A. Rahimi

Tehran University of Medical Sciences (IRAN)
Research shows that reading, in recent decades, has been considered as the most important skill in first and second/foreign language learning and teaching context. A noticeable number of studies have been conducted on reading in EFL/ESL contexts and the models they proposed range from reading as a product, to reading as a process, to a combination of both. The teacher`s role is to transfer the knowledge to students step by step; the students` role is to receive the knowledge through pre-determined stages (Richards & Renandya, 2002). But critical literacy goes beyond the traditional definitions and views of reading and as opposed to receiving predetermined readings of texts, introduces reading as critical understanding of texts and an act of reading word/world as a means to social transformation (Freire, 1986). According to critical literacy proponents, EFL/ESL students should reflect on the text critically and act upon them, as the consequence of their knowing, to transform themselves and their worlds. Critical literacy, which sees language interwined with literacy as key mechanisms for social reconstruction, is aimed at liberating students, developing them as critical thinkers, giving them critical voice and chances for self – expression, raising their consciousness and making them aware of their presence in the world (Freire, 1986).
This qualitative study, employing a naturalistic, interpretive research method, investigates how reading words/worlds and critical understanding of texts may provide learners with an opportunity to transform themelves and their immediate social environments. The data consisted of written formal interview, oral interview, questionnaire, researcher observation from a group of university students (22) majoring in English teaching in a university situated in Tehran. The collected data were qualitatively analyzed. Results from the interpretation of data revealed that passing one term in critical reading course led to changes in the students. This study attempted to reveal that how teaching critical reading skills to the students may increase their comprehension of a text. Also their critical understanding and comprehension of a text was followed by changes that they experienced in all aspects of their lives: in their literacy activities in other courses, in their beliefs and attitudes, in their social lives, and in their relationships with others.