Competencies for Proficient Reading

Proficient reading is equally dependent on two critical skills: the ability to understand the language in which the text is written, and the ability to recognize and process printed text. Each of these competencies is likewise dependent on lower level skills and cognitive abilities.

Children who readily understand spoken language and who are able to fluently and easily recognize printed words do not usually have difficulty with reading comprehension. However, students must be proficient in both competencies to read well; difficulty in either domain undermines the overall reading process. At the conclusion of reading, children should be able to retell the story in their own words including characters, setting, and the events of the story. Reading researchers define a skilled reader as one who can understand written text as well as they can understand the same passage if spoken.

There is some debate as to whether print recognition requires the ability to perceive printed text and translate it into spoken language, or rather to translate printed text directly into meaningful symbolic models and relationships. The existence of speed reading, and its typically high comprehension rate would suggest that the translation into verbal form as an intermediate to understanding is not a prerequisite for effective reading comprehension. This aspect of reading is the crux of much of the reading debate.

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