There are currently three main approaches to teaching reading; the bottom-up model, the top-down model and the interactive model. Although both the bottom-up and top-down models have their merits, the interactive model blends the major strategies of them both together to form a more balanced well-rounded approach.
The bottom-up model, which was the sole method of teaching reading through the mid-1980s, places a heavy emphasis on decoding. The belief is that the eye directs the mind, and that reading begins with print and proceeds systematically from letters to words to phrases to sentences to meaning. Since meaning is at the end of the reading process, the reader would need to have their decoding skills down pat in order to comprehend the text. Reading acquisition, therefore, requires the testing and the mastering of a series of word recognition sub-skills. Only by mastering all of these building blocks could the reader finally attain meaningful comprehension of the text.
The top-down model, which got its start in the mid-1980s, contradicts the bottom-up model by stating that the reading process begins with meaning. The reader uses his prior knowledge to compare everything he reads to what he already knows. In this model the mind directs the eye, and the reader only decodes enough to either confirm or reject the assumptions that he already has about something. Children learn to read through meaningful experiences in which they read, write, speak and listen. They need to be tested on the amount and types of information that they gain through their reading.
The interactive model stresses both what is on the written page and what a reader brings to it using a combination of both top-down and bottom-up skills. This model doesn't discount the importance of decoding. The reader uses parallel processing by decoding and comprehending simultaneously. Whereas bottom-up processing may be easier for the reader who is skilled at word recognition but...
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