The purpose of reading instruction is no longer viewed as two distinct functions: (1) learning to read occurring in grades k-2; and (2) reading to learn occurring in grade 3 and above. Learning to read consists of the fundamental skills of reading: knowledge of letters and their sounds, sight words, decoding skills and fluency.Reading to learn focuses on comprehension skills. With the adoption of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) learning to read and reading to learn are now taught simultaneously beginning in kindergarten. To teach both, it is the goal for teachers to use non-fiction texts earlier and with more frequency. The subjects are of high interest to students and the text structure promotes comprehension development.Comprehension at a snapshot can be viewed as four levels of depth and complexity: (1) recognition and recall using information from the text: words, illustrations, labels, and graphic tables, (2) interpretation of information to distinguish similarities and differences, categorize, generate predictions, and recognize relationships such as cause and effect, (3) strategic thinking to draw conclusions and cite evidence, and (4) extended thinking to analyze, synthesize, and apply learned knowledge. It is important to note that answers to questions generated in levels 3 and 4 will provide students with opportunities for more than one answer. The criteria are that children justify and explain their reasoning. Also a mixture of levels can be addressed at each grade as shown in the examples below.
As a parent you are instrumental in assisting the reading success of your child. In preparing your child for kindergarten, fiction books such as nursery rhymes, patterned or predictable books, and rebus books are still appropriate and necessary in setting the stage for non-fiction text. For example when reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, a predictable text, aloud to your child the comprehension skill of listing/sequencing events can be practiced and retold through the pictures. The story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is an excellent read to practice the higher level skill of cause and effect. Practicing these skills with fiction books will build the foundation for the complexity of reading non-fiction.1st Grade Non-FictionSubject: Growing a pumpkinText Features: Sentences at this level are approximately six to eight words in length and consist of simple sight words, several one syllable words, with illustrations depicting what is happening in the text to assist children in making valid predictions, stating relationships such as cause and effect and problem and solution.Text example: The boy put the seeds in the hole.Level One: Using the pictures have your child list the order of events: (1) dug the hole, (2) put the seeds in the hole, (3) covered the hole with dirt, (4) watered the seeds, and (5) pumpkin plants grewLevel Two: Once your child reads the sentence, The boy put the seed in the hole, ask him/her to predict what will happen next. As your child reads the next few pages, have him/her confirm that the prediction was correct. Have your child prove his/her answer using specific examples from the textLevel Three: Describe cause and effect Ask: What would happen if the seeds were not watered? Child response – They wouldn’t grow (effect)Level Four Have your child apply the process of growing pumpkins to additional vegetables, fruits and flowers.
3rd Grade Non-FictionSubject: RecyclingText Features: Sentences are approximately eleven-fourteen words in length, all sight words, words required higher levels of decoding (prefixes, multi-syllabic words) and compound sentences.Test Example: Recycling is important because it reuses or makes things from people’s garbage.Level One: List the benefits of recycling. Answers are found directly in the textLevel Two: Categorize the types of items that can be recycled: glass, cans, plastic, and paperLevel Three: Have your child describe why recycling is his/her responsibility. What items does he/she use that can be recycled?Level Four: Have your child explain how his/her actions can benefit or harm our planet. Cite evidence from multiple sources.In summary, a comprehensive view of reading includes both decoding and comprehension to enable your child to read with understanding and to ultimately gain new knowledge for future application, reflection and synthesis. The development of these skills begins early. Practicing these skills with your child will support their reading success.