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Theories on Reading Acquisition

There are several overlapping and sometimes conflicting theories on reading acquisition and instruction.
Depending on the theory of instruction adopted by a teacher or a school, the impact of a theoretical
orientation is tremendous for students, especially for second language students. Durkin (1995)
addressed this issue when she discussed the various theories of language acquisition in her book,
Language Issues: Reading for Teachers. Durkin stated that the model applied to each child to speak a
primary or secondary language has an impact on the type of reading and writing instruction provided in
schools. Therefore, if a school adopts a more behaviorist view of language acquisition, the curriculum
will tend to support these principles versus a more constructivist approach. In other words, the
curriculum will be more reflective of a skill-based model with long periods of drill and practice as
compared to a school that adopts a more social constructivist model of language acquisition. Regardless
of the model adopted, reading theories agree that extensive reading is essential for the development of
reading comprehension (Cummins, 2005, p.8).

From a behaviorist perspective, reading is viewed as speech. Thus, a child must possess both the aural
skills and oral vocabulary to read successfully. From a cognitive perspective, reading is viewed as
extracting meaning from the text. Therefore, a child is viewed as an active constructor of his own
reading as he employs his reading skills and strategies which allow him to comprehend the text. Further,
he uses his schema as he interacts with the text. Thus, balanced literacy is framed from these models of
reading. Figure 1 attempts to combine the reading theories continuum into a more integrated approach
that considers the models in a in a dynamic structure leading to a fourth approach that utilizes
components from each of the models. The end goal is to provide students with the most comprehensive
instructional program available in order to gain meaning from a text (Pearson, 2000).

In implementing an integrated approach to the teaching of reading, a teacher is more likely to find the
most appropriate method for teaching students based on their individual strengths and needs, thus
eliminating the need to make a child change to fit a particular methodology. It is important to teach the
child rather than try to confirm to a predetermined curriculum or approach. This becomes particularly
important in working with students because students often experience a mismatch between their
academic needs and strengths and methods of English language instruction. In order to better
understand the process involved in learning to read, it becomes necessary to clearly define reading and
develop an awareness of the complexities involved.

Theories on Early Writing Development

The movement from playing with drawing and writing to communicating through written messages is a
continuum that reflects the basic theories of emergent literacy. (Dyson, 1985; Halliday, 1975; Parker,
1983; Sulzby, 1986 in Morrow, 1989) Children Develop their writing naturally through play as they make
markings on papers, on walls or anywhere, through social interaction as they join in the social writing
activities of adults like writing simple notes, writing messages on greeting cards and writing letters to
family members. Children do a lot of hypothesis testing, experimenting, inventing to construct what
they want to mean through writing. Their writing attempts include invented forms of letters, symbols,
words, mixed drawing and writing and invented messages through forms and shapes.As kids continue to
test their hypothesis about writing , they refine previously formed rules and knowledge about writing,
until they have mastered the conventional form of writing.

Vygotsky (1978) asserted that the childs language learning begins in the prespeech communication
between parents and infants. This prespeech is built through listening and talking, to playing
symbolically, to drawing, and from there to writing and reading. This process of writing development is
unitary, that is childrens literacy development begins with the continual process of learning to
communicate which involves nonverbal, verbal, symbolic play and drawing.