The Partnership for Reading
Produced by RMC Research Corporation, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Bonnie B. Armbruster, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignFran Lehr, M.A., Lehr & Associates, Champaign, IllinoisJean Osborn, M. Ed., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This publication was produced under National Institute for Literacy Contract No. ED-00CO-0093 with RMC Research Corporation. Sandra Baxter served as the contracting officer's technical representative. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Institute for Literacy. No official endorsement by the National Institute for Literacy of any product, commodity, service, or enterprise in this publication is intended or should be inferred.
Sandra Baxter, Interim Executive Director
Lynn Reddy, Communications Director
To order copies of this booklet, contact the National Institute for Literacy at EdPubs, PO Box 1398, Jessup, MD 20794-1398. Call 800-228-8813 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Institute for Literacy, an independent federal organization, supports the development of high quality state, regional, and national literacy services so that all Americans can develop the literacy skills they need to succeed at work, at home, and in the community.
The Partnership for Reading, a project administered by the National Institute for Literacy, is a collaborative effort of the National Institute for Literacy, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to make evidence-based reading research available to educators, parents, policy makers, and others with an interest in helping all people learn to read well.
The Partnership for Reading acknowledges editorial support from C. Ralph Adler and design support from Diane Draper, both of RMC Research Corporation.
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The building blocks of reading and writing
What to do at home
What to look for in kindergarten classrooms
What children should be able to do by the end of kindergarten
What to do at home
What to look for in first grade classrooms
What children should be able to do by the end of first grade
Second and third grades
What to do at home
What to look for in second and third grade classrooms
What children should be able to do by the end of second grade
What children should be able to do by the end of third grade
Some helpful terms to know
Suggested reading for parents and caregivers
Resources for parents and caregivers
The road to becoming a reader begins the day a child is born and continues through the end of third grade. At that point, a child must read with ease and understanding to take advantage of the learning opportunities in fourth grade and beyond--in school and in life.
Learning to read and write starts at home, long before children go to school. Very early, children begin to learn about the sounds of spoken language when they hear their family members talking, laughing, and singing, and when they respond to all of the sounds that fill their world. They begin to understand written language when they hear adults read stories to them and see adults reading newspapers, magazines, and books for themselves.
Mothers, fathers, grandparents, and caregivers, this booklet is for you. Your role in setting your child on the road to becoming a successful reader and writer does not end when she* begins kindergarten.
This booklet contains:
Try a few activities from this booklet with your child. You don't need special training or expensive materials. Just include the activities in the things you already do together every day. Make these activities part of the warm, loving relationship you are continuing to build with your child.
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From several decades of research, we have learned a lot about how children learn to read and write. This research tells us that to become more skilled and confident readers over time, children need lots of opportunities to:
Remember the old saying "children should be seen and not heard"? Research tells us that for children to become readers, they should listen and talk a lot.
By the time children are one year old, they already know a lot about spoken language--talking and listening. They recognize some speech sounds. They know which sounds make the words that are important to them. They begin to imitate those sounds. Children learn all of this by listening to family members talk. Even "baby talk," which exaggerates the sounds and rhythms of words, makes a contribution to children's ability to understand language. Children who do not hear a lot of talk and who are not encouraged to talk themselves often have problems learning to read.
Even though books don't come with operating instructions, we use them in certain ways. We hold them right side-up. We turn the pages one at a time. We read lines of words starting at the left and moving to the right. Knowing about print and books and how they are used is called print awareness.
Print awareness is an important part of knowing how to read and write. Children who know about print understand that the words they see in print and the words they speak and hear are related. They will use and see print a lot, even when they're young--on signs and billboards, in alphabet books and storybooks, and in labels, magazines, and newspapers. They see family members use print, and they learn that print is all around them and that it is used for different purposes.
Some words rhyme. Sentences are made up of separate words. Words have parts called syllables. The words bag, ball, and bug all begin with the same sound. When a child begins to notice and understand these things, he is developing phonological awareness--the ability to hear and work with the sounds of spoken language.
