Archived Information

State of the Art: Reading - November 1993

image omitted 2. Effective reading instruction can develop engaged readers who are knowledgeable, strategic, motivated, and socially interactive.


Our [National Reading Research Center's] overarching goal is to study how to cultivate highly engaged, self-determining readers who are the architects of their own learning. A unifying theme running throughout our research is that students will acquire the competencies and motivations to read for diverse aesthetic and academic purposes, such as gaining knowledge, interpreting an author's perspective, escaping into the literacy world, performing a task, sharing reactions to stories and informational texts, or taking social and political action in response to what is read.
                                       (Alvermann and Guthrie 1993, p. 135)

Until recently, reading instruction focused almost exclusively on cognitive aspects--for example, the mechanics of reading. However, teaching students to become literate involves much more. Literacy depends on a myriad of factors related to the context of literacy activities (e.g., the kind of social interaction that takes place during a reading group discussion) and the child's personal attributes, including cognitive development. An engaged reader: 1) uses prior knowledge to gain information from new material; 2) uses a variety of skills in a strategic way to gain information independently; 3) is internally motivated to read for information and for pleasure; and 4) interacts socially to make gains in literacy development.

The context of literacy instruction and personal attributes in addition to cognitive development influence children's reading success in profound ways. Therefore, when planning instruction, teachers must make provisions in daily lessons for factors such as students' motivation to read. For example, choosing to read is an important ingredient of engaged reading. It has been found that allowing students to choose reading material of interest to them is a powerful motivator that fosters independent reading habits. Effective teachers make use of this knowledge on a regular basis in planning and executing instruction.

Engaged reading, wherein students construct their own knowledge, is a form of engaged learning. Engaged reading goes beyond a reader's interaction with text. It is a means by which one becomes a member of a community of readers and society at large. To be engaged readers, students must recognize the value of reading and their own potential as readers and learners. Teachers can help students develop this recognition by providing them with access to multiple sources of reading and resources for learning.

Engaged reading develops in literacy classrooms where self- and mutual assessment are as routine as they are in everyday life. These assessments which promote engaged reading take a variety of forms, including: the constant, strategic monitoring of one's progress while reading (i.e., metacognition); the comparing of one's opinions and reactions to what one has read with those of others; and the monitoring of other people's reactions to one's own constructions of meaning. When such processes become regular events during literacy instruction, assessment and literacy learning become intertwined, such that learning is supported at the same time that it is assessed.
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[Children, when reading, construct their own meaning.] [Table of Contents] [Phonemic awareness, a precursor to competency in identifying words, is one of the best predictors of later success in reading.]