with that of volume I, in which our substructure was Methodological Issues, Basic Processes: The State of the Art, and Instructional Practices: The State of the Art.

The makeup of each of the four main sections was established through an extensive set of meetings among the four editors and conversations with research leaders in the field. Among other factors, we considered bodies of work in each area, major contributors who might be willing to write the chapters, and the internal logic of each section. We hope that our choices are compelling, appropriate, and appealing. In addition to some intended coherence within sections, there are some between-section connections; for example, there are two chapters each on vocabulary and comprehension, one each for basic processes and instruction.

The composition of sections was also influenced by two other decisions we made at the outset of our planning of volume II in 1986. First, we decided not to repeat chapters

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