Assessing reading

Assessing reading skills

Assessment of reading skills is a very complex task and to reliably perform it at a mass level is next to impossible. And assessment of reading with respect to any set of ‘microskills’ is also ruled out. Reading is an intensely cognitive process and it is widely agreed that we can best measure the ‘general reading ability’ and not the specific reading (micro-) skills, on a mass-scale.

At a broader level, the following five ‘outcomes of reading’ are relatively easier to measure:

  1. Vocabulary gained/better understood.
  2. Basic comprehension of texts as may be measured by the answers to the questions on the explicit content of the text.
  3. Deeper comprehension of texts as may be measured by the answers to the questions on the implicit content of texts or the quality of questions formulated by the reader on the texts read.
  4. Personal appreciation of the text as may be reflected in a debate/discussion on the texts, in terms of interpretations and counter-arguments.
  5. Last but not the least, the volume of reading in a given time i.e. the speed of reading, is also a key reading skills assessment factor. We may add that our suggested benchmark measure of a reading speed, which will ensure adequate command over the language of instruction, is around 200 pages of fiction in about 5-7 hours.

The breadth of genre of reading is also an important measure of reading effectiveness. Typically, children read diverse genre only when they are able to handle the diversity of vocabulary and interpretations and this means that larger the range of genres of texts, the better the level of reading skills.
It may be obvious that not all the assessment measures of reading are practical or precise but an understanding of the ways to measure reading skill is in itself a very critical support for parents (and teachers).

‘Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.’

— G.M. Trevelyan

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