When a child also begins to understand that spoken words are made up of separate, small sounds, he is developing phonemic awareness. These individual sounds in spoken language are called phonemes. For example, the word big has three phonemes, /b/, /i/, and /g/.*
Children who have phonemic awareness can take spoken words apart sound by sound (the name for this is segmentation) and put together sounds to make words (the name for this is blending). Research shows that how easily children learn to read can depend on how much phonological and phonemic awareness they have.
* A letter between slash marks, /b/, shows the phoneme, or sound, that the letter represents, and not the name of the letter. For example, the letter b represents the sound /b/.
Singing the alphabet song is more than just a fun activity. Children who go to kindergarten already knowing the shapes and names of the letters of the alphabet, and how to write them, have a much easier time learning to read. Knowing the names and shapes of letters is sometimes called alphabetic knowledge.
Reading aloud to children has been called the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for success in reading. Reading aloud, with children participating actively, helps children learn new words, learn more about the world, learn about written language, and see the connection between words that are spoken and words that are written.
Phonics instruction helps beginning readers see the relationships between the sounds of spoken language and the letters of written language. Understanding these relationships gives children a tool that they can use to recognize familiar words quickly and to figure out words they haven't seen before.
Word-study instruction is the step that follows phonics instruction. It helps older children learn to apply their phonics knowledge and knowledge of word parts (such as prefixes, suffixes, and root words) as they read and write words. Rapid word recognition means that children spend less time struggling over words and have more time getting meaning from what they read, which, of course, is the real purpose for reading.
Children learn more about how print works when they spell and write on their own. When they begin to write, children draw and scribble. Later, they use what they are learning about sounds and letters when they try to write words. This often is called invented, or developmental, spelling. Because invented spelling encourages children to think about the sounds in words and how the sounds are related to letters, it can help preschool and kindergarten children develop both as readers and writers. However, after kindergarten, children need well-organized, systematic lessons in spelling to help them become good spellers.
Fluency is the word for being able to read quickly and accurately. Fluent readers recognize words automatically. They are able to group words quickly to help them get the meaning of what they read. When fluent readers read aloud, they read smoothly and with expression. Their reading sounds natural, like speech. Readers who have not yet developed fluency read slowly, word by word. Sometimes, their oral reading is choppy and plodding. They may make a lot of mistakes.
Most beginning readers do not read fluently. However, by the end of first grade, children should be reading their grade level books fluently.
Vocabulary is the name for words we must know in order to listen, speak, read, and write effectively. Time and again researchers have found strong connections between the size of children's vocabularies, how well they comprehend what they read, and how well they do in school.
Children who are poor readers often do not have the vocabulary knowledge they need to get meaning from what they read. Because reading is difficult for them, they cannot and do not read very much. As a result, they may not see new words in print often enough to learn them. Good readers read more, become better readers, and learn more words; poor readers read less, become poorer readers, and learn fewer words.
Children learn vocabulary in two ways: indirectly, by hearing and seeing words as they listen, talk, and read; and directly by parents and teachers teaching them the meanings of certain words.
Vocabulary and knowledge of the world are, of course, very closely tied together. Children who know something about the world are much better able to understand what they read about in school.
Comprehension means getting meaning from what we read. It is the heart of reading. Research shows that knowledge of letter-sound relationships and comprehension go hand-in-hand. If children can sound out the words, but don't understand what they are reading, they're not really reading.
Children can build their comprehension by learning to use mental plans, or strategies, to get meaning as they read. These strategies include using what they already know to make sense of what they read, making predictions, paying attention to the way a reading selection is organized, creating mental pictures, asking questions, and summarizing.
What to do at home
In effective kindergarten classrooms, you will see literacy instruction that focuses on...
The teacher...shows children appropriate ways to talk and listen, ask and answer questions, and give and follow directions.
The children...talk with teachers and classmates about what they have read and heard. They retell stories that they have heard read aloud. They make up and tell their own stories. They may pretend to be characters in play centers.
The teacher...shows children how books should be handled, how they are read from front to back, from the top to the bottom of a page, and from left to right on a page. He talks about the various kinds of print in the classroom, including their meaning and purpose.
The children...enjoy books and reading. They see lots of print around them being used in many ways. They are curious about the print and eager to learn what it means.
