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Brookes Publishing
Becoming a Professional Reading Teacher / Edition 1

Becoming a Professional Reading Teacher / Edition 1

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Answering the call for a comprehensive textbook on what reading teachers really need to know, this is the book that arms educators with not just the what and the how, but also the why that other texts don't cover. Two prominent literacy experts team with an elementary school specialist to give preservice teachers an easy-to-understand textbook that demystifies the research and incorporates everyday classroom experience. With its meticulous coverage of every aspect of effective reading instruction, this book ensures that general educators across grade levels

  • learn the best techniques for teaching all key literacy skills
  • get the clearest explanations available of the scientifically based research behind the strategies
  • fully understand how and when literacy skills are acquired and what factors influence the process
  • discover the best ways to teach students with learning disabilities, reading disabilities, and dyslexia
  • get ready to conduct effective assessment of students' reading skills
  • find out how to use the latest instructional technology to help advance students' literacy

With its practical, research-based answers to the three most important questions literacy educators face—what to teach, how to teach, and why to teach the recommended way—this textbook will prepare future teachers to enter the classroom ready and motivated to implement best practices.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781557668295
Publisher: Brookes Publishing
Publication date: 03/01/2008
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from Chapter 1 of Becoming a Professional Reading Teacher, by P.G. Aaron, Ph.D., R. Malatesha Joshi, Ph.D., & Diana Quatroche, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2008 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher

What Factors Influence the Acquisition of Literacy Skills?

A knowledge of the factors that promote and impede literacy acquisition is essential for teachers who wish to accelerate students' acquisition of literacy skills and to help those who are lagging behind to move forward. No single factor is responsible for children's acquisition of literacy skills or for their failure; rather, a variety of factors contributes to children's literacy development. The following section presents the most salient of these factors. The model of reading set forth in this text, known as the Component Model of Reading, is useful for organizing the factors that influence the acquisition of literacy skills into a coherent format. The theoretical framework on which this reading model is based is derived from the following works: Aaron, 1995; Aaron, 1997; Aaron and Kotva, 1999; Gough and Tunmer, 1986; and Joshi and Aaron, 2000.

The Component Model of Reading

In the context of this reading model, a component is defined as an elementary and independent process that operates on other internal cognitive processes (Sternberg, 1985). What qualifies a cognitive process as a component is its elemental nature and its independence from other mental processes. An example of an elementary operation of the reading process is decoding written words. The independent status of a process can be evaluated by subjecting it to the criterion of double dissociation. One analogy that can be used to explain the dissociation concept is the functioning of the automobile, which has several components: the fuel system, the electrical system, the transmission system, and so on. Each of these components is independent from the other components because one of these components can break down, leaving the others intact. When a component, regardless of what it is, fails to function normally, the automobile is disabled. Likewise, a child will read poorly if any of the components of reading, such as decoding or comprehension, fails to develop typically.

There is overall agreement that at the cognitive level, reading is made up of at least two components: decoding and linguistic comprehension. Fluency, or speed of reading, is claimed by some researchers to be yet another component, but its independent status is not clearly established. The implications of the componential nature of reading is that one component can develop at a typical rate while the other component, independent of the first, lags behind. For example, a child might fail to develop optimal decoding skills yet show typical listening comprehension skill; another child's decoding skills might develop typically but listening comprehension may lag. As a result, there are four different kinds of readers: those who have impaired decoding skills but typical linguistic comprehension; those who have typical decoding skills but poor linguistic comprehension; those who have impairments in both decoding and comprehension skills; and those who have satisfactory decoding and comprehension skills. Apart from these cognitive factors, there are also extrinsic factors that can hold back the acquisition of literacy skills. Factors influencing the acquisition of literacy skills are organized into three domains within the Component Model. These three domains are

  1. The cognitive domain
  2. The psychological domain
  3. The ecological domain

Although the cognitive domain satisfies the two requirements of a component—elemental nature and independence from other cognitive processes—the other two domains do not satisfy these requirements nearly as well. Nevertheless, the Component Model provides a framework for teachers to navigate their course through various assessment decisions and meet the instructional needs of the children in their classroom. The Component Model is used here as a means of coherently organizing the several factors that affect literacy development. The important thing to remember is that students can fail to acquire satisfactory levels of literacy skills because of deficiency in any component in one of these three domains. It follows, then, that in order to enable students to attain satisfactory literacy skills, the deficient area must first be identified and then remedial instruction targeting the deficient area implemented. Astudy by Catts, Hogan, and Fey (2003) demonstrated the success of such an approach. The three domains of the Component Model of Reading and their constituent components are shown in Figure 1.1.

