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van Lier has made a valuable contribution to the process of reading, and the ways in which the

field, while at the same time offering a fund of reader interacts with a text. In addition, the
stimulating ideas for readers to develop, both in attention of EFL practitioners has been captured
language teaching and research. Of particular by three models of the reading process, which can
service to language teaching professionals is the be broadly categorized as 'top-down' (armed with
act of summarizing these ideas from other various types of knowledge, readers 'sample' the
disciplines in a way that is accessible to the graphic display to confirm their expectations,
reader, and the provision of many important 'bottom-up' (readers take in the graphic display
references for further reading. and thence proceed to construct meaning), and
'interactive' (reading involves a combination of
References the first two types of process).
Bruner, J. 1986. Actual Minds, Possible Worlds.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. According to Paran (1996: 29), despite the fact
Csikszentmihaly, M. 1990. Flow: The Psychology that the top-down approach to reading was never
of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and in the mainstream of psycholinguistic research,
Row. over the last two decades it has proved particu-
Dewey, J. 1938. Experience and Education. larly appealing to the world of EFL. This view of

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London: Collier. reading has persisted despite the fact that, as
Vygotsky, L. S. 1978. Mind in Society. Cambridge: Stanovich notes (1991:19-22), research in reading
MA: Harvard University Press. and eye movements since the early 1970s has
effectively ruled out many of the key notions. For
The reviewer example, refuting Smith's (1973) claim that the
Rani Rubdy is a Senior Lecturer in the Depart- skilled reader barely looks at the individual words
ment of English Language and Literature at the on the page, Stanovich (1991: 20-1) points out that
National University of Singapore, where she proficient readers fixate on the majority of words
teaches courses in language education and ESP. in a text:
Prior to this she worked at the Central Institute of . . . the sampling of visual information in reading
English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad, . . . is relatively dense . . . It is not that the good
India. Her current interests include teacher reader relies less on visual information, but that
development, task design, classroom-based the visual analysis mechanisms of the good
research, and curriculum innovation reader use less capacity. Good readers are
efficient processors in every sense: they com-
pletely sample the visual array and use fewer
Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign resources to do so.
Language (2nd edition)
C. Nuttall Nonetheless, aspects of the top-down approach
Heinemann 1996 282pp. 12.50 would seem to capture the behaviour of less
ISBN 0 435 24057 9 proficient readers, who are more reliant on top-
down processes to help them identify words in a
Introducing Reading written text. Thus an important implication is that,
F. Davies for classroom purposes at least, not all readers are
Penguin 1995 191pp. 5.99 the same: much research points to evidence that
ISBN 0 14 081390 X reading strategies and processes are dependent on
a wide range of variables, including language,
Focus on Reading (New edition) stage of learning, LI or L2, cultural factors, and
S. Hood, N. Solomon, and A. Burns reading purpose.
National Centre for English Language In looking at these books, therefore, some of my
Teaching and Research, Macquarie University, personal pre-reading questions were: how do the
Sydney 134pp. 13.95 authors see the consequences of recent thinking
ISBN 1 86408 052 3 and research on reading for the L2 classroom? In
These three books have made their appearance particular, how do we determine what a reading
against a background of significant research and syllabus should consist of for a given set of
shift in opinion on the subject of reading, and how learners? What frameworks are there within
it should be taught. Areas of research which have which teachers can work to help L2 learners
permeated the domain of the EFL classroom have improve their reading, and what is current best
been particularly concerned with reading strate- practice in this respect?
gies, the role played by the reader's previous The second edition of Nuttall's Teaching Reading
knowledge, or schemata, in the psycholinguistic Skills in a Foreign Language, a classic text, and
Reviews 169
basic reading on many TEFL training courses, has sensible framework within which to develop
been extensively revised. Firstly, the larger page materials and to work on reading in the classroom.
