Reading Proficiency

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What is reading? Reading is an essential skill for English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL) to understand written texts. It involves both perception and thought. Reading consists of two related processes: word recognition and comprehension. Word recognition is the process of perceiving how written symbols correspond to the spoken language. Comprehension is the process of understanding the words, sentences and connected texts. Readers typically make use of background knowledge, vocabulary, grammatical knowledge, experience with text and other strategies to help them understand written text.

Learning to read is an important educational goal. For both children and adults, the ability to read opens up new worlds and opportunities. It enables us to gain new knowledge, enjoy literature, and do daily things such as, reading the newspapers, job listings, instruction manuals, maps and so on. Most people learn to read in their native language without difficulty. Many, but not all, learn to read as children. Some children and adults need additional help. Others learn to read a second, third or additional language, with or without having learned to read in their first language.

Reading is often defined in simple statements much like the following: “Reading is the process of receiving and interpreting information encoded in language form via the medium of print” (Urquhart & Weir, 1998: 22), or, “Comprehension occurs when the reader extracts and integrates various information from the text and combines it with what is already known” (Koda, 2005: 4). However, when we think of the different purposes for reading and the varying processes, no single statement is going to capture the complexity of reading. A more comprehensive definition will need to address the characteristics of reading by fluent readers and answer questions such as these: What do fluent readers do when they read? What processes are used by fluent readers? How do these processes...
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