Another excellent post full of insightful information about reading.
educational research techniques
Reading for comprehension involves two forms of processing which are bottom-up and top-down. Bottom-up processing involves pulling letters together to make words, words to make sentences, etc. This is most commonly seen as students sounding out words when they read. The goal is primarily to just read the word.
Top-down processing is the use of prior knowledge, usually organized as schemas in the mind to understand what is being read. For example, after a student reads the word “cat” using bottom-up processing they then use top-down processing of what they know about cats such as their appearance, diet, habits, etc.
These two processes work together in order for us to read. Generally, they happen simultaneously as we are frequently reading and using our background knowledge to understand what we are reading.
In the context of reading, there are four types of reading from simplest to most complex and they are
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