Reading skill requires well-trained multilevel networks

Parsing four clauses, and forming connections, illustrating some component networks of reading skill

Parsing four clauses, and forming connections

Working memory keeps new information active for one to two seconds while it carries out the appropriate processes.

Reading skill requires well-trained networks for recognizing words

The most fundamental requirement for fluent reading comprehension is rapid and automatic word recognition… Amazing as it may seem, fluent readers can actually focus on a word and recognise it in less than a tenth of a second… Thus, four to five words per second even allows good readers time for other processing operations. Both rapid processing and automaticity in word recognition (for a large number of words) typically require thousands of hours of practice in reading.

Reading skill requires well-trained networks for parsing syntax

In addition to word recognition, a fluent reader is able to take in and store words together so that basic grammatical information can be extracted… to support clause-level meaning. Syntactic parsing helps to disambiguate the meanings of words that have multiple meanings out of context (e.g. bank, cut, drop).

Reading skill requires well-trained networks for assembling clauses

A third basic process that starts up automatically as we begin any reading task is the process of combining word meanings and structural information into basic clause-level meaning units (semantic proposition formation). Words that are recognised and kept active for one to two seconds, along with grammatical cueing, give the fluent reader time to integrate information in a way that makes sense in relation to what has been read before. As meaning elements are introduced and then connected, they become more active in memory and become central ideas if they are repeated or reactivated multiple times. Each semantic proposition reflects the key elements of the input (word and structure) and also highlights linkages across important units (in this case, verbs), where relevant. Semantic propositions are formed in this way and a propositional network of text meaning is created.

Reading skill requires forming networks connecting text

As clause-level meaning units are formed (drawing on information from syntactic parsing and semantic proposition formation), they are added to a growing network of ideas from the text. The new clauses may be hooked into the network in a number of ways: through the repetition of an idea, event, object or character; by reference to the same thing, but in different words; and through simple inferences that create a way to link a new meaning unit to the appropriate places in the network… As the reader continues processing text information, and new meaning units are added, those ideas that are used repeatedly and that form usable linkages to other information begin to be viewed as the main ideas of the text… they become, and remain, more active in the network. Ideas that do not play any further roles in connecting new information…, or that do not support connecting inferences, lose their activity quickly and fade from the network. In this way, less important ideas tend to get pruned from the network, and only the more useful and important ideas remain active.

Reading skill requires forming networks summarizing ideas

As the reader continues to build an understanding of the text, the set of main ideas that the reader forms is the text model of comprehension. The text model amounts to an internal summary of main ideas… Background knowledge… plays a supporting role and helps the reader anticipate the discourse organisation of the text…

Reading skill requires forming networks modeling narratives

At the same time…, the reader begins to project a likely direction that the reading will take. This reader interpretation (the situation model of reader interpretation) is built on and around the emerging text model. The ability of fluent readers to integrate text and background information appropriately and efficiently is the hallmark of expert reading in a topical domain (e.g. history, biology, psychology).

Reading skill requires controlling attention

…we know that an executive control processor (or monitor) represents the way that we focus selective attention while comprehending, assess our understanding of a text and evaluate our success. Our evaluation of how well we comprehend the text is dependent on an executive control processor.

Reading skill compacts multilevel information into working memory

…the many processes described here all occur in working memory, and they happen very quickly… Roughly, in each and every two seconds of reading, fluent readers:

  1. focus on and access eight to ten word meanings
  2. parse a clause for information and form a meaning unit
  3. figure out how to connect a new meaning unit into the growing text model
  4. check interpretation of the information according to their purposes, feelings, attitudes and background expectations, as needed
  5. monitor their comprehension, make appropriate inferences as needed, shift strategies and repair misunderstanding, as needed
  6. resolve ambiguities, address difficulties and critique text information, as needed [1]

  1. Grabe, William Peter, and Fredricka L. Stoller. Teaching and researching reading. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2011, pp. 13-23.

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