The Cognitive Domain

The initial idea of the componential nature of reading comes from a proposal by Gough and Tunmer (1986) in the form of a simple mathematical formula:

RC = D _ LC

RC = reading comprehension, D = decoding of the printed word, and LC = linguistic comprehension (in this case, listening comprehension). This means that decoding and comprehension are two components of the cognitive module of reading. According to Gough and Tunmer, if D = 0, then RC = 0. Likewise, if LC = 0, RC = 0. That is, if a child's decoding skill is zero, his or her reading comprehension is zero; if a child's listening comprehension is zero, his or her reading comprehension is also zero. In other words, a child who cannot decode the printed word cannot read and understand, and a child who cannot listen and understand also cannot read and understand. The model formula as used in this textbook is slightly modified from the one shown above. The modified formula is RC = WR _ LC, where RC = reading comprehension, WR = word recognition, and LC = listening comprehension. The difference between the modified formula and the original one proposed by Gough and Tunmer is that word recognition replaces decoding.

Word Recognition

Word recognition (WR) is made up of two subprocesses: decoding and instant word reading (sight word reading). After a child's decoding skills reach a certain level, recognition of familiar words becomes fast and automatic, a skill also referred to as sight word reading. This text uses the term instant word reading instead of sight word reading because the latter term implies that visual processes are mainly responsible for quick recognition of the written word. However, studies show that phonological skills play a major role in decoding, which is a precursor to instant word reading (Ehri, 1998). In other words, whereas a few words can be read by using visual memory, a large sight vocabulary depends on well–developed decoding skills. Visual memory has a limited capacity, perhaps not exceeding a few hundred words, yet a mature reader can recognize more than 80,000 words instantly. Obviously, the instant recognition of this many words cannot be accomplished by visual memory alone.


Comprehension is a generic term that includes both listening comprehension and reading comprehension. Studies have shown that these two types of comprehension are highly correlated and that they are mediated by the same cognitive mechanisms (Jahandire, 1999).

The validity of the original simple view of reading was demonstrated by Hoover and Gough (1990) in a study of 254 bilingual (English–Spanish) elementary school children. The investigators found that a substantial proportion of the variance in reading comprehension was accounted for by the product of decoding and listening comprehension (first grade, 71%; second grade, 72%; third grade, 83%; fourth grade, 82%). Subsequent studies by other researchers showed that decoding and listening comprehension do not make an equal contribution to reading comprehension at all grade levels; decoding makes a greater contribution in first and second grades, whereas comprehension makes a greater contribution in the upper grades (Rupley, Willson, & Nichols, 1998).

Independence of Word Recognition and Comprehension

The independence of word recognition and comprehension is also supported by studies from neuropsychology (Marshall & Newcombe, 1973) and developmental psychology (Frith & Snowling, 1983). For instance, in Marshall and Newcombe's study, some patients with stroke misread the word father as "dad" and garden as "flower," which indicated that their comprehension was relatively intact but that their decoding skills were impaired. The converse pattern was seen in other patients, who tended to pronounce words mechanically but failed to comprehend their meaning. For example, these patients read the word sale as "Sally" and listen as "Liston." When asked what these words meant, they answered that it was the name of a girl and the name of a boxer, respectively, which indicated that they could pronounce the written words—albeit mechanically—but that their comprehension of these words was impaired.