The teacher...helps children learn the names and shapes of all the letters of the alphabet and encourages the children to play with letters and to write using letters.
The children...listen to the teacher read them an alphabet book, then sing the alphabet song. Some children play with plastic letters, while others say the letters as they write their own names.
The teacher...provides explicit instruction in phonological awareness and phonemic awareness. The teacher has children put together sounds ( blending) to make words and break words into separate sounds ( segmentation). As the children write, he promotes phonemic awareness by encouraging them to use what they know about the sounds that make up words.
The children...have fun with the sounds of words. Early in the year, they tell which words in a story rhyme; they may make up their own nonsense rhymes. A little later in the year, they listen for the beginning sounds of the words in a poem. They also may clap out the number of syllables in their names and in words. Late in the year, they put together and take apart the separate sounds in words. They begin to relate sounds to letters and to write the letters for the sounds that they hear.
Phoneme blending: teachers say a word phoneme by phoneme, then have the children repeat the sequence of phonemes and combine the phonemes to say the word.Teacher: /s/ /u/ /n/Children: /s/ /u/ /n/; sun.
Phoneme segmentation: teachers say a word, then have the children break it into its separate phonemes, saying each one as they tap out or count it.Teacher: slimChildren: /s/ /l/ /i/ /m/.Teacher: How many sounds are in slim?Children: Four sounds.
The teacher...uses explicit instruction to teach children a set of the most useful letter-sound relationships.
The children...read easy books that contain words with the letter-sound relationships they are learning. They are also writing the relationships they know in words, sentences, messages, and their own stories.
The teacher...has children practice their new writing skills in groups with other children and at learning centers. She makes spelling development a part of writing activities.
The children...depending on the time of the year, scribble, draw, label pictures, and use their growing knowledge of sounds and letters to write messages. They are becoming aware of correct spellings for some words, especially their names.
The teacher...talks with the children about important new words and ideas as she reads aloud. She helps them connect the new words to their own knowledge and experiences. She discusses words that are most important for understanding the reading selection. She emphasizes words that the children are likely to see and use often and teaches children the meaning of new words over an extended period of time. She thinks about the content of the books that she reads to the children and chooses books that build on and expand children's knowledge.
The children...learn lots of new words and like to share their new words with their families. They see the teacher's enthusiasm for words and enjoy playing with words and language. They use words that are important to their schoolwork, such as the names for colors, shapes, and numbers. They explore new ideas and learn new words.
The teacher...reads aloud to children often and discusses books before, during, and after reading. She reads many different kinds of books, including "make-believe" (fiction), "real" (nonfiction), and poetry. She shows children how good readers get meaning from what they read.
The children...listen to and understand what is read to them. They answer the teacher's questions. They make connections between what they already know and what they are reading about. They talk about what they learned from non-fiction books they have read, and they retell or act out important events in stories. They identify the characters, settings, and events in stories.
The following is a list of some accomplishments that you can expect of your child by the end of kindergarten. This list is based on research in the fields of reading, early childhood education, and child development. Remember, though, that children don't develop and learn at the same pace and in the same way. Your child may be more advanced or need more help than others in her age group. You are, of course, the best judge of your child's abilities and needs. You should take the accomplishments as guidelines and not as hard-and-fast rules. If you have concerns about your child's reading development, talk to his teacher.
By the end of kindergarten, a child . . .
In effective first grade classrooms, you will see literacy instruction that focuses on...
The teacher...helps children use language that is appropriate for different audiences and purposes.
The children...use speaking and listening for many purposes, including getting and giving information, giving opinions, and talking with teachers and classmates. They talk about what has been read to them or what they have read. They retell stores that they have heard read aloud. They make up and tell stories based on their own experiences. They use the more formal language expected at school, such as complete sentences.
The teacher...reads aloud to the children often, sharing many different types of books and other print materials. She shows her enthusiasm for reading and her eagerness for the children to learn to read. As she reads, she shows the parts of print such as the beginnings and endings of sentences, new paragraphs, and different punctuation marks.
The children...are excited about being read to and about learning to read. They recognize the titles of books and ask the teacher to read their favorites. They spend part of the day looking at books or pretend reading books of their choice.
