Proficient Reading in School: Traditional Paradigms and New Textual Landscapes
by David O’Brien, Roger Stewart, Richard Beach

In this article, the authors discuss what a proficient reader is and what one must do in order to become a proficient reader. One definition of a proficient reader is one who efficiently and automatically uses skills and strategies to comprehend what one reads (80). Also, they discuss the various definitions of a proficient reader and the grouping of those readers.

When I started reading this article, I didn’t realize that the term proficient reader had such a variety of definitions. This variety remains me of the various definitions for the term “literacy.” Back to the term proficient reader. One example in the book is “. . . skilled readers are defined as people who efficiently and automatically use skills and strategies . . . to comprehend what they read (80). I agree with them. Also, I am aware that many students who are not considered proficient readers have a difficult time in picking up a book, especially a text book, and then read it. The authors go on to say that “broader definitions of reading proficiency are needed along with assessments” (81). I’m not going to argue with them, but I would like to know how broad is broad and what specifically would they like to see in the definitions.

In addition to the need of a broader definition of proficiency, the authors speak of grouping the readers by ability to read and comprehend. My first response was my memory of my early elementary school and how the teachers grouped the students according to the students’ ability to read and comprehend the text. The group names that I can recall were the Turtledoves (slow or struggling readers who had difficulty figuring out how to pronounce the words and comprehend text). The Robins were the ones who could read and comprehend but needed to work on fluency and speed. The Rabbits were fast readers who could read with fluency and comprehension and retell the passage in his or her own words. Although I was a very good reader, I was never too thrilled about being labeled. I think this was one reason why I didn’t care too much about in-class reading and writing. I won’t say a great deal about the dislikes because they are expressed in a different paper.

Continuing on, the experts believe that grouping students based on performance on a large-scale assessment oversimplifies a complex issue ().

I agree with the complex issue that many students who don’t become proficient readers before leaving high school may develop low-perceptions about their abilities” (82). For example, in the observation for the literacy event, the middle school teacher instructed the class to read one chapter from their novels for homework. One student said that he was a slow reader and didn’t like to read.

To sum it up, these three experts have a good plan for the assessment and placement of the readers. They write that large scale assessments need to place readers in a variety of authentic reading situations where their interest, motivation, and background knowledge can be systematically varied so that the students´ full range of reading abilities can be assessed (84).