The Five Essential Components of Reading

Reading with children and helping them practice specific reading components can dramatically improve their ability to read. Scientific research shows that there are five essential components of reading that children must be taught in order to learn to read. Adults can help children learn to be good readers by systematically practicing these five components:

  • Recognizing and using individual sounds to create words, or phonemic awareness. Children need to be taught to hear sounds in words and that words are made up of the smallest parts of sound, or phonemes.
  • Understanding the relationships between written letters and spoken sounds, or phonics. Children need to be taught the sounds individual printed letters and groups of letters make. Knowing the relationships between letters and sounds helps children to recognize familiar words accurately and automatically, and “decode” new words.
  • Developing the ability to read a text accurately and quickly, or reading fluency. Children must learn to read words rapidly and accurately in order to understand what is read. When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. When fluent readers read aloud, they read effortlessly and with expression. Readers who are weak in fluency read slowly, word by word, focusing on decoding words instead of comprehending meaning.
  • Learning the meaning and pronunciation of words, or vocabulary development. Children need to actively build and expand their knowledge of written and spoken words, what they mean and how they are used.
  • Acquiring strategies to understand, remember and communicate what is read, or reading comprehension strategies. Children need to be taught comprehension strategies, or the steps good readers use to make sure they understand text. Students who are in control of their own reading comprehension become purposeful, active readers.

Taken from the U.S. Department of Education Website


IOWA Assessments Make-Up Testing

I will be administering the make-up tests for the entire school this week. If your child missed school last week, he/she will be coming to my classroom to complete the test.

I will be administering any make-up tests for students in grades 3-8 on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

I will be administering any make-up tests for students in grade 2 on Wednesday.


Strategies to Help Engage Reluctant Readers in Reading

By: Joelle Brummitt-Yale (BA in English and a M.Ed. in Middle Grades Language Arts)

Every parent and teacher wants their children to be avid readers. Because we know the benefits of reading we want our children to embrace it as we have. While a good many children do become excited and engaged in reading (especially in the primary grades), some are reluctant and disinterested. While a child may not show a natural interest in reading, this does not mean that he cannot become a skilled and even enthusiastic reader. There are a number of things that parents and teachers can do to help engage reluctant readers.

What is a reluctant reader?

A reluctant reader is anyone who does not show interest in reading. There is a wide range within the category of reluctant readers. A reluctant reader may simply be a child who needs to be coaxed into reading texts. She may also be the child who vehemently refuses to read. Reluctant readers sometimes hide their ambivalence towards reading using other behaviors. A teacher may notice that a certain student always becomes the class clown when it is time to begin independent reading. Similarly, parents may notice that their child seems to become “naughtier” when he is asked to sit and read a book aloud. When children mask their negative attitudes towards reading by using other behaviors parents and teachers need to do a little “detective work” to identify the root cause of the problem.

While any child, young or old, male or female can be a reluctant reader the largest number of unenthusiastic readers are adolescent boys. Research shows that a good number of boys who were avid readers in the elementary grades become disinterested in reading during their middle school years. Though there are a number of factors which may contribute to this shift (increasing complexity of material, peer pressure) one of the primary reasons seems to be that they fail to see the connection between reading and “real” life.

Strategies to Help Engage Reluctant Readers in Reading

Identify the root cause of the reluctance

Before you can select which strategy you will use to support a reluctant reader you need to know why he or she is disengaged from reading. Observe the child when he is approaching a reading task. Does he avoid it all together or does he begin but become frustrated and abandon it? Also, watch for what he does while he is reading. Does he use strategies to help decipher text or does he seem to not know how to work through it? What areas does he have the most difficult with while reading—decoding, vocabulary, comprehension? Does he just seem uninterested in the content or is he actually having difficulty reading it?

Once you have identified what the root cause of the reader’s reluctance is you can select the appropriate intervention. If the child seems to have difficulty processing texts or appears to be well below grade level in her reading skills, this is a good time to refer her for additional support services. Each school and district has its own procedures for referrals. Parents who have concerns should contact their child’s teacher to talk about placing a referral. If the cause seems to be based on interest rather than skills, the parent or teacher should select a strategy to help engage and excite the child in reading.

Specialized Reading Services

If a child is having difficulty processing what they are reading they may become reluctant to read. Because they are unsuccessful at reading they will avoid it. In order to encourage them to read they need support developing essential reading skills. Reading Specialists are usually available at least on a part time basis at each school. Many elementary schools have Reading Specialists. Parents and teachers can contact these specialists to discuss what services would best help their reluctant readers. Reading Specialists may suggest pull out services such as a small group reading class taught by the specialist which targets specific basic reading skills or they may be able to offer strategies for the parents or teachers to use with their children.

If the child is diagnosed as having a learning disability that affects his reading abilities he will often receive pull out special education reading classes. These classes are taught by a teacher who is trained in supporting young readers with learning disabilities. S/he will use strategies that target each child’s specific reading needs.

Individualize Reading Instruction and Experiences

When a processing problem is not causing reluctance towards reading, parents and teachers are often at a loss for why a child will not read. Often times readers have difficulty connecting to the texts they are reading. They see the experience of reading as simply tracking words on the page. When they become engaged with a text they begin seeing the power of reading.

Parents and teachers should individualize their reading instruction focusing on the specific skills that each child needs support in. In the classroom there are often at least a few students who show weaknesses in the same areas. Teachers should conduct small group reading lessons targeting particular areas where the children in the group need help. At home, parents should work with their child on the specific skills that she is working to develop.

