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Caribbean Journal of Education

Reading Acquisition: A Cognitive Perspective

Publication Date: 
January 1983

Current practice in the teaching of reading and the diagnosis of reading difficulties in the Eastern Caribbean tends to focus on the content and methodology of reading. That is, our focus tends to be on better materials, more appropriately sequenced instructional programmes (with content usually taken as given), or on improved teacher methodologies. Quite clearly these are important and relevant variables in the teaching of reading. The problem is that such a conceptual framework ties us to a fixed perspective of reading instruction especially at the beginning reading stage. Thus we tend to focus on the teaching of reading rather than on the learning of reading skills. Our focus tends to be on variables external to the pupil rather than on actual pupil variables affecting the acquisition of reading skills. In terms of strategy, such a neglect of real pupil variables tends to encourage us to seek better ways of teaching or sequencing instruction, for example phonics, and prevents us from asking necessary prior questions such as whether phonics in any form or sequence is meaningful to a pupil before she/he has reached a certain level of cognitive development. It is in this context that Mind's "cognitive readiness" would seem to provide a more productive framework for conceptualising reading acquisition, than the more traditional concept of "reading readiness". Such a cognitive conceptualisation of reading acquisition will provide a broader view of the early reading curriculum, the teaching of reading, and the diagnosis and remediation of problems of reading acquisition. Such a cognitive orientation will not make present practices and curricula valueless, but by encouraging us to focus primarily on learner variables, it will enable us to have a better understanding of the problems of reading acquisition. Consequently, we will be able to manipulate, more insightfully, the traditional non-learner variables such as content and methodology.

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