L2 reading has increased. Carrell, Gajdusek, and Wise (1998) explain the reason for the increase of researchers’ interests in reading strategy as follows: “Reading strategies are of interest not only for what they reveal about the ways readers manage interactions with written text but also for how the use of strategies is related to effective reading comprehension” (P. 97). Furthermore, The National Reading Panel (2000) reported, “the past two decades of research appear to support the enthusiastic advocacy of instruction of reading strategies” (P. 4-46).
Looking for the reasons of this trend, Grabe (1991), claims that the changing view of reading from a linear, bottom-up approach to a concept driven, top-down approach had a strong influence on reading instruction. Reading was characterized as an active process and students needed to be taught strategies to read more efficiently. The goal of reading instruction began to provide students with a range of effective approaches to text, such as helping students define goals and strategies for reading, to use pre-reading activities to enhance conceptual readiness, and to provide students strategies to deal with difficult syntax, vocabulary, and organizational structure. The strategies approach designed to increase reading comprehension developed from models of thinking and learning processes in response to models of mental processing (McKeown, Beck, & Blake, 2009).
Sheorey and Mokhtari (2001), stressing the importance of reading strategies awareness and attributing it as a characteristic of good readers claim that to comprehend a text, readers need to use their metacognitive knowledge about reading and “invoke conscious and deliberate strategies” (P. 433). This may mean that if readers are not aware of certain strategies, they will not use them in the reading task. Thus, good readers both know and utilize appropriate reading strategies. RAND Reading Study Group (2002) also emphasizes instruction of reading strategies by stating as follows: “Because meaning does not exist in text, but rather must be actively constructed, instruction in how to employ strategies is necessary to improve comprehension” (P. 32). That is, the increase of interests in reading strategy is attributed to a belief that using reading strategies helps the development of reading comprehension.
2.4.1 Definitions of Reading Strategies
Several definitions of reading strategy are available in the literature on reading, but there is no clear-cut definition. Reading strategies indicate how readers conceive a task, what textual cues they attend to, how they make sense of what they read, and what they do when they do not understand (Block, 1986, as cited in Alinia, 2005). According to Garner (1987), reading strategies are “generally deliberate, planful activities undertaken by active learners, many times to remedy perceived cognitive failure” (P. 50). They range from simple fix-up strategies such as simply rereading difficult segments and guessing the meaning of an unknown word from context, to more comprehensive strategies such as summarizing and relating what is being read to the reader’s background knowledge (Janzen, 1996). Additionally, Carrell et al. (1998), defined reading strategies as “actions that readers select and control to achieve desired goals or objectives” (P. 97). Brantmeier (2002) addressed reading strategies to “the comprehension processes that readers use in order to make sense of what they read” (P. 1).
Koda (2005), characterizes reading strategies with three core elements: “deliberate, goal/problem oriented and reader-initiated/controlled” (P. 205). In another definition Mokhtari and Sheorey (2002), describes reading strategies as: 1) intentional, carefully planned techniques by which readers monitor or manage their reading; 2) actions and procedures that the readers use while working directly with a text; and 3) basic support mechanisms intended to aid the readers in comprehending the text.
2.4.2 Categories of Reading Strategies
Reading strategies can be classified according to the time they are used; before, during, or after reading. They also can be categorized as either global or local according to the part of the text on which they focus (Young & Oxford, 1997). A general distinction is also made between “cognitive” and “metacognitive” strategies. Garner (1987), states: “If cognition involves perceiving, understanding, remembering, and so forth, then metacognition involves thinking about one’s own perceiving, understanding, and the rest” (P. 16). Moreover, Mokhtari and Sheorey’s (2002) SORS uses another classification scheme to classify the reading strategies. SORS classifies the reading strategies into three different types of strategies: “global”, “problem-solving”, and “support” strategies.
McDough (1995), brings together the reading strategies identified in different research within four categories:
“Technical aid strategies”: These would include skimming, scanning, marking the text, and using the glossary.
“Clarification and simplification strategies”: These include syntactic simplification, producing synonyms, using paraphrase of rhetorical function, interpreting the text, and using inference.
“Coherence detection strategies”: These would include identifying the macro frame, keeping the meaning in mind, using information about the story, using background knowledge, and identifying key information.
“Monitoring strategies”: These would include consciously changing the plan, varying the reading rate, rereading, correcting mistakes, evaluating guesses, and questioning.
