An Overview of Individual Differences in Reading

Research, Policy, and Practice

Authored by: Peter Afflerbach

Handbook of Individual Differences in Reading

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  August  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415658874
eBook ISBN: 9780203075562
Adobe ISBN: 9781135120931


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In this chapter I describe the promise and challenge related to individual differences in reading. The promise emanates from a continuing interest in identifying individual differences and their origins, and in describing their influence on reading development. The challenge relates to the fact that individual differences in reading are narrowly conceptualized in reading education policy, and in related testing and reading instruction programs. This chapter has two main sections. In the first, I overview central and historic themes in theory and practice related to students’ individual differences in reading. I begin with a brief overview of a century’s worth of interest in individual differences. I examine attributions made to nature, nurture, or both as sources of difference, and the influence of environments on readers’ individual differences. Following, I focus on the distinction between cognitive and affective aspects of individual differences. I then turn to the dynamic nature of individual differences—how they interact, how they influence acts of reading, and how they are influenced by acts of reading. The second section of the chapter describes the disconnection between current understanding of individual differences in reading, and educational policy, testing, and classroom instruction. I describe how individual differences in reading are narrowly conceptualized in consequential legislation and reading curriculum, and the influence of testing on reading policy and practice.

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