Likewise, developmental studies have shown that the ability to pronounce written words is independent of the ability to comprehend their meaning. Frith and Snowling (1983), for instance, described two kinds of poor readers: children with average or above average IQ who can understand spoken language quite well but have difficulty with written language (i.e., dyslexia) and some children with autism who are precocious readers and can sound out written words but cannot comprehend well what they have read (i.e., hyperlexia; see Box 1.1). Hyperlexia and dyslexia are often considered to occupy opposite poles of reading difficulty. Thus, these two conditions show that reading difficulties can arise for different reasons.

In addition to this evidence, recently conducted neuroimaging studies show that decoding and comprehension tasks activate different parts of the brain, indicating that there are separate neurological substrates for decoding and comprehension processes (Shaywitz, Mody, & Shaywitz, 2006). What is relevant from an educational perspective is that assessment of the components of cognitive domain and instruction that targeted the weak component produces improvement in children's literacy skills (Aaron, 1995; Aaron, 1997; Aaron, Joshi, Boulware–Gooden, & Bentum, in press; Aaron & Kotva, 1999; Joshi & Aaron, 2000).

Data from genetic studies also add to the evidence that word recognition and comprehension are independent processes. Keenan, Betjemann, Wadsworth, DeFries, and Olson (2006) reported that their genetic study of dyslexia in identical and fraternal twins showed that there is substantial and significant genetic influence on individual differences in both reading and listening comprehension. In this study, word recognition and listening comprehension each accounted for significant, independent genetic influences on reading comprehension. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, reading fluency and vocabulary knowledge are two important correlates of reading skills. Nevertheless, they are not accorded status as components in the Component Model of Reading.

Box 1.1. The syndrome of hyperlexia

The syndrome of hyperlexia is a developmental disability in which children show extraordinary word recognition skill in conjunction with very poor comprehension. Hyperlexia is marked by three features: 1) learning to read words at 3 or 4 years of age in the absence of formal instruction, 2) exhibiting compulsive behavior and rituals when reading words, and 3) comprehending both written and spoken language very poorly. Frequently, but not always, this condition is associated with autism.

There are also some precocious children who can decode written material very well and also comprehend it quite well. Teachers should be careful not to mistake these precocious readers as having hyperlexia. Hyperlexia is marked by extreme deficiency in comprehension of both spoken and written language, and for this reason, very young children with good decoding skills should have their comprehension assessed. As with dyslexia, hyperlexia can vary in severity.


As noted previously, some researchers consider the speed with which written words are named, known as fluency (a correlate of instant word reading), to be a factor independent of decoding skill (e.g., Bowers & Newby–Clark, 2002; Wolf, Goldberg, Cirino, Morris, & Lovett, 2002). Although the importance of speed of processing information is well recognized, its independent nature has not been settled. In a recent study that analyzed data collected from more than a thousand 5– to 10–year–old children, Konold, Juel, McKinnon, and Deffes (2003) reported that processing speed, along with vocabulary knowledge, made independent contributions to reading. However, other studies have indicated that speed of processing contributes only a negligible amount of independent variance to reading comprehension. This likely is so because instant word recognition is closely associated with reading speed, and instant word recognition is accomplished by processing the written word automatically and at a very fast rate (Adlof, Catts, Hogan, & Little, 2005; Cho & McBride–Chang, 2005; Hawelka & Wimmer, 2005). This makes it difficult to separate reading speed from instant word recognition ability and assign speed an independent status. For instance, can a child who is a fluent reader be a poor decoder? Conversely, can a child who is a poor decoder be a fluent reader? Neither possibility is likely. Vukovic and Siegel (2005) investigated the independent nature of fluency and concluded that the existence of poor readers who are deficient in naming speed but not in decoding has not been documented. This means that fluency marks a stage in which the reader has developed from a plodding decoder into a swift instant word recognizer. Instant word recognition and speed of reading, therefore, are not treated as two different components in the Component Model. So, what is the final word on fluency? When children begin to read, they tend to focus on letters and syllables rather than on words in order to decode. By about the third grade, they are able to process bigger chunks of words and identify words instantly and automatically. Once children become instant word readers, they become fluent readers. When they reach this phase, they do not have to invest attention in decoding words but can focus on the meaning of the text. The ability to read words instantly and effortlessly, therefore, is a prerequisite for good reading comprehension. In one study, Vaessen, Gerretsen, and Blomert (2007) studied Dutch children in order to evaluate the "double–deficit hypothesis," which states that poor readers have deficits in two different areas: decoding and naming speed. After testing 162 children with dyslexia, the investigators found that nearly 90% of the slow readers also had decoding difficulties and concluded their results do not support the double–deficit hypothesis.

