Reading in English - a basic skill
Since written texts are the main repository of knowledge, reading is the primary means by which this fund of knowledge can be accessed. As a result, reading plays a central role in learning in general.
However, the term 'skill' tends to give the false impression that this acquisition of knowledge is a simple, easily identified process. In order for reading to facilitate learning, pupils must not only be able to process words accurately and quickly, but also to deduce the meaning of unfamiliar words from their usage. In addition, reading as a basic skill requires that they be able to comprehend the written text, as well as to retain, transfer and generalize the content.
On a more advanced level, effective reading in a specific subject depends upon knowledge not only of the relevant vocabulary and expressions, but also of the genre conventions and discourse markers. Finally, skill in selecting and employing a variety of reading strategies - including skimming, scanning, detailed reading and inferencing - is necessary for reading fluency.
Thus, the notion of ‘reading as a basic skill’ actually involves a complex network of knowledge and skills, and the process of developing these skills continues throughout the entire education process.
Written by Barbara Blair, senior lecturer, Bergen University College