Not only is understanding the raison d'tre of reading, learning to understand is the fun part of learning to read. The reward of reading for young children is the ability to make sense of those squiggles on the page. So teaching reading should mean teaching understanding. Once a child knows how to build an understanding, the mechanics of reading come quickly because the child knows what the goal is.
If we want to teach understanding, we are not limited to teaching reading. We can equally as well choose to have conversations with students, perhaps to discuss movies. "Reading" a movie, after all, is much like reading a book except that movies do not pose the language decoding problems that books do. In a movie just as in a book, following the action entails figuring out who is doing what and why. Such details are not always spelled out in a movie since doing so would make the movie tedious. The viewer is assumed to be intelligent enough to fill in the details about some of the actions and motivations himself. He also is expected to make some assumptions about what is going to happen next. A good movie often violates those assumptions.
Part of understanding a movie, then, involves a process of thinking. The more complex the movie, the more thinking is involved. The same is true of reading. Books that spell everything out and make all future actions obvious from the start, do not constitute great literature, although they may well make the best-seller lists. Reading, or at least intelligent reading, the kind that involves thinking on behalf of the reader, requires understanding of the most complex sort. To children who do not already know the mechanics of reading, we can effectively teach understanding by, for example, having students watch movies.
But, alas, that's not how things work now. When we teach reading, we teach the mechanics of reading. Separated like this, the mechanics of reading make reading dull, while understanding, which is the fun part, hardly gets any attention. No wonder Johnny can't read; he didn't know the words meant anything!
Reading Is Based On Understanding
Where am I in the content of the book?