The results of the previously mentioned studies should not be taken to mean that speed of processing is unimportant. The fact that fluency and fluency training have received much instructional attention underscores the important role fluency plays in reading instruction. Teachers should provide abundant opportunities for children to read, which will increase their fluency.

Vocabulary Knowledge

Whether vocabulary knowledge is independent of reading comprehension is a question similar to that of reading speed and decoding. That is, can a child have limited vocabulary knowledge but still have good comprehension? Though vocabulary knowledge is essential for comprehension, the precise relationship between the two is not well understood. Reflecting on this issue, Beck, McKeown, and Omanson (1987) asked, "are people good comprehenders because they know a lot of words, or do people know a lot of words because they are good comprehenders" (p. 147).


Yet another ability, the capacity to maintain consistent, sustained attention, also facilitates reading performance. But is attention independent of reading skills so as to be considered an independent component? Similar to fluency and vocabulary, attention is not considered a component of reading. That is, can children with limited reading skills attend to the text they are reading, and can children who have difficulty attending do well on tasks of text comprehension? Even though this question cannot be answered satisfactorily at this point, clearly there is an intimate relationship between reading performance and sustained attention. In addition, it is clear that children pay attention to materials they find interesting and fail to maintain attention when they find the reading material difficult or uninteresting. Research indicates that inconsistent attention can contribute to poor performance on reading tests and, conversely, that poor word recognition skills can make the reader's attention wander (Aaron, Joshi, Palmer, Smith, & Kirby, 2002). Simple techniques for differentiating reading difficulties caused by decoding deficits from reading difficulties caused by inconsistent attention are described in Chapter 9. Strategies for improving the reader's attention are also presented in that chapter.

Instructional Implications of the Component Model of Reading's Cognitive Components

As stated previously, reading performance is influenced by many factors, some cognitive in nature and others psychological or environmental. Although classroom teachers can influence the cognitive factors and, to a lesser degree, some psychological factors that mediate reading, some of the environmental factors will be beyond their influence. However, being aware of the source of students' poor reading performance—whether it is cognitive, psychological, or environmental—can help teachers understand the nature of the reading problems. With respect to the cognitive features of the Component Model, teachers have three functions to perform:

  1. With typically achieving children, make certain that all components are functioning optimally, and nurture and foster associated skills during regular classroom instruction.
  2. When a child encounters difficulty in learning to read, first identify which component(s) is the source of reading difficulty.
  3. Design instructional procedures specifically aimed at improving the efficiency of the weak component.

The Psychological Domain

The psychological domain of the Component Model contains several components: motivation and interest, locus of control, learned helplessness, learning styles, teacher expectation, teacher quality, and gender differences. Many of these factors have been developed as theoretical concepts, and the tools that have been designed to assess them vary in reliability and validity. Teacher observation and judgment, therefore, are important in evaluating the role that psychological variables play in children's literacy acquisition. Based on their observation and judgment, teachers can adapt their literacy instruction to lead to optimal outcomes.

Motivation and Interest

Wittrock (1986) defined motivation as the process of initiating, sustaining, and directing one's own activity. Motivation leads children to read, and reading becomes an alluring activity when children find it interesting. Psychologists classify motivation broadly as extrinsic or intrinsic. External factors that motivate children to read are rewards, such as gold stars and verbal praise from the teacher. Intrinsic motivation comes from within the child; the child is motivated to read because of the satisfaction it brings. External rewards are difficult to administer consistently with a large classroom of children. Furthermore, external rewards may backfire when they are not continuously and consistently delivered. For example, in a study of kindergarteners (Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999), one group of children was given rewards for drawing with crayons, an activity that very young children do naturally. Another group of kindergarten children, the control group, did not receive any rewards for playing with crayons. After a month, the experimenter stopped rewarding the first group of children. Not surprisingly, there was a significant drop in the drawing activities of the children in this group, which demonstrates that internal motivation provides a more reliable incentive for activities such as reading and writing than external rewards. As much as possible, teachers should try to make use of children's internal motivation rather than rely on external rewards for cultivating good reading habits. It should be noted, however, that other studies show that extrinsic rewards have a complex relationship with motivation and may not operate as "killers" of internal motivation (Cameron & Pierce, 1994).

