Handbook of Reading Research - Vol. II

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

EPILOGUE: UNDERSTANDING PROGRESS IN READING RESEARCH

Peter B. Mosenthal and Michael L. Kamil


MAPPING THE TERRITORY OF READING

A handbook is a unique literary genre. Like a map, it summarizes the territory that a discipline claims to address; the borders of this map define the breadth of a field; the details of the map define the depth. In comparing handbooks from different disciplines, we can see what territories are unique to a discipline and what territories are claimed by competing disciplines. As successive handbook editions appear within a field of inquiry, different maps of this discipline's territory are presented; new landmarks of thought are included; old landmarks are dropped, modified, or left untouched. In this regard, different handbook editions serve to chronicle the changes in what a field chooses to include and exclude in defining its territory.

As readers, we bring many of the same expectations to new editions of handbooks that we do to new maps. One expectation is that the territories of our discipline and road system are forever changing. The expansion of new road systems and the warning sign "Construction Ahead" remind us of the changes continually taking place in the territory through which we travel. The yearly addition of new journals and the increased number of professional publications are harbingers of the more fundamental changes at work to create the need for the new "map" provided by a new handbook.

We also expect that changes in a territory usually represent changes for the better. These changes are "new" and, therefore, represent "improvements" in our territory's landscape. As these improvements accumulate, they are perceived to reach a level of "significance." At this point, we say that "progress" has been achieved!


Purpose of This Chapter

As readers of the second volume of the Handbook of Reading Research, we bring our own personal expectations of what should be included in this latest map of the reading field. More importantly, as we read the Handbook, we bring our own individual notions of which changes in the reading territory have been for the better. Some of us will agree and others will disagree that the changes really represent "significant" improvements in the reading field. And upon completing the Handbook, some of us will believe, and some of us won't, that progress has truly taken place in the territory known as the "reading field" since the publication of the first Handbook of Reading Research ( Pearson , Barr, Kamil, & Mosenthal, 1984).

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