Oral Reading Practice

An Institutional Constraint on the Development of Functional Literacy
  • Willie van Peer
Part of the Topics in Language and Linguistics book series (TLLI)


For the majority of people in present-day Western societies the following position holds: the process of learning to read occurs predominantly within the confines of a specialized social institution, that is, the school. (Its institutional nature need not, perhaps, be elaborated here, though reference could be made to the existence of special administrations and Ministries of Education, to the fact that its agents form a professional group with specialized forms of knowledge, or to the straightforward fact of education being compulsory.) Like other social institutions, schools develop their own specific patterns of (inter-) action and behavior. These institutional patterns, because they serve the needs of the institution, will differ more or less from patterns in everyday life. This difference creates, at once, possibilities and pitfalls for the institution. That is to say, institutional patterns may facilitate learning, but—because they differ slightly or even dramatically from everyday learning processes—they may, on the contrary, raise obstacles for the learner. One area of research where this contradictory nature of school-based action patterns has been demonstrated effectively is that of classroom communication (for a state of the art, see Redder, 1983; Regan, 1983). The work of Ehlich and Rehbein (1977, 1983) especially has succeeded in describing the subtle mechanisms of these institutional patterns on a number of linguistic, mental, and interactional dimensions. Thus, because of the influence of institutional factors shaping the learning process, one would expect research to deal with these from time to time. However, with respect to reading education, little or no attention at all is given to such institutional factors (van Peer, 1984). In The Netherlands, for instance, I think it is fair to say that literally no research into reading difficulties has taken factors emanating from the institutional context of the school seriously. Could this be an indication that in the acquisition of literacy these institutional patterns do not (or hardly) interfere with the learning process? Alas, I think not.


Reading Skill Reading Education Oral Reading Reading Process Silent Reading 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Willie van Peer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Literary TheoryUniversity of UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands

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