As of today, the majority of people take their reading abilities for granted and consider reading and reading comprehension abilities as processes “requiring little effort and little planning” (Grabe 4). In actual fact, reading is a very complicated process “of acquiring information from a written or printed text” which can be characterized in terms of two levels of processing: lower-level and higher-level processes (Eskey 5). The processing activity occurring in our heads when we read consists of three fundamental processes, which are “word recognition, syntactic parsing, and meaning encoding” (Grabe 21). In the meantime, our working memory is considered to be the locus of these processes. Higher-level processing activity consists of the following processes: “text-model formation, situation-model building, inferencing, executive control processing and strategic processing” (Grabe 21).
The comprehensibility of a text, which is determined as “the degree of difficulty of reading materials”, depends on a variety of factors (Kobayashi 49). The fundamental linguistic factors affecting the comprehensibility of a text are coherence and text organization. In the meantime, speaking from the reader’s viewpoint the comprehensibility also depends on the reader’s background knowledge as well as on his/her expertise in a certain domain.
In order to become a ‘better reader’ one needs to learn to define the purpose for reading, be aware of specific reading strategies depending on this purpose as well as to enrich the mind with foundational knowledge of grammar in terms of reading in an L2.
The fundamental difference between reading in an L2 from an L1 is that individuals reading in an L2 may be unaware of background information necessary for full comprehension of a given text. What is more “L2 readers may not develop the low-level processing strategies that native speakers develop” (Birch 10).
Birch, Barbara M. “The Expert Decision Maker” English L2 Reading: Getting to the Bottom. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002. 1-11. Print.
Eskey, David. "Reading and the Teaching of L2 Reading." TESOL Journal 11.1 (2002): 5-9. Web. 4 Feb. 2016. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/j.1949-3533.2002.tb00060.x/abstract>.
Grabe, William. "How reading works: The building blocks of fluency and comprehension." Reading in a Second Language: Moving from Theory to Practice. New York: Cambridge UP, 2009. 21-38. Print.
Grabe, William. "The Nature of Reading: Defining Reading." Reading in a Second Language: Moving from Theory to Practice. New York: Cambridge UP, 2009. 4-20. Print.
Kobayashi, Miyoko. “Text Features.” Hitting the Mark: How Can Text Organisation and Response Format Affect Reading Test Performance? Oxford: Peter Lang, 2009. 49-90. Print.