Reading as states in readingrockets is making meaning from print. It requires that we:

  • Identify the words in print – a process called word recognition
  • Construct an understanding from them – a process called comprehension
  • Coordinate identifying words and making meaning so that reading is automatic and accurate – an achievement called fluency

While in wikipedia, reading is a complex “cognitive process” of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning (reading comprehension). Reading is a means of language acquisition, communication, and of sharing information and ideas. Like all languages, it is a complex interaction between the text and the reader which is shaped by the reader’s prior knowledge, experiences, attitude, and language community which is culturally and socially situated. The reading process requires continuous practice, development, and refinement. In addition, reading requires creativity and critical analysis. Consumers of literature make ventures with each piece, innately deviating from literal words to create images that make sense to them in the unfamiliar places the texts describe. Because reading is such a complex process, it cannot be controlled or restricted to one or two interpretations. There are no concrete laws in reading, but rather allows readers an escape to produce their own products introspectively. This promotes deep exploration of texts during interpretation.[1] Readers use a variety of reading strategies to assist with decoding (to translate symbols into sounds or visual representations of speech) and comprehension. Readers may use context clues to identify the meaning of unknown words. Readers integrate the words they have read into their existing framework of knowledge or schema (schemata theory).

While in defines “reading” as the process of looking at a series of written symbols and getting meaning from them. When we read, we use our eyes to receive written symbols (letters, punctuation marks and spaces) and we use our brain to convert them into words, sentences and paragraphs that communicate something to us.

Sometimes you can make meaning from print without being able to identify all the words. Remember the last time you got a note in messy handwriting? You may have understood it, even though you couldn’t decipher all the scribbles.

Sometimes you can identify words without being able to construct much meaning from them. Read the opening lines of Lewis Carroll’s poem, “Jabberwocky,” and you’ll see what I mean.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Finally, sometimes you can identify words and comprehend them, but if the processes don’t come together smoothly, reading will still be a labored process. For example, try reading the following sentence:

It          isn’t          as         if          the          words
are        difficult                   to          identify          or
understand,                   but          the          spaces
make                   you          pause                   between
words,                    which                   means        your
reading                   is                    less                    fluent.


  1. De Certeau, Michel. “Reading as Poaching.” The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven F. Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984. 165-176.

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