Understanding Reading: A Psycholinguistic Analysis of Reading and Learning to Read

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L. Erlbaum Associates, 2004 - Education - 374 pages
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Understanding Reading revolutionized reading research and theory when the first edition appeared in 1971 and continues to be a leader in the field. In the sixth edition of this classic text, Smith's purpose remains the same: to shed light on fundamental aspects of the complex human act of reading--linguistic, physiological, psychological, and social--and on what is involved in learning to read. The text critically examines current theories, instructional practices, and controversies, covering a wide range of disciplines but always remaining accessible to students and classroom teachers. Over half the book is devoted to such topics as language, memory, learning, the development of spoken language ability, and the physiology of the eye and brain--only to the extent that they are relevant to reading, and with the intent of making these topics comprehensible to readers who have neither the time nor the experience to undertake deep or specialized study in these areas. Careful attention is given to the ideological clash that continues between whole language and direct instruction and currently permeates every aspect of theory and research into reading and reading instruction. The first edition set out to be an objective review of every field of study that had anything relevant to say about reading and about learning to read, with the uncomplicated aim of "understanding reading." But it is impossible to write a book about reading, however detached the intention, without being caught in the crossfire of debates about how reading should be taught. In every edition, including the present one, Smith has steadfastly resisted giving teachers a recipe for teaching reading, while aiming to help them make their own decisions based on research about reading, which is accessible to anyone, and their experience and personal knowledge of their students, which only they possess. To aid readers in making up their own minds, each chapter concludes with a brief statement of "Issues." What's new in the Sixth Edition?
*If, as Smith proposes, the facts remain the same and the main controversies persist (what it means to be a reader, how written words are recognized, and how children learn to read), what justifies a new edition? Recent developments include changes in perspectives applied to understanding reading and a hardening of positions. The direct instruction view of reading and the pedagogical and political assumptions and agendas behind it has gained ascendence, and with it widespread mandates for accountability, standardization, high-stakes testing, and external control of classroom instruction and teacher education. The disputes have turned political. These changes are critically discussed.
*A new chapter 1 on why reading is natural opens the book.
*Most of the major changes are in the Notes. The order of the chapters and the general thrust of the discussion remain the same.
*All references have been thoroughly updated, with over 200 added and 500 removed.
*The length of this edition has been reduced. Understanding Reading: A Psycholinguistic Analysis of Reading and Learning to Read, Sixth Edition is designed to serve as a handbook for language arts teachers, a college text for basic courses on the psychology of reading, a guide to relevant research on reading, and an introduction to reading as an aspect of thinking and learning. It is matchless in integrating a wide range of topics relative to reading while, at the same time, being highly readable and user-friendly for instructors, students, and practitioners.

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About the author (2004)

Frank Smith is a writing and researcher with current research interests focusing on the social, psychological, and educational consequences of all aspects of human technology, including language. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Western Australia, and his Ph.D. in psycholinguistics is from Harvard University. He has been associated with many research projects and has published over 20 books and numerous papers related to literacy, thinking, learning, and education. Dr. Smith was a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and the Linguistics Department of the University of Toronto for 12 years, and for three years was Lansdowne Professor of Language in Education at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. In 1992 he was distinguished visiting professor and head of the new Department of Applied English Language Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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