The teacher...makes sure that children can recognize and name all of the letters of the alphabet, both uppercase and lowercase.
The children...can quickly name the letters of the alphabet in order and recognize all letters. They use their knowledge of letters when they write.
The teacher...provides explicit instruction in phonemic awareness. She shows the children how to do phonemic awareness activities and helps them with feedback. The activities are short and fun. (See the next page for examples of each activity.)
The children...practice a lot with phonemes. For example, they clap out the sounds they hear in words ( segmentation), put sounds together to make words ( blending), add or drop sounds from words ( phoneme addition and deletion), and replace sounds in words ( phoneme substitution).
Phoneme deletion: Children recognize the word that remains when you take away a phoneme.
ExampleTeacher: What is space without the /s/?Children: Space without the /s/ is pace.
Phoneme addition: Children make a new word by adding a phoneme to a word.
ExampleTeacher: What word do you have if you add /p/ to the beginning of lace?Children: Place.
Phoneme substitution: Children substitute one phoneme for another to make a new word.
ExampleTeacher: The word is rag. Change /g/ to /n/. What's the new word?Children: Ran.
The teacher...explicitly teaches the children letter-sound relationships in a clear and useful sequence. The teacher also teaches children "irregular" words they will see and read often, but that do not follow the letter-sound relationships they are learning. These are often called sight words--words such as said, is, was, are.
The children...learn to blend sounds to read words--first one-syllable words and, later, words with more than one syllable. They read easy books that include the letter-sound relationships they are learning as well as sight words that they have been taught. They recognize and figure out the meaning of compound words (words made of two words put together, such as background). They practice writing the letter-sound relationships in words, sentences, messages, and their own stories.
Although there are several different approaches to teaching phonics, here are some activities that you are likely to see in first grade classrooms.
The teacher...provides opportunities for children to practice writing skills independently in both whole group and learning center settings. She makes spelling a part of writing activities. She helps children begin to think through their writing efforts--planning, writing drafts, and revising.
The children...use writing more and more as a way to communicate ideas. They begin to organize their writing by planning, writing a draft copy, and editing it. They continue to use some invented spelling, but are learning the correct spellings of most of the words that they write.
The teacher...talks with the children about important new vocabulary words and helps them relate the new words to their own knowledge and experience. He makes a point of using new words in classroom discussions. He urges the children to use these words when they talk and write.
The children...talk about the meanings of words and use new words when they talk and write. They begin to recognize words that are alike (synonyms) and words that are opposite (antonyms). They also begin to recognize the roles of different words in sentences--words that name (nouns) and words that show action (verbs). They understand that the language they use in school is more formal than the language they use at home and with friends.
The teacher...reads aloud to children often and discusses books with them before, during, and after reading. The teacher listens to children read aloud, corrects their errors, and asks them questions about what they are reading. He shows children how to use mental plans, or strategies, to get meaning from what they read.
The children...read aloud with accuracy and show that they understand what they're reading. They read books (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) that are appropriate for the time in the school year. They make connections between what they already know and what they are reading. They pay attention to their reading and recognize when something doesn't make sense. They summarize and discuss what they read with classmates and their teacher. They choose to read on their own and enjoy reading.
The following is a list of some accomplishments you can expect of your child by the end of first grade. This list is based on research in the fields of reading, early childhood education, and child development. Remember, though, that children don't develop and learn at the same pace and in the same way. Your child may be more advanced or need more help than others in her age group. You are, of course, the best judge of your child's abilities and needs. You should take the accomplishments as guidelines and not as hard-and-fast rules. If you have concerns or questions about your child's reading development, talk to his teacher.
By the end of first grade, a child . . .
In effective second and third grade classrooms, you will see literacy instruction that focuses on...
The teacher...helps children continue to use their knowledge of phonics to sound out and pronounce new words. The teacher helps children recognize simple, common spelling patterns in words. She also helps children learn the spellings and meanings of word parts such as prefixes, suffixes, and root words.
The teacher...become more able to read words accurately by using their knowledge of phonics. They use the other words in a sentence (the context) to figure out the pronunciations and meanings of new words.
