Not surprisingly, the only way for young readers to develop into fluent readers is to practice reading. The term ‘practice’ makes it sound like young readers are engaging in a parallel activity to reading, related to it, but not exactly reading. However, reading practice is a bit like the practice of a musical instrument, in the sense that the only practice is in the doing of it. In some ways, reading practice is just another way of thinking about guided reading—reading appropriate to the child’s level of ability, so that the young reader can effectively develop the skills that will make him or her a fluent reader.
In order for young readers to enjoy reading, and therefore make it more likely that they will enjoy the habit of reading later on, parents and teachers need to make sure there are a few things in place before, during and after that reading practice.
Before the young reader begins to read a book or portion of text, the reader needs to have at hand a text that is appropriate for his or her reading ability. In order to find out if that book is at the child’s level, teach the child the Goldilocks Rule and the Five-Finger Rule.
The Goldilocks Rule
In order to find a book that is ‘just right’ for a young reader to read, they can ask three questions of a book, ‘is the book too easy for me?’, ‘Is the book too hard for me?’, or ‘Is the book just right for me?’ Here’s how to find out what books are neither too easy, nor too hard, but just right for a reader:
- I have read the book many times
- I understand the book and can retell it easily
- I know and understand almost every word
- I can read the book fluently without practice
- There are at least five words I don’t recognize or understand
- The story is confusing to me
- I can’t read the book smoothly yet
- I need help reading this book
- The book is new to me and sounds interesting
- I can understand what’s happening in the story
- I can retell what I have read.
- I recognise most of the words, but there are some I need to work on
- I can read the book by myself but need some help in the tough parts
Another way to determine if a story is too hard for a reader is the Five-Finger Rule.
- Open the book to any page after the first page
- Start reading
- For every word that you can’t read or have trouble sounding out (and you’re not quite sure what the word it), put up a finger.
If the reader has trouble with five or more words, then the book is too hard and should be saved for a little later.
Once the reader has a text that is appropriate for his or her level, it’s time to begin reading.
During the first reading of a text, you can stop at tricky points in the text and discuss the content of the story as well as the pronunciation and meaning of any words that the child doesn’t know. During the reading of a text, it’s great to engage the child in active reading activities so that the child may more fully understand what he or she is reading.
Some active reading activities to consider:
- Ask questions like ‘do you understand what is happening?’ and ‘what do you think will happen next?’ This gets the child thinking about the text that they are reading and thinking about the larger story structure, which helps them become more aware of how stories hang together.
- Discuss any unknown words.
- Ask the child to visualise the story. Picturing what is happening in a story helps them understand the text more fully.
- Talk about any emotions that are mentioned or a part of the story. This also helps them understand what is going on in the story.
- Reread any parts that were unclear.
After reading, it’s great to ask the child questions about the text, which teaches them how to ask questions of a text, which is a key element of understanding what they are reading.
- Who, what, when, where, why and how questions. These are your best friends in comprehension building.
- Ask the child who the story was about.
- What happened in the story?
- When did it take place? What time of day? Time of the year? What kind of day?
- Where was it?
- Ask ‘why’ questions to figure out why things happened the way they did in the story.
- ‘How’ questions are also useful, you can ask about how characters behaved in the story or how certain events happened. This gets young readers thinking more about how the parts of the story fit together.
Don’t forget to ask the reader about his or her favourite part. Helping kids to engage with reading in such a thorough way that encourages understanding is a great way to keep kids coming back to reading, helping them build their reading practice into an enjoyable habit of reading.
ABC Reading Eggs helps kids practice reading in an engaging, child-friendly online learning world that is fun to interact with. The playful elements of the program suit the learning style of young readers who learn best through play. ABC Reading Eggs provides ample reading material for students at all levels of ability, so that young readers are constantly reading and working on their own level of ability, which has been shown to be the most effective means of young readers becoming fluent readers. The reading practice that each child does is at his or her level and is thoroughly engaging. The completion of every lesson culminates in both the reading of an e-book as well as a reward, which reminds readers, parents and teachers alike that reading and understanding real books is the goal of every Reading Eggs lesson. And eventually every child will hopefully come to realise that reading is its own reward.
Reading Eggs is great for my preschool-aged child who is just learning to read, and for my 6-year-old fluent reader. My younger child is engaged by the lessons and also motivated by the games and rewards. A surprise benefit is that his computer and keyboard skills are improving. My 6-year-old uses Reading Eggs for her spelling and basic grammar. She is working on her sequencing and creative-writing skills by composing stories on Reading Eggs. Even the games develop reading, math and logic skills. I really see this as a website we can use from preschool through grade 3 with academic benefit. Jennifer Ware
My class (prep-2) love[s] the Reading Eggs program. My students look forward to it every week and their reading skills have improved since we have introduced the program. Keep up the great work! Kathy Norton, Lal Lal Primary School
Thank you for providing a fantastic resource that ALL of my class love! They are able to access the learning experiences at their own instructional level and work independently, both at school and from home. Peta Bullen, Tewantin State School