The Science of Reading (2010), edited by Snowling and Hulme, is a volume in the series Blackwell Handbooks of Developmental Psychology, published by Blackwell. This volume offers comprehensive coverage of most of the recent research
in cognitive and linguistic processes involved in reading.
For those who are fluent readers, reading seems to happen without much conscious attention. Although this may be true, the brain is still processing information from the given text. The Science of Reading illustrates how our mind works during reading in English and other languages. The book contains 27 chapters, which are divided among seven sections: word recognition processes in reading, learning to read and spell, reading comprehension, reading in different languages, disorders of reading and spelling, biological bases of reading, and teaching reading.
The Science of Reading views reading from an information-processing point of view. Under this view, reading is considered an accumulation of simpler processing (e.g., letter, word recognition) built onto more complex processing (e.g., discourse comprehension).
During the 1970s and 1980s, when a top-down approach to reading was more prevalent, it was thought that readers do not need to pay attention to individual words. Reading was viewed as a “psycholinguistic guessing game” (Goodman, 1973), and the reader’s job was to hypothesize what a given text means based upon their own background knowledge. The information in the text, such as meanings of words, was believed to merely confirm the hypothesis, rather than be the main source of information for understanding the text.
This approach began to be viewed skeptically when eye movement research was introduced. Research with native speakers of English indicated that fluent readers do look at almost all of the words in the text, about 80% of the content words and 40% of the function words (Carpenter & Just, 1983).
Word recognition has come to be regarded as an integral component of fluent reading, and a more systematic approach to teaching word recognition skills has started to be implemented in early reading instruction.
Although word recognition is important, a deeper level of comprehension, called inference, typically requires processing information that is not explicitly stated in the text.
For example, when readers are shown the following sentence,
The turtle sat on a log. A fish swam under the log (p. 210)
most of them conclude (or infer) this:
The turtle was above the fish.
We are able to make inferences because of our world knowledge, that is: if A is above B, and C is under B, then A is above C. World knowledge includes specialized knowledge and cultural knowledge. The Science of Reading details the roles of textual information and non-textual information in reading comprehension. The book is recommended not only to those who are interested in the psycholinguistics of reading, but also to those who are interested in the psycholinguistics of writing.
Carpenter, P. A., & Just, M. A. (1983). What your eyes do while your mind is reading. In K. Rayner (Ed.), Eye movements in reading: Perceptual and language processes. New York: Academic.
Goodman, K. S. (1973). Psycholinguistic universals of the reading process. In F. Smith (Ed.), Psycholinguistics and reading (pp. 21-29). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Dr. Megumi Hamada is a professor in Ball State’s TESOL and Linguistics Program.