The Language Arts (page 3)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010


Reading is the interpretation of written symbols. It involves visual perception of the symbols, sometimes translation of the visual symbols into auditory ones, and the connection of meaning with these symbols. Although in later stages of reading readers may move directly from print to meaning, in the early stages children generally decode to sound and then associate the resulting oral words with their experiences with those words. If the reader has no experience to relate to the words in the text, the reader cannot construct meaning, and reading does not actually occur. For example, if a child sounds out the word walrus, the child can attach meaning to the word only if he has had experiences with walruses, through seeing them at a marine exhibit or reading about them and seeing their pictures. Understanding is a necessary part of the reading process.

Initial stages of learning to read generally follow those of learning to listen and learning to speak, and ideas understood in oral language form a basis for the understanding of ideas found in print. Learning to read is often associated with starting school, but many children come to school already reading to some extent. They often recognize common product names and signs found in their environments (although some of this recognition can be attributed to their facility in viewing), and some can read stories and other printed information.

Reading is a way of taking in information that has been recorded in print by another person. Thus, it is classified as a receptive skill and a written language skill. The reader decodes a written message that has been encoded by a writer and interprets that message in light of his or her own experiences. Information that was written today or many years ago may be read now or in the future, allowing readers to learn from the accumulated records of literate humankind.

Reading serves many functions for the reader. It provides information or entertainment. It offers challenges or relaxation. Each reading act may be for a slightly different purpose.


Writing involves communicating with others through the printed word or recording ideas for yourself. It is classified as an expressive skill and a written language skill. The writer encodes a message that is decoded and interpreted by the reader. Learning to read often spurs the desire to learn to write, but reading and writing may be taught simultaneously.

A writer passes along experiences to a prospective reader through inscribed symbols that stand for these experiences. If the reader&rsglq;s experiences encompass the concepts expressed by the symbols or are sufficiently close to help the reader make new connections, communication occurs. If the writer and the reader do not have enough commonality of experience related to the written message, meaning is not likely to be transmitted.

Writing allows a person to communicate with others who are contemporaries or to leave records that may be read by succeeding generations. This ability to span time offers many possibilities to writers with varying purposes—transmission of instructions for performing tasks, preservation of the folklore and customs of a people, entertainment of the reader, and persuasion of a reader to adopt a point of view, among many possibilities.


Viewing refers to interpreting visual media. These media include photographs, illustrations, graphs, maps, and diagrams found in books, as well as video presentations found on television, Internet sites, CD-ROMs, or DVD-ROMs. It can even include live performances in theaters and classrooms. Students today are inundated with visual media that are attempting to convey information to them, persuade them to do or believe something, or entertain them. The messages received from these media must be comprehended using the same thinking skills needed for comprehending print material that is read. Critical analysis of the material on the Internet is vital, as the Internet is used more and more as an information source for reports in classes and as more and more sites with unreliable information are added to reputable sites that also reside on the Internet.

Visually Representing

Visually representing refers to communicating through visual images. These images include photographs, drawings, graphs, maps, and diagrams, as well as video presentations, dioramas, models, and dramatizations. This form of communication requires the student to collect and organize information, decide on the best way to convey it to others, and produce a visual product to accomplish this communication, often incorporating print and sound (including speech) with the visual images, if the student is trying to convey information or sway opinion. It requires organizing and representing an event or sequence of events for the pleasure or diversion of an audience, if the purpose of the representation is to entertain.

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