How can teachers motivate children to be interested in learning literacy skills? There are four principles teachers must keep in mind when attempting to increase children's motivation for engaging in literacy–related activities. They are

  • Interest
  • Need
  • Value
  • Goal

Children should come to understand that interesting stories are hidden behind the "scribbles" in a book and that one can discover these stories by reading them. Teachers can foster this understanding by reading stories aloud to children, particularly those with characters and story lines with which children can empathize. In his simple but highly useful book Best Books for Building Literacy for Elementary School Children, Thomas Gunning (2000) offers brief descriptions of a selection of read–aloud books featuring characters or events with which children can readily identify. For example, Eric Carle's (1987) book Have You Seen My Cat? is about a boy searching for his lost cat. Teachers can interest children in the story by asking how many children have cats or dogs at home, how they would feel if the pet got lost, and what they would do to find it. A useful source for selecting books according to reading level and content, in addition to Gunning's book, is The Read–Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (1989). Every year, the October issue of Reading Teacher also publishes lists of books preferred by children and teachers. Gunning (2000) suggested that the read–aloud practice meet three conditions:

  1. Children must see the value in reading.
  2. They should see that reading brings enjoyment and satisfaction.
  3. The book chosen should be one that children would want to read themselves and feel confident in doing so.

Other principles to be observed in reading aloud include setting up a purpose for listening, drawing children's attention to the pictures and illustrations in the book during reading, and asking questions and leading a discussion during and after reading. It is also important to set a fixed time of about 20 minutes during the day for reading aloud so that children learn to look forward to this time. Additional information about read–aloud books and how to make use of them can be found by accessing http://www.trelease–on— (look under "The Treasury" of read–alouds).

Other means of motivating readers recommended by Gunning are doing cooperative group activities, participating in book discussions, voting for favorite authors, and participating in on–line chats with authors. The class can also be divided into groups to read books, then retell the stories they have read to the entire class. Children can write their own "stories," which can be assembled and made into books with their own names printed as the authors. Although children in kindergarten and early first grade may not be able to write much on their own, they can draw pictures and perhaps write their own first name for their books. A computer can be used to decorate the books. All of these activities can increase children's interest in books and motivate them to read.


A powerful motivating factor in learning to read is need, or seeing the necessity for reading and writing. Scholars of linguistic history believe that during prehistoric times, most spoken and written languages developed to fulfill the immediate needs of the society. Some 2,000 years before the Christian era, Sumerians found that human memory was inadequate to store information about the numerous trading activities that were transacted in their society. A better means of storage, therefore, became a necessity, and writing emerged as a device to fulfill this need. It is not unreasonable to conclude that when children feel a need to communicate, they will be interested in learning how to read and write. As much as possible, the need—based tasks chosen to motivate children should be authentic.

Some principles should be observed in motivating children to read and write:

  • Literacy tasks and activities should be authentic and meaningful for children. These include activities such as writing letters to friends, parents, and even the classroom teacher; reading recipes and making simple foods following the instructions; and writing in journals for personal reflection. Children can also be encouraged to communicate with one another through writing. Children with keyboarding skills can use e–mail for this purpose.
  • An activity will be motivating to children if it is challenging but not beyond their skill.
  • Students should be given some degree of autonomy in choosing the literacy task.
  • Students should not be evaluated rigidly for their performance on literacy tasks that are designed to motivate reluctant readers.
  • A supportive atmosphere enables students to ask questions and the teacher to provide encouragement to keep children attentive to the tasks they have chosen to accomplish (Tracey & Morrow, 1998). We implemented a project called "Drop everything and write" in a fourth–grade classroom (Joshi, Aaron, Dean, & Rupley, in press). For 20 minutes each day, children were asked to communicate with their classmates through written notes; no talking was allowed during this period. At the beginning of the project, children were reluctant to write notes to one another, but toward the end of the semester they felt more comfortable as they got used to writing. There was a comparison group in which written communication was not imposed and children were allowed to talk with one another. Pre– and posttests showed that the reading skills of the treatment group improved significantly when compared to that of the control group and that they used more words and wrote in longer and grammatically more complex sentences than they did at the beginning of the study. The "Drop everything and write" technique is similar to the dialogue journals described by Bode (1989), Isaakson, (1992), and Wollman–Bonilla (1989).