Beyond this, a child’s reading experiences should be individualized. There is not one text that fits all students. Therefore parents and teachers should seek out stories that appeal to their children’s personal interests. Children need to “see” themselves in what they read. If they cannot relate to the situations and characters in a text they will have more difficulty staying engaged with the text and thus will struggle with comprehension. When adults help children pick reading materials that reflect their lives, interests and personalities they will become more and more interested in reading.

High Interest Reading Material

Sometimes young people, especially adolescents, become disengaged from reading because they lose interest in the content of the texts they are reading. Many traditional books assigned in schools as well as textbooks fail to capture the interest of today’s children because they are used to fast paced movies, video games and Internet sites. Parents and teachers can employ high interest reading materials to help spark an interest in reading in these children. High interest texts are usually fairly non-traditional. They often focus on “edgy” topics or include a great deal of action. In addition, they may not look like a traditional book. There are a number of excellent graphic novels and higher-level picture books that are designed to engage reluctant readers. While it may seem that these texts “dumb down” reading, they do not. They may be slightly below a reader’s independent reading level, but they provide valuable experiences with reading. Plus, they can serve as a stepping stone towards more traditional and sophisticated texts. The goal in using high interest reading materials is to jump start a reluctant reader’s interest in reading.

Role Modeling

The power of modeling successful and enjoyable reading experiences for reluctant readers cannot be denied. Many times adolescents will stop reading because it ceases to be “cool”. Group acceptance is an important aspect of an adolescent’s life. They do not see their friends and idols reading so they do not read. When those a reluctant reader looks up to model reading and reinforce its importance she is more likely to begin reading.

Strategies for Supporting Boys

Because boys seem to be more likely than girls to become reluctant readers research has been conducted to determine what causes them to turn their backs on reading. Researchers have found that many boys stop reading because they do not see practical applications for reading. They look for immediate uses for what they learn. When they read texts where universal themes or highly fictionalized stories are presented they fail to see the purpose in reading. There is nothing “useful” in these texts. Therefore it has been suggested that those working with reluctant male readers offer them practical texts to engage their interest. These include manuals, non-fiction picture books, Internet sites and technology-based interactive texts. Such materials make reading useful to boys again. Then they are much more apt to continue reading in the future.

A Few Activities for Struggling Readers

By: Pam Marshall (M.Ed Education & certified in Literacy Instruction)

One of the most important things a parent can do is to read to their child. But simply reading to them isn’t enough.  When a child is struggling to read other strategies are needed.

If comprehension is a problem, make sure you ask plenty of questions as you read the story.  “How do you think the boy feels right now?  Look at his face.  Does he look sad or happy?”  This can help with understanding that pictures often give clues to what is going on in a story.

When shopping, point out words to your child.  Pick up a carton of orange juice and say, “What word do you think says juice?”

Give your child magazines and have them circle certain words like “and” and “the” every time they appear on a page.

Remember patience and understanding is critical.  If children feel you’re disappointed or think they aren’t trying hard enough, they’re likely to stop trying in your presence.  This can carry on to the classroom as well.

Steps a Parent Can Take to Help Their Struggling Reader

By: Joelle Brummitt-Yale (BA in English and a M.Ed. in Middle Grades Language Arts)

Every parent wants what’s best for his or her child. We all know how important reading ability is and therefore we want our children to succeed at reading. When children have difficulty with reading parents can become frustrated because they want to help them but do not know how.

If your school-aged child is having trouble with reading here are some steps you can take to help his or her progress:

Observe your child’s reading behaviors

In order to develop a plan for helping your child with reading you must first identify where the difficulty lies. For several days, observe your child’s behavior when it is time to read. Conduct reading time the way you always do in your household, but during these particular sessions focus on what your child does rather than what he/she is reading. After he/she is done reading, make detailed notes about his/her behavior. Some of the questions you might want to ask yourself as you are observing your child are:

  • How does your child react when you tell your child it is time to read a book? Does your child avoid reading? Is your child nervous? Is he/she hesitant? Do behavior problems increase?
  • What happens when your child begins reading? Does he/she have trouble staying focused on the text? Does your child read slowly or too fast? Does he/she struggle to “sound out” or identify words? Does your child misunderstand or not understand what he/she is reading?
  • Does your child’s attitude towards reading and ability to read a text change based on the reading material? Are certain topics more interesting to him/her than others? Do pictures seem to help or hinder your child’s comprehension? Are certain formats (ie. books vs. magazines) easier for your child to read?

Schedule a meeting with your child’s regular classroom teacher.

More often than not, if you are noticing that your child is having difficulty with reading his/her classroom teacher is also. Schedule a parent-teacher conference to discuss your child’s reading ability. This does not have to be during the traditional “parent-teacher conference time” of the school year. Teachers are more than willing to make time to discuss your concerns with you at any point during the school year. When you come to the conference, bring your observations of the child’s reading behaviors at home with you. Be sure to share these as well as the “reading routines” you have at home with the teacher. Together, you can develop a plan for helping your child. Using your first-hand knowledge of your child’s abilities and personality and the teacher’s relationship with the child and his/her expertise in education to make a plan for working with your child. This may involve some at home reading practice or modifications in your child’s classroom instruction. Also, set a timeline for re-evaluating your child’s progress. Plan to meet again or talk via email or the phone to discuss what is working (or what is not working) for your child.

Request evaluation of your child by a specialist.

While a good many children are able to make progress in their reading development through a focused intervention planned and carried out by the teacher and parent, some need additional support from specialists trained in assisting those with specific reading difficulties. If your child continues to struggle with reading, ask for your child to be assessed by a specialist. Talk with your child’s teacher about the school’s procedures for requesting evaluation.