The teacher...reads aloud to children, modeling fluent reading. She makes sure that children are working on developing fluency and monitors their progress. By listening to children read aloud, or by sometimes timing children's reading rates, the teacher ensures that children are becoming fluent readers.
The children...are becoming more fluent readers by reading, reading, reading. They are improving their oral reading fluency by rereading selections aloud.
In second and third grade classrooms, effective instruction will include some of the following activities for building fluency.
The teacher...teaches some common spelling patterns. He encourages children to write in many different forms, such as letters, stories, poetry, reviews, directions, and reports. He helps children prepare for and plan their writing. He teaches them how to revise, edit, and refine what they have written and helps them write using a computer.
The children...write often, and for different audiences and purposes. They correctly spell previously studied words. When they spell new words, they represent all of the sounds in the words. In their writing, the children use figurative language, dialogue, and vivid descriptions. They read their writing to others and discuss one another's writing, offering helpful suggestions.
The teacher...is excited about words and shows students that they have a personal interest in learning new and intriguing words. He tries to develop children's awareness of and interest in words, their meanings, and their power. As the teacher reads aloud to children, he discusses some of the important new words in the book. He relates new words to words the children already know and to their experiences. The teacher encourages children to read a lot, both in school and outside of school. He encourages them to explore topics that interest them and to use a variety of sources of information, including the Internet.
The children...are interested in learning new words and are eager to share new vocabulary at school and at home. They are learning how to figure out the meanings of unknown words by using word parts such as prefixes, suffixes, and root words. They are able to use different parts of speech correctly, including nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. They read a lot on their own, and explore topics independently, often using computers.
In second and third grade classrooms, effective instruction will include both specific word instruction and instruction in word learning strategies.
Specific word instruction
Word learning strategies
The teacher...guides children's understanding of what they are reading by discussing selections with them before, during, and after reading. The teacher shows children how to use simple strategies to get meaning from what they read.
The children...read many different kinds of books, both with the teacher's guidance and on their own. They offer answers to "how," "why," and "what-if" questions, and read to find the answers to their own questions. They compare and contrast characters and events across stories. They explain and describe new information in their own words. They also interpret information from diagrams, charts, and graphs.
Quality instruction includes teaching children strategies that they can use to get meaning from the materials they read. These comprehension strategies include being aware of how well they comprehend a selection, using graphic organizers, answering questions, asking questions, recognizing the way stories are organized, and summarizing.
To teach comprehension strategies, teachers first demonstrate the strategy, tell why it is important, and how, when, and where to use it. Then the children practice the strategy until they are able to use it on their own. Here are some examples of strategy instruction:
In second and third grades, children improve their word-recognition and word-study skills and develop fluency--their ability to read quickly and accurately. These years also are the time to extend comprehension and vocabulary knowledge and to refine writing and spelling skills.
It is critical that children are up to "reading speed" by the end of third grade. Children who fail to make good progress in reading by the time they enter fourth grade are likely to have trouble in the upper grades and to drop out of school before graduating.
The following are lists of some accomplishments that you can expect of your child by the end of second and third grades. These lists are based on research in the fields of reading, early childhood education, and child development. Remember, though, that children don't develop and learn at the same pace and in the same way. Your child may be more advanced or need more help than others in her age group. You are, of course, the best judge of your child's abilities and needs. You should take the accomplishments as guidelines and not as hard-and-fast rules. If you have concerns or questions about your child's reading development, talk to his teacher.
By the end of second grade, a child...
By the end of second grade, a child ...
By the end of third grade, a child...
By the end of third grade, a child . . .
Teachers and day care providers might use these terms when talking to you about how your child is learning to read. Some of them are used in this booklet.
Here are some books that can provide you with more information about early reading and writing.
The following government groups can provide you with useful information about learning to read.
Even Start Family Literacy Program
Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Educationwww.ericeece.org
Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communicationhttp://www.eric.ed.gov/
National Institute for Literacy (NIFL)
No Child Left Behind for Parentshttp://ed.gov/parents/academic/involve/nclbguide/parentsguide.html
Partnership for Family Involvement in Education
Date Published: 2003Date Posted: March 2010
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