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The most recent learning and literary theories are challenging the ways in which practitioners are teaching reading and understanding. In the past, the focus in teaching reading has been on the acquisition of a hierarchy of subskills and the mastery of a controlled vocabulary. Comprehension was separable from and dependent on the development of the lower level word identification skills. Much of reading time was spent on isolated skills that were intended to improve, but did not include, the act of reading, particularly the reading of poetry. These skills were considered to be important steps in the process of enabling the reader to extract the correct and determinable meaning from text.

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