size, improved layout and design, and inclusion of In spite of any reservations about top-down views
tasks with key and comments, make the book of reading, activities such as the activation of
more user-friendly. The language has been edited appropriate schemata, predicting the contents of a
to give it a slightly less 'academic', formal style, text from contextual clues, skim-reading to get an
which will be welcomed by the target audience of idea of text content and structure, or using context
secondary school teachers of intermediate-level to guess the meanings of words, seem to be useful
students. Other additions include a useful anno- pedagogic procedures, not so much because they
tated list of references at the end of each chapter, mirror the reading process itself, but because they
an index, and some new texts and exercises from give practice in the 'constructive processing' which
textbooks. comprehension entails. Although teachers will
The material has also been rearranged to reflect find this book full of practical and useful ideas
changes of emphasis, and the chapters are now for providing learners with appropriate reading
grouped in three main sections. The first section activities, I have to say that I found it a little
concentrates on theory: the psycholinguistics of disappointing on the nature of reading itself, since

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reading, aspects of discourse, and an overview of much of the original orientation remains the same,
the classroom management and teaching of read- with some newer ideas grafted on. The result is
ing; the second section deals with reading skills, perhaps an unhappy mix of old and new
and gives some examples of exercises through unhappy because some of the older ideas have
which they may be practised; the third and largest now been challenged, and also because the overall
section, 'Planning and Teaching', concentrates on result does not give an especially clear picture of
what teachers really want to know: how to provide the reading process. For example, Nuttall's view
relevant and beneficial reading experiences in the that 'reading means getting out of the text as
classroom. This section also includes a clear and nearly as possible the meaning that the writer put
useful chapter by Charles Alderson on the testing into it' (p. 4) is now in question. Gillian Brown has
of reading. A marked change from the first edition suggested that rather than exact comprehension
is the re-positioning of the chapter on extensive with its 'notions of correctness and completeness',
reading: it is now placed prominently at the learners should aim for 'adequate interpretation'
beginning of this third section, reflecting the dependent on their purposes (Brown 1997).
current acknowledgement of the key role which Moreover, reader response theories argue that
extensive reading of easy material plays in 'the reader's interpretation of the text describes
language development and the acquisition of not the text itself but how the reader re-created it
reading skills (see, for example, Grabe 1991, while reading it' (Hirvela 1996: 129). Although
Krashen 1993). ' Nuttall concurs with this latter notion up to a
point, her concessions do not sit easily with her
The strengths of the first edition remain: namely, earlier discussion of the nature of communication.
the sound advice and information on class manage-
ment in general, and on the management of the On the process of reading itself, Nuttall appears to
learning of reading in particular. Important teach- adhere to a strongly top-down view of reading,
ing themes relating to this are reiterated through- with the notion of 'prediction' as primary in the
out the book, for example, the subtle difference reading comprehension process, for example:
between teaching and testing. An equally fine 'Prediction helps us to make sense of sentences;
distinction is made between 'the wrong kind of even the first word sets up expectancies of what
help' and the notion of 'scaffolding'; in the latter the next word will be, and as the sentence
the teacher ensures a supportive but sufficiently develops, our ability to predict what comes next
challenging environment for learning to take place, often increases' (p. 13), and 'The hypotheses we
though perhaps there is room for debate on what make are immediately modified by what the writer
kinds of teaching procedures belong in which actually does say and replaced by new hypotheses
category. Nonetheless, the teacher's role as enabler . . . 'a psycholinguistic guessing game" (p. 15).
is particularly significant in reading, since the basic These statements are followed by exercises which
answer to learning to read is 'to read and read' demonstrate that it is possible to predict your way
(p.40), a point which is taken up later in the chapter through a text.
on 'teacher as reader' in which we are reminded
that reading is 'caught not taught' (p.229). There are a number of problems here. Firstly,
Nuttall may be taken too literally, despite
The coverage of teaching techniques and methods qualifying her remarks by stating that prediction
for L2 reading is comprehensive and detailed. The is not normally a conscious feature of the reading
'top-down/bottom-up' theme ultimately provides a process (p. 14). Also, there are statements which
170 Reviews
sound strange in the light of the findings from sentence is being constructed' (Paran 1996: 29).
