Why do reading books for learners have pictures? (Part 2)

But just because the SVR, as explained by Gough, is wrong in my view to leave out non-verbal aspects of reading, this does not mean that the SSP prioritizing of word-sounds, or its desire to put sounding out chronologically first is necessarily wrong as well.

Although the SVR has been used as a justification of the SSP approach, they are different things. It will be abundantly clear that I am no cognitive scientist, but I think that cognitive science is the most likely discipline to supply some answers. I’m just hoping that this blog might encourage somebody to look for some.

In trying to explain my diagram to the people I originally made it for, I generated more diagrams. Mathematicians look away now…

The first takes the top two of the ovals, basically sounds and symbols, and, starting with them gradually adds the ingredients that lead to reading with comprehension.

The second stats with the bottom two of the ovals, basically things and their context, and does the same thing.



Drawing a line around any of the concepts in the boxes is in some ways a leap of faith – but pragmatically speaking, I hope they’re reasonably clear and a bit helpful.

NB I don’t think of the processes as being as linear or clear cut as any of these diagrams might imply; but it’s hard to represent a dynamic relationship in a static picture.

So where does this leave the pictures in the books…?

My theory is that pictures in reading books act as a kind of proxy for the mental image which a skilled reader would generally have.They also act as an encouragement to connect the visual image of the word with the mental image which a learner reader may already have connected with the word’s sounds.

They have many other functions, but as an ingredient of learning to read, I think these possible functions might be quite important. If these functions are real, then it means that SSP’s concern with ensuring that the letters of the word are connected to the word’s sounds (at a deep level in the reader’s understanding) becomes important in relation to a reader’s store of mental images as well as in relation to their vocabulary. I believe this is the case because if a reader looks at ‘rug’ on the page, cannot read it and then uses a picture of a rug to guess ‘carpet’, they will not learn the specific connections between the sounds, the letters, and the ‘thing’ (or mental image of the thing).

[To be continued, again….]


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