Review: Lenses on Reading: An Introduction to Theories and Models (3rd ed.) by Diane H. Tracey and Lesley Mandel Morrow (Guilford Press, 2017, 302 pp.)

Heather Pauly, Assistant Professor, Cardinal Stritch Univ, hmpauly @

True to its title, the third edition of Lenses on Reading: An Introduction to Theories and Models provides multiple viewpoints from which to consider the act and process of reading, reading comprehension, and learning. Tracey and Morrow write for those looking to develop an understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of literacy processes. This book is very helpful for graduate students or researchers in literacy, language, special education, or fields related to education, as a part of exploring and developing a theoretical basis for research or practice.


Lenses on Reading is an excellent resource that summarizes important theories and models underlying researcher and practitioner conceptualization of reading development. In addition, it helps readers apply their understanding of research and practice through case studies and classroom vignettes that reflect the specific theoretical models.

Upon review, each chapter clearly categorizes and intentionally reviews a history of the theories within each category, which allows insight into the evolution of research and thinking in the field. Important to the context of the field of literacy and its scientific development, chapter 2 is dedicated to providing a history of theories from Aristotle and Plato to Rousseau and Wundt. Chapters 3-9 categorize specific theories together as follows: behavioral, constructivist, developmental, physiological, affective, social learning (including multiliteracies, critical literacy, and critical race theory), and cognitive processes. The final chapter synthesizes and reviews the aforementioned categories. Importantly, this third edition includes updated research applications in all chapters, giving the reader current examples of specific theoretical models.

The authors intentionally discuss the overlapping nature of the theories (p. xi), the importance of viewing reading development from multiple viewpoints (p. 267), and the abstraction of the categories put forth (p. 14). For readers new to the field, it is important to note that the theories included in this book are those carefully determined to be the most significant by these authors, but do not include all theories. It is also important to take to heart the authors’ message that the categories are author-created and flexible. It would be impossible to write a book that surveys and explores such a multitude of theories without organizing them into categories; however, these categories suggest a simplification that may lead novice researchers to believe that they understand a particular theory when, in fact, more reading is required. It is up to the readers to comprehend the ideas of each theory and to create the multiple viewpoints that they find true through their own practice and research.

Overall, this edition of Lenses on Reading is a strong summary text and resource on theories and models of reading development. It is accessible to those at an introductory level of understanding and also a fast, reliable reference necessary in a literacy researcher’s library. For readers akin to hiking, the text acts as a trailhead, pointing in multiple directions toward significant original theories, each of which may need further investigation. Though clearly organized by category, the authors themselves state that its organization is conceptual; therefore, students, practitioners, and researchers should think proactively and individually to synthesize what they are reading in relation to their own research and practice. In many cases, further reading will be necessary in order to fully grasp and apply a single theory. In sum, the text does what it sets out to do, leaving readers with a beginning understanding of theory, practice, and research.

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