current research (referred to above), e.g.: 'He (the Finally, the size of fixation, or amount of letters
reader) may find the text so predictable he hardly perceived by the eye, is subject to physiological
needs to read it all.' (p. 13) limitationsthe 'perceptual span' being 3 or 4
character spaces to the left and up to 15 character
It is of course true that readers can make spaces to the right, though the span for word
predictions when asked to do so, and that these recognition is smaller than this (about 5-7
are dependent on their already-held schemata, as characters). This means that attempts to increase
shown by experimental evidence (see Davies, the size of the fixation and thus to speed up the
p. 67, reviewed below). But it is now known that reading process are doomed to failure: Just and
proficient readers do not normally make much use Carpenter demonstrate that although it is possible
of prediction, or contextual information, in word with training to reduce the number of fixations,
recognition processes since these are so fast that and thus to 'read' faster, this results in a loss of
'contextual information is available too late to aid detailed comprehension.
world identification'. None the less, if a word is
difficult to read or the meaning is obscure, skilled In general, Nuttall's account of reading concen-
readers will make active use of context to make a trates on the behaviour of the skilled reader. A

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guess; they also use context 'to correct or prevent more interesting and ultimately useful approach
errors (in word recognition)' (ibid: 125). This kind might have been to spend more time exploring
of top-down processing seems to be entirely the what learner readers do, and what allows them to
reverse of what is suggested by Nuttall's confusing make sense of text, as compared with the
remark: 'We can make conscious use of (bottom- behaviour of the proficient LI reader. It is a pity
up processing) when an initial reading leaves us that this second edition of a book which makes
confused.' (p. 17) such a significant and useful contribution to the
classroom does not reflect more of the current
On eye movements Nuttall is also unhelpful, and thinking in the psycholinguistics of reading.
in the section on faster reading she continues to
reflect earlier notions: Davies's Introducing Reading is very different in
both purpose and orientation. In this short book,
. . . good readers do not read word by word... a Davies sets out to introduce the reader to current
reader's eyes . . . do not move continuously thinking on a limited but important set of issues,
along the line but cover the distance in several which are unified by her central concern that her
jumps, called fixations. A good reader makes account 'should be supported by evidence' (p. xi).
fewer fixations than a poor one; his eye takes in Unlike the other two books in this review, Davies'
several words at a time . . . an efficient reader work is relevant to a wide range of classroom
chunks a text into sense groups. . . each chunk reading contexts: all age groups, LI and L2. There
is taken in by one fixation of the eyes... a good is a useful glossary of terms, an index, and
reader takes in the sense of a whole chunk extensive references to sources. Tasks are included,
without pausing to consider the individual though these are mainly without answers: many are
words . . . the larger the sense groups that the projects for readers to pursue on their own.
reader can take in, the more easily he will turn
them into coherent messages, (pp. 54-5) The first chapter looks at ways of investigating
reading processes, attitudes, strategies, and con-
Just and Carpenter (1987: Chapter 2) found that texts. There is an interesting examination of the
good readers make fewer fixations (the pauses role of speaking in making an assessment of
during which the visual display is encodednot reading needs, as compared with the more usual
the 'jumps') than poor readers, and that the written comprehension test. Of particular interest
majority of words (68%) are fixated by proficient are Marie Clay's reading recovery methods, and
readers. They also found that proficient readers Davies' own 'talk aloud' techniques, in which
usually fixated adjacent words (60% of the time), conversations between two subjects engaged in a
or skipped one word (33% of the time), but close completion exercise are recorded and
almost never skipped more than two words. examined for clues on the comprehension process.
Words skipped were usually short, structure The chapter ends with a discussion of reading
words: about 40% of these types of words were strategies, including a summary of some significant
fixated compared with over 80% of content words. research which demonstrates that there is an
Thus is it misleading to say that 'good readers do enormous variety of strategies in use among
not read word by word'. Moreover, it appears that readers, and that no single strategy precedes or
'chunking' into sense groups is a higher level is more effective than another. This work chal-
process which 'is done at a later stage when words lenges the assumption that lists of strategies can
have been accessed and a representation of the provide the basis for the reading syllabus.