Here are some additional ideas for creating a need for children to read and write:

    Establish pen pal dyads. A pen pal need not be outside the classroom; he or she could be a classmate or even the teacher. Set up class dramas, in which each child is given a simple script that he or she has to read, memorize, and use during the staging of the play. Ask children to complete a project such as constructing a map, executing a drawing, or assembling a model by reading and following written instructions. These projects should be adjusted to match children's reading skills.


Children will readily see the value in being able to read and write when they are able to communicate with one another through writing or reading stories on their own. They will also enjoy a sense of accomplishment when their own "stories" are assembled into small books.


In collaboration with the teacher, children can set up literacy goals, such as writing one letter per week, reading one book in a month, or assembling a toy following instructions. Goals could be set up for all of the activities described in this section. Setting up such goals creates a need for communication.

Table of Contents

About the Authors

I. The Psychology and Psycholinguistics of Literacy Skills
  1. Introduction to Literacy Skills and Their Acquisition
    What Are Literacy Skills?
    When Are Literacy Skills Acquired?
    Do All Children Acquire Reading Skills at the Same Rate?
    What Factors Influence the Acquisition of Literacy Skills?
    The Component Model of Reading
  2. The Psychology of Reading and the History of Literacy Instruction in the United States
    The Psychology of Reading
    History of Literacy Instruction in the United States
    Approaches to Literacy Instruction: Today's Major Players
  3. The Psycholinguistics of Spoken Language
    The Importance of a Knowledge of Linguistics
    Linguistics and Psycholinguistics
    Components of Spoken Language
    The Influence of Language on Reading and Writing Skills
  4. The Psycholinguistics of Written Language
    Basic Concepts Involved in the Study of Writing Systems
    Origins and History of Writing Systems
    Written Language Is as Natural as Spoken Language
    Written Language Is Not Merely Speech Written Down
    The Influence of Written Language on Spoken Language
  5. Development of Spoken and Written Language Skills
    Prereading Skills: Print Awareness, Emergent Literacy, and Invented Spelling
    Developmental Sequence of the Components of Spoken Language
II. Literacy Instruction and Teaching Strategies
  1. Developing Basic Literacy Skills
    Major Approaches to Beginning Literacy Instruction
    Promoting Listening Comprehension Skills in Preschoolers
    Strategies for Fostering Print Awareness
    Strategies for Developing Phonological Awareness
    Strategies for Developing Phonemic Awareness
    Strategies for Introducing the Alphabetic Principle
    What Does the Research Say?
  2. Strategies for Developing Decoding, Instant Word Reading, and Spelling Skills
    Strategies for Developing Decoding and Word Recognition Skills
    Instant Word Reading and Fluency
    Instructional Programs for Teaching Children at Risk
    Strategies for Promoting Spelling Skills
  3. Strategies for Developing Vocabulary Knowledge, Comprehension Skills, and Writing Skills
    Encountering Words
    Remembering Words
    Promoting Reading Comprehension
    Promoting Writing Skills
  4. Reading Disability and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
    Reading Disability: Medical Focus
    Learning Disability: Educational Focus
    Instructional Methods for Learning Disability
    Inconsistent Attention as a Source of Reading Difficulties
III.Assessment in Literacy Instruction
  1. Testing and Assessment of Literacy Skills
    Testing and Assessment: What Is the Difference?
    Controversy Over Testing

A. Glossary
B. Review of Selected Basal Readers
C. Technology Assistance and Computer Use in Literacy Instruction

Author Index
Subject Index

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