Reflecting on the Reading Process: Meaning Through Transaction
by Chase Young

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It takes two in the process of reading. Responsibility is given to the reader and the writer in the transactive system of creating meaning while reading. A variety or pertinent strategies are utilized as a reader selectively moves through a text. I love the complexity of understanding reading in a simplistic form. Knowing the foundations of reading based on a paradigmatic view, where readers are labeled successful by linking new information to what is already known, is an arduous, but rewarding set of tools to nurture new readers into strategic ones (Kucer, 2005). 

First, I feel I must address the alternate view illustrated by Kucer’s (2005) review of the dense processing paradigm for reading. My own meta-analysis was exemplified by Kucer’s earlier discussion of assimilation and accommodation. First, I lacked the background knowledge to successfully understand all of the critical attributes of the dense processing view. My brain seemed to organize the information through a compare/contrast and a reject/question methodology. I used my more developed knowledge of the selective sampling paradigm to compare and contrast the new information. For example, I noticed polarized views of a certain aspect of a struggling and a proficient reader. Dense processing claims readers who rely on background knowledge are less proficient, whereas the opposing view, selective sampling, claims the same strategy to be a characteristic of a proficient reader. In this instance, a judgment was not made, and the detail simply compared and contrasted. However, later I was able to confirm a piece of information, but reject its pretenses. I confirmed that readers need to know enough of a word to recognize it during heavy content reading, but rejected its simply notion of processing the letters and familiar graphemes as a basis for understanding; I believe it is more background knowledge of a given subject as it relates to the content area reading. It seemed both paradigms were arguing the same fact, but it resulted in a didactic. Although information encapsulation and the recognition of individual letters during reading are extremely important, I read the alternative view more skeptically using its information for the sole purpose of reaffirming my stance in the paradigmatic controversy.

I believe that schemata serve integral roles in the reading process. I have seen the power of activating and building schema as important metacognitive processes in reading. Content schemata opens our minds to new information as it relates to what we already know; formal schemata prepares readers for text structure which enables us to anticipate our reading purpose, and how to create the most meaning from a text; finally, the two aforementioned types help stimulate our abstract schemata where true transaction occurs—a reader makes interpretations, inferences, and forms generalizations to fully exploit the author’s meaning and how it relates to the reader (Erten & Karakas, 2007). The notion of background knowledge as a necessary means to interpret text exemplifies the power of the selective sampling paradigm. Not all prior knowledge will help readers interpret text, but activating pertinent schemata in anticipation of a certain text serves as a great advantage to a reader (Kucer, 2005).

I use this method in my classroom, and observe how students can successfully interact with the author to discover meaning, and restructure their own thinking. When the complicated, yet easily modeled, processes occur, their activated schemata are built upon, revised, and restored in the Long Term Memory (LTM). Once a reader has made an idea meaningful, it can be stored for later recall (Kucer, 2005). The clever, almost deceptive process, of using prior knowledge for comprehension retrieves memories that have already been made meaningful, and simply revises them.


Erten, I. & Karakas, M. (2007, December). Understanding the Divergent Reading Activities on the Comprehension of Short
Stories. Reading Matrix: An International Online Journal, 7, 113-133.

Kucer, S. (2005). Dimensions of Literacy: A Conceptual Base for Teaching Reading and Writing in School Settings (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ. Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, Inc. 

© 2011 Chase J. Young. All rights reserved.