Over the years I've heard a lot from my students, their parents, and my friends about reading.
Oh, my third grader is an incredible reader. You should hear him. He's already reading books from my own bookshelf.
I can't believe it. My second grader is still not reading. It's a wonder how he's learning anything in school.
You should hear my teen read out loud. It's painful. I'm making her practice with sight word flash cards. No joke.
My son's teacher insists the kids read in a round-robin every day. No prep. Cold reading. Isn't that awesome?
I refuse to let my five-year-old use the pictures when he reads. Using pictures is NOT reading.
Rather than defend or refute any of these, I'll simply share three things that all parents should know about reading:
1. Reading is active. Reading is the interaction of the reader (the person), the text (what he or she is reading), and the context (the setting, the reader's background, and the purpose for reading). A whole lot of factors go into reading; it doesn't happen naturally or effortlessly. Rather, the reader puts forth effort to decode the words on the page, to understand what those words mean, and then to make the connection between the message and his or her own experiences.
Reading is not simply decoding the words on the page. It is a constant checking and self-monitoring for understanding. It is using the words in combination with the photos, with experience, and with prior knowledge to make sense of the text. Reading requires understanding of letters, sounds, words, and sentences; it requires understanding of how fluent reading should sound and what behaviors strong readers practice and exhibit.
2. Reading occurs in stages. Believe it or not, reading acquisition most often follows a very straightforward, very systematic progression. And just because a reader "levels out" at a certain stage doesn't mean that the growth stops there. Readers are continually growing and moving, first from learning to read and then reading to learn.
The stages may be called something different depending on where you turn, but essentially they progress as outlined below:
Pre-Reading: Develop Oral Language Skills, Sound Distinction
Stage 1: Letters Represent Sounds & Letters Come Together to Form Words
Stage 2: Decoding Skills, Fluency, Strategies Make Meaning From Text
Stage 3: Longest Stage—Extend Vocabulary, Encounter Different Texts and Strategies
Stage 4: Critical Analysis of Text, Understand Multiple Points of View
Stage 5: Reading Is Considered Truly Constructive; Determine Own Purpose and Use for Texts
(For more, check out Dr. Louisa Moats' talk about Dr. Jeanne Chall's Stages of Reading Development.)
3. Reading carries an incredibly heavy weight. If a child struggles with reading, it must be addressed early and often. Parents should feel confident about contacting a child's teacher and discussing reading progress, and parents should take an active role in reading instruction from the outset.
Often in school, children are aware of who is reading and who is not and which children need the most support. Less confident readers will most likely be less confident in other subjects as well, especially when reading is involved.
And now more than ever, the overlap between subject areas stretches further than many parents could ever recall in their own schooling. Math moves into science, language arts becomes social studies, and they are all built on one foundation: reading.
It is a conversation worth your time, your child's time, and your child's teacher's time.
What else would you like parents to know about reading? We'd love to hear it! Share your thoughts on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page, or find Amy on twitter, @teachmama, and let's continue the conversation.