2.4.3 Reading Strategies and Reading Comprehension
During the past decades there has been substantial research on the relationship between reading comprehension and reading strategy performed in a second/foreign language context. Anderson (1991), conducted research on reading strategy use of Spanish speaking adult ESL students and reported that students who used more strategies comprehend better and that there was no significant relationship between the amount of unique strategies and comprehension. He concluded from his study that, “strategic reading is not only a matter of knowing what strategy to use, but the reader must also know how to use it successfully and orchestrate its use with other strategies. It is not sufficient to know about strategies, but a reader must also be able to apply them strategically” (as cited in Park, 2010, P. 20). In another study, Block (1992), explored differences of reading strategy use between proficient ESL readers and non-proficient ESL readers and drew the results that less proficient readers used local strategies and more proficient readers relied on global strategies. Carrell et al. (1998), on the other hand stated that, “the relationships between strategies and comprehension are not simple and straightforward; use of certain reading strategies does not always lead to successful reading comprehension, while use of other strategies does not always result in unsuccessful reading comprehension” (P. 99).
Al-Nujaidi (2003), conducted research on the relationship between reading comprehension and reading strategy use of EFL learners in Saudi Arabia and concluded that there was a significant but weak correlation between them. Al-Nujaidi (2003), also added that types and frequencies of reading strategies students use were different according to the students’ reading comprehension ability. Wu (2005) conducted research on the use of metacognitive reading strategies of EFL Taiwanese college students. Like the result of Al-Nujaidi’s, Wu concluded that student’s English reading proficiency was a significant factor of students’ use of reading strategies when they read materials in English.
In contrast, Soi Meng (2006), in a study showed that good and weak readers knew and used the same strategies, and employed bottom-up strategies similarly. The major difference was the greater use of top-down strategies by good readers. It was also revealed t
hat weak readers used metacognitive strategies more frequently.
Sheorey and Baboczky (2008), investigated the strategy use of 545 college students through SORS along with students’ self-rate of their reading abilities in English on a scale from one to six. The results indicated that those who rated themselves as strong readers had a higher mean on the global strategies subscale. They also found that females scored higher than males on about half of the SORS items, and on all three SORS subscales. The results of a study conducted by Zhang and Wu (2009), applying SORS showed that the high-proficiency group outperformed the intermediate proficiency group and the low-proficiency group in 2 categories of reading strategies: global and problem solving; but no statistically significant difference was found among the 3 proficiency groups in using support strategies. Park (2010), explored reading strategy use of 115 Korean college students learning English as a foreign when they read authentic expository/technical texts in English. The results revealed that the students reported using reading strategies with high frequency when they read authentic expository/technical texts in English, and their reading comprehension ability was related to their reading strategy use to some degree; the higher their reading comprehension ability, the more they used sophisticated reading strategies.
2.4.4 Reading Strategies Studies in Iran
Over the past decade, numerous studies have detailed the role of learners’ strategies in a variety of L2 domains. Influenced by this trend in reading research, some Iranian researchers tried to probe this issue from different sides. Memari (2000), in his study examined the effect of skimming on reading speed and comprehension of Iranian EFL learners. The result indicated that students should be conscious of the strategies needed for improving both their reading speed and comprehension. Furthermore, Birjandi (2001) investigated the degree of relationship between reading strategies adopted in the first language and in the foreign language. The results supported the view that reading strategies, among other aspects of reading ability, can be transferred from one language to another.
A research conducted by Rahmati (2003), revealed that the Iranian Pre-university students benefited a great deal from strategy instruction. The result of another study conducted by Alinia (2005), indicated that there was a great relationship between the application of reading strategies and reading comprehension of both expository and narrative genres. Hosseini Nezhad (2006), who explored the role of meta-cognitive awareness of reading strategies in the reading comprehension of undergraduate students, found that an indisputable relationship existed between meta-cognitive awareness of reading strategies of the participants and their performance in reading test.
2.5 Skilled Versus Unskilled Readers
The labels of “good reader” and “poor reader” are used in most researches are certainly not conclusive terms because good or poor reading behavior is only evoked depending on various factors such as the time of reading and the complexity and the topic of a text. Therefore, readers exhibit characteristics that may be good or poor at different times and to varying degrees on different dimensions. Labeling them as good or poor in most research is only a relative and idealized conceptualization of desirable or undesirable behavior. For that reason, the term “skilled” and “unskilled” reader is used in this research to better characterize these conceptions.
Much like research findings for good L1 readers, a considerable number of studies in the L2 setting have pointed to the even more important role of language knowledge and processing ability in good L2 readers (Bialystok, 1987; Fraser, 2004; Rubin, 1975).
In a study of higher-level