Understanding the Divergent Influences of Reading Activities (Erten & Karakas)

Erten, I. K. & Karakas, M. (2007). Understanding the divergent influences of reading activities on the comprehension of short stories. The Reading Matrix, 7 (3): 113-133. Retrieved March 15, 2008, from http://www.readingmatrix.com/articles/erten_karakas/article.pdf

This study compared the comprehension of two groups of students who had been given the same Faulkner short story to read, but been engaged in different types of pre-reading and during-reading activities. Basing the study on research that analyzed different types of reading-related activities and showed that apt readers were more likely to exert a range of such activities, they were able to show that students who participated in different types of reading activities displayed different types of comprehension.

Aside from the experiment itself, this article includes a brief and enlightening review of research in the reading process and comprehension. It describes the “shift from a perception of reading as a rather passive process towards that of an interactive process” (114), describing this leading model of reading as an interactive process as one involving both bottom-up and top-down processes. The review also introduces the concept of schemata (background knowledge) and its role in an individual’s comprehension. The concept is a complex one, with several identified types of schemata: content schemata, formal schemata and abstract schemata. The review also points out identified cognitive behaviours of good and poor readers (separated into pre-reading, during-reading and post-reading activities) that can be targeted and developed in poor readers. For example, “good” readers typically engage in the following pre-reading activities: they activate prior knowledge, they understand the task and set purpose, the choose appropriate strategies for reading. Meanwhile “poor” readers start reading without preparation, read without knowing why and read without considering how to approach the material (116).

I can’t help but think that event the best readers are poor readers at time, and that this may account for variance in comprehension in an individual. However, at the same time, other research has indicated that apt readers are more likely to be able to make up for certain inadequacies (i.e. lack of background knowledge) than poorer readers.

Referring to prior research by Widdowson, Brantmeier and Saricoban, Erten and Karakas define effective readers as “those who can automatically engage in an interactive reading process”(117). Perhaps I should collect all these definitions for reading-related measures, i.e. effective readers, good readers, poor readers, literacy, fluency, information literacy, and see how they all fit together?

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