The reading process as a whole is a very complex area, and is constantly changing, but as an elementary school teacher responsible for teaching young children to read, it is vital for me to understand the theories behind the reading act itself. The three theories which I feel are the most important, and which I feel are intertwined to account for the reading process are subskill theories, interactive theories and transactive theories. I believe that all three of these theories have components that fit together to account for reading and the understanding of reading. One theory alone cannot account for every aspect of the reading process.
The subskill theory approach to reading is one that has been around for a long time, and is based on instructional strategies to teach letter-sound relationships, sight words and decoding skills (among others), until the reading act becomes automatic. Comprehension does play a role in this theory, but it is a small role, in my opinion. I know this system works, because it is the way I was taught to read. I believe it is vital for young children to understand the relationship between sound and symbol relationships. This approach gives children a strategy for sounding out words that are unfamiliar to them. Unlocking the pronunciation of a word can sometimes lead to the word's meaning, if the child is familiar with the word, and this is an important skill for young readers to have. But, the goal of reading is to gain meaning from the text, not just to pronounce the words correctly. When the reader is unable to attach meaning to the word, the decoding skill becomes useless. This is why the subskill theory, by itself, cannot account for all aspects of the reading act. I have witnessed many elementary students who are prolific readers, can sound out even the most complex words, but do not have a clue about the meaning of what they have read. Studying a reading skill in isolation does not guarantee its use in practice. This is...
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