What are the 5 Stages of Reading Development?
When children learn to walk they go through various stages before becoming independent. They move through these stages at their own pace. This is the same for reading. The stages of reading development are a continuum that children move through as their reading skills become proficient (Dorn & Soffos, Fountas & Pinnell, Chall, CLPE, Campbell-Hill).
Every child will move through each stage when they are ready and proficient in the previous stage. A child’s previous literacy experiences influence progression through the stages. This is different for all children as they do not start school with similar levels of literacy exposure.
Importance of the Stages of Reading Development
As a teacher, I need to know the literacy understanding of each child to support them on their reading journey. Talking with parents provided a fuller picture of literacy exposure at home. This helped me understand the needs of each child when they entered my classroom.
As children move through the 5 stages of reading development they need to learn, practice and master a multitude of reading strategies. This includes using
- prior knowledge
- drawing inferences
- and knowing when to use each strategy.
Reading is not just about identifying a word, it is about so much more.
The Characteristics of Each Stage
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Stage 1: Pre-Reading/Emergent Readers
The first and most important stage is when children show an interest in reading and voluntarily pick up a book. They need exposure to quality and entertaining literature. We need to encourage this interest and develop it into a love of books and reading.
- understanding print has meaning
- being familiar with handling books
- commenting on illustrations, with guidance
- starting to recognise letter names and sounds
- having a good grasp of oral language
- relating a story to their own experiences
- pretending to read a story
- starting to rhyme
- Read aloud dynamic and exciting books.
- Read nursery rhymes and poetry with repetitive text.
- Go on a picture walk before reading to understand the story structure.
- Make predictions and model how to predict by offering your own suggestions.
- Ask questions about the story and model how to answer them.
- Encourage children to make connections to the book. Remind them of related events that have happened to them.
- Point out important events in illustrations and make connections back to the text.
This stage is the foundation for all the other stages and it should be fun. The goal is to help children love reading so they don’t see it as a chore! Reading wordless books is also a great way to practice these strategies.
Stage 2: Reading/Early Readers
- start to memorise the story
- take risks
- begin to memorise common sight words
- make connections between sounds and print
- use the illustrations to tell the story
- start reading for meaning
- start to predict unknown words using visual cues
- use rhyming knowledge to add, change and delete phonemes or individual sounds to make new words
- combine strategies in their attempts to read unknown text
- Continue to read-aloud stories to children
- Model how to question, predict and comprehend
- Introduce new vocabulary in context
- Focus on letters in their own name and other meaningful words
- Read the environment when shopping. Point out signs and labels
Don’t make children feel self-conscious about predicting or guessing words. It will only make their reading progression more difficult as they read harder books.
Stage 3: Responding/ Progressive Readers
- understand text has meaning
- use illustrations as part of self-monitoring
- understand how to tell a story
- independently use comprehension and prediction strategies
- use multiple strategies to increase their reading fluency
- make educated guesses when predicting and adapting their predictions as needed.
- Ask: “Does that look right?” Child: “Yes, it starts with ‘m’.
- Ask: “Does that sound right? The moose lived in a tiny little space.” Child: “It sounds ok.”
- Ask: “Does that make sense? The moose lived in a tiny little space?” Child” “No, it doesn’t make sense, a moose is too big.”
- Finally, ask your child to read the sentence again, this time reading for meaning.
Stage 4: Exploration/ Transitional Readers
Children are reading more fluently and accurately in stage 4. They may still need help with more difficult texts.
- recognising an increasing number of words
- using multiple reading strategies and increased comprehension
- reading with improved fluency and speed
- using illustrations and text to self- monitor and self-correct
- reading unknown words using knowledge of phonemes and digraph
- understanding how to read with expression using punctuation marks
- choosing books to learn about subjects of interest
- reading books as part of a series
Stage 5: Applying/Independent Readers
- confident and independent readers
- self-monitoring on a regular basis
- reading different purposes including expanding their own interests
- reading longer texts, extracting the information they need
- aware what they read can influence their opinions
- reading text from different points of view
- learning to read between the lines and analysing what they read
- expanding their comprehension and vocabulary as they read more complex texts
The five stages of reading give parents a benchmark for their child’s reading progress. Children will move through the stages at their own pace and may even straddle two stages.
What suggestions do you have for parents to support their child’s reading at home? What do you think of the stages of development? If you found it useful or have anything to add, let me know!
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