Reviews 171
Chapter 2 provides a concise account of key from NuttalFs. Unfortunately, I doubt whether
models of the reading process. Each model is practising teachers will hurry to look at it since it is
evaluated and its relevance to the behaviour of not a manual containing examples of reading
different types of reader is discussed. Davies exercises and techniques and how to execute
points out that many classroom practices originate them. The contents are more likely to inform an
from, and are justified by reference to, such overall philosophical approach to teaching read-
models. To Goodman's (1975/1988) model, for ing. Moreover, although it claims to be 'genuinely
example she ascribes the practice, which she later introductory', there are many points where at least
condemns, of 'prediction, guessing and "going for a passing familiarity with the concepts and
gist" at the expense of attention to letters and literature of reading are assumed. Having said
word' (p. 62), while at the same time acknowl- this, if you are reading around the subject of
edging the value of the model as an account of reading, or doing an MA or a Diploma course, this
beginning LI reading behaviour. Also included is book will be extremely useful.
a discussion of the role of affect in reading, and a Focus on Reading (New Edition) comes out of the
summary of some research in EAP which reveals Australian migrant English teaching experience,
the significance of reading purposes as 'drivers' of and reflects the traditions and current concerns of

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reading styles and practices. Australian ESL teachers and theoreticians. The
Chapter 3 presents a framework for analysis of book is intended for trainee teachers of ESL or
texts, strongly influenced by the work of Halliday, EFL and others wishing to improve their skills in
genre analysis, and work on the Schools Council this area, and sets out to be introductory and
Reading for Learning Project at Nottingham practical, and to provide an overview of relevant
University (1978-81), which is referred to fre- issues. True to the best of L2 reading traditions,
quently throughout the book. Chapter 4 estab- each chapter begins with 'pre-questions' for the
lishes the need to make an analysis of student reader, and contains tasks (mainly without
needs before drawing up a reading syllabus, and feedback), a summary of key ideas, references,
provides a useful taxonomy of reading styles and and suggestions for further reading (many of
an exercise typology with some good ideas. which are Australian publications). A small point
perhaps but, since the book is aimed at trainees,
There were many places where what Davies said why not include a glossary for 'cohesion', 'content
rang true and I wanted to shout 'yes!'. For words', 'metalinguistic awareness', 'theme', and
example, I liked the fact that she does not assume other Hallidayan terms which are otherwise
or promote a single, universal model of the unexplained?
reading process. From the start the point is
made that there is a vast number of types of The book begins with two theoretical chapters:
reader, purposes for reading, reading strategies, Chapter 1, on the nature of reading, assumes that
stages of development, and contexts for reading. the reader will not have thought much about the
Moreover, the roles of affect and the social subject before. Chapter 2, rising steeply, in my
context of reading are important themes which opinion, in terms of learning for the reader new to
run throughout the book. the subject, covers theories of reading including a
historical overview in which reading developments
In the L2 context, in particular, where students are tied in with changes in approach in linguistics,
come with different cultural and educational foreign language teaching, sociolinguistics, and (to
experiences, Davies demonstrates a need for some extent) psycholinguistics. After this, the
greater tolerance and less prescription on the book becomes more practical and examines ways
part of teachers towards how students approach of establishing students' reading needs, the plan-
reading. Students may need to be allowed to be ning of a reading programme, text selection and
'plodders' through text at a certain stage in their activity types, and assessment. The final, teacher-
development (the 'practice read'). Skimming and friendly chapter, entitled 'Common questions
scanning are put firmly in their proper place as about reading', includes discussion of such issues
aids to organizing study and selecting appropriate as dyslexia, phonics, mixed ability groups, the
texts for this purpose. Aims for a teaching 'language experience approach', plain English,
programme should include helping students to and poor readers.
