Relationships among Listening, Reading, and Viewing

Listening, reading, and viewing are receptive, or input, skills. As such, they involve similar thinking processes for information collection.


Between Reading and Listening

Decoding oral symbols (listening) involves only one level of abstraction, going from the sound to the experience on which it is based. Decoding written symbols (reading) involves two levels of abstraction, at least for beginning readers. It requires going from the written symbol to the oral word that it represents and then further back to the experience for which it stands. Therefore, working on listening skills is good for developing readiness for reading skills, since listening requires many of the same mental processes as reading but involves a different level of decoding.

Teaching children to look at visual presentations for main ideas, details, sequence, causes and effects, critical evaluations, and other elements of the message familiarizes them with these processes. Teaching them to listen for these elements favourably affects the children’s ability to read for these same things. Adding a word to the children’s listening vocabularies increases the chance that they will be able to interpret its meaning when reading and apply it to something that they view.

Listening may require more intense concentration than reading because it is usually not possible to go back and relisten to the exact words again, even if the speaker tries to repeat them. (This, of course, is not the case if the discourse is recorded.) A reader can reread at will. The listener is also not in control of the rate of presentation and may miss information that is presented too rapidly to absorb. The reader can set her own pace, depending on the purpose for the reading.

Listeners often have the advantage of watching the speaker’s gestures and facial expressions and hearing the intonation of voice. This adds the aspect of viewing to the listening. Readers must glean much of the same type of information provided by gestures, facial expression, and intonation from punctuation, which may not be sufficient to pass along the complete flavour of the presentation.

Between Reading and Viewing

Viewing of images is often combined with spoken or written words, and, therefore, the three types of information can enhance one another. Viewing a static image allows reexamination, just as reading does, but viewing images in motion, as in a video, has the same increased difficulty that listening has when compared to reading, unless the video is available for playback.

Between Reading and Writing

Reading and writing are complementary skills. There is no point in writing something if there is no one to read it, and there is nothing to read if something has not been written. Both are written language skills, making use of visual symbols that represent both spoken words and the experiences behind the words.

When writing, people are more likely to use words that they recognize and believe that they understand well in their reading materials. However, much material that they feel comfortable reading never appears in their own writing, because using a word in writing requires a more thorough knowledge of its implications than does reading it with a reasonable degree of understanding.