monitor the success of their comprehension, and
to make sensible choices of reading style depend- Is the book to be recommended? It certainly
ing on their purposes. offers a comprehensive introduction to reading
issues and practicalities, though the authors deal
While the book is long on taxonomies and with the subject matter in a less detailed way than
typologies, it is, however, short on classroom Nuttall does. For the EFL, as opposed to the ESL,
practicalities, and addresses a different audience teacher the emphasis on the social context of
172 Reviews
reading is interesting, and the role this plays in under constant review, it would seem wise for
reading needs analysis is to be welcomed. Also authors of how-to books on teaching reading to
novel, perhaps, for the teacher not familiar with reflect the more important developments in
the (Australian) ESL context, are the themes of research. I would argue for more tolerance of
critical literacy (students need to be encouraged to differences in learning style, more understanding
challenge the authority of the texts they are of the cultural and/or language specificity of
given), and spoken and written language differ- reading strategies, and more detailed considera-
ences (students learning to read need to have tion of the particular needs of L2 readers. One
these differences pointed out)though I have to final question I would like to ask is, given that we
say that I am not convinced of the value of either are talking about reading in a foreign language,
of these for beginning or low-level students in why is there no discussion in any of them of the
other kinds of social context. Finally, on the role of the mother tongueits possible benefits
practical side, the writers provide useful guidance and disadvantagesin reading in the L2?
for the trainee teacher on frameworks for
approaching the development of a reading pro- References
gramme, together with examples of exercises and Brown, G. 1998. 'Comprehension and context'.
class management advice. It is the only book of Paper given at IATEFL Research SIG Con-

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the three to attempt to deal with difficulties of ference on Listening, Eurocentre, Cambridge.
beginning and elementary level readers. Carrell, P. L., J. Devine, and D. E. Eskey (eds.).
1988. Interactive Approaches to Second Lan-
In my opinion the book has a number of problems guage Pedagogy. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
which mean that it should be approached with versity Press.
some caution. It is strongly influenced by the Goodman, K. 1975/1988. 'The reading process'.
Goodman/Smith 'psycholinguistic' approach, and Reprinted in Carrell, Devine, and Eskey 1988.
is an example of that EFL orthodoxy criticized by Grabe, W. 1991. 'Current developments in second
Davies for its emphasis on gist reading at the language reading research'. TESOL Quarterly
expense of lower-level skills. One is left with the 25/3: 375-406.
impression that students should be content with a Hirvela, A. 1996. 'Reader-response theory and
less than perfect understanding of a text, which, in ELT. ELT Journal 50/2: 127-34.
my view, does them a disservice. It seems contra- Just, M. A. and P. A. Carpenter. 1987. The
dictory to insist that students 'read for meaning' Psychology of Reading and Language Compre-
while simultaneously discouraging them from hension. Newton, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon.
trying to understand a text at a deeper level than Krashen, S. 1993. The Power of Reading. Engle-
merely gist. Moreover, at times there are some wood: Libraries Unlimited.
rather prescriptive and simplistic admonitions to Paran, A. 1996. 'Reading in EFL: facts and
the teacher: for example, skimming for beginners is fictions'. ELT Journal 50/1: 25-34.
important 'as it discourages students from reading Rieben, L. and C. A. Perfetti (eds.). 1991.
slowly and trying to understand every word' Learning to Read: Basic Research and its
(p. 80). Beginning readers do read slowly. Implications. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Although the authors differentiate broadly speak- Smith, F. 1973. Psycholinguistics and Reading.
ing between 'proficient' and 'poor' readers, they New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
do not distinguish between LI and L2 in this Stanovich, K. E. 1991. 'Changing models of
respect. Thus the approach to helping poor L2 reading and reading acquisition' in Rieben and
readers is the traditional EFL one of seeing what Perfetti.
proficient LI readers do, and telling the poor L2
readers to do it. If it is language that is the The reviewer
problem, this may not be helpful. Solutions to Carolyn Walker is a lecturer in EFL at the
reading difficulties are centred on discussions of University of Exeter, where she teaches EAP
appropriate strategies, rather than on problems in and General English, and on postgraduate courses
the text or with simply doing more reading. There in language teaching. She has taught EFL and
is no discussion of the benefits of extensive teachers' courses in a number of countries,
reading: texts discussed are mainly those arising including Spain and the United Arab Emirates.
out of the ESL context, such as forms, notices, etc. Her particular interests are reading in a foreign
language, teaching academic writing skills, pho-
To conclude, there is merit in all three books, nology, and the use of information technology in
although, as the nature of the reading process is teaching and learning English.

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