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2
The Process of Learning to Read

In this chapter, we review research on the process of reading and what happens as children become readers. First, we outline how children develop language and literacy skills before they begin formal reading instruction. We then describe skilled reading as it is engaged in by adults and continue by describing how children develop to become readers.

READING AND LITERACY

In focusing in this report on preventing reading difficulties among young children in the United States, we take a limited view of reading, putting aside many issues and concerns that would belong to a full consideration of literacy in various societies inside and outside the United States. Acts of literacy vary a great deal—for example, reading a listing in a phone book, reading a Shakespearean play, and reading a dissertation on electromagnetic force. As different as these are, there are commonalities among them. For most texts in most situations, understanding what the text means is, if not the end goal of the reader, at least an important intermediate step. If someone has difficulty understanding, the problem could be a matter of lim



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Page 41 2 The Process of Learning to Read In this chapter, we review research on the process of reading and what happens as children become readers. First, we outline how children develop language and literacy skills before they begin formal reading instruction. We then describe skilled reading as it is engaged in by adults and continue by describing how children develop to become readers. READING AND LITERACY In focusing in this report on preventing reading difficulties among young children in the United States, we take a limited view of reading, putting aside many issues and concerns that would belong to a full consideration of literacy in various societies inside and outside the United States. Acts of literacy vary a great deal—for example, reading a listing in a phone book, reading a Shakespearean play, and reading a dissertation on electromagnetic force. As different as these are, there are commonalities among them. For most texts in most situations, understanding what the text means is, if not the end goal of the reader, at least an important intermediate step. If someone has difficulty understanding, the problem could be a matter of lim

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Page 42 ited knowledge; in the case of the physics dissertation, for example, limited knowledge of physics could be the downfall, rather than a reading difficulty per se. Having learned to read without difficulty may not suffice to be literate with respect to that dissertation. In our sense, literacy is both broader and more specific than reading. Literate behaviors include writing and other creative or analytical acts and at the same time invoke very particular bits of knowledge and skill in specific subject matter domains (e.g., history, physics, mathematics, etc.) (Anderson and Pearson, 1984). The reading difficulties that we are considering are those that impede what virtually all literacy activities have in common—the use of the products and principles of the writing system to get at the meaning of a written text. We recognize that reading-related development can start in infancy or with toddlers. Many very young children are surrounded by written language products and are exposed to the importance and functions of reading in society. A child's reading-related development is interwoven and continuous with development that will lead to expertise in other spheres of life. There is, however, a point in a child's growth when we expect what many, including young children, often refer to as "real reading" to start. Children are expected, without help, to read some unfamiliar texts, relying on the print and drawing meaning from it. What starts at this point is referred to in a variety of ways in the literature: independent reading (Holdaway, 1979), the alphabetic principle (Ferreiro and Teberosky, 1982), the alphabetic stage (Frith, 1985), the cipher stage (Gough and Hillinger, 1980), fully or truly productive reading (Perfetti, 1985), and conventional reading (Sulzby, 1994). We use the term conventional reading to encompass the common meanings of these different terms. Moving toward being a good reader means that a child has gained a functional knowledge of the principles of the culture's writing system—the English alphabetic writing system for children in the United States—and details of its orthography. But the foundations start earlier. Prior to real reading, young children gain functional knowledge of the parts, products, and uses of the writing system and

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Page 43 the ways in which reading and oral language activities complement each other and diverge from each other. DEVELOPMENT BEFORE KINDERGARTEN: THE FIRST FIVE YEARS Learning to read and write begins long before the school years, as the biological, cognitive, and social precursors are put into place. One of the most important preconditions for literacy is the integrity of a child's health and sensory organs, since the window for the establishment of such skills as language is relatively brief. The child's intelligence, as long as it is in the normal range, does not have much of an impact on the ease of learning to read (Stanovich et al., 1984). The capacity to learn to read and write is related to children's age-related developmental timetables, although there is no clear agreement on the precise chronological or mental age nor on a particular developmental level that children must reach before they are "ready" to learn to read and write. Children gain an increasingly complex and decontextualized understanding of the world as their brains develop during their first years of life. As they grow and gain experience, new neural connections are established at irregular rates, with spurts and plateaus (Peterson, 1994). Although this process is orderly, it is variable among individual children due to differences in both biological and experiential influences. Children who become successful readers tend to exhibit age-appropriate sensory, perceptual, cognitive, and social skills as they progress through the preschool years. Through the interaction of maturation and experience, they become increasingly adept at mastering physical dexterity and locomotion, at categorizing and constructing relationships between physical objects, at remembering facts and events over time, at engaging in imaginative play, at forming social relationships, and so forth. Of course, many factors in an infant's life can affect development, ranging from maternal mental and physical health to conditions of housing, temperament, nutrition, and emotional stress and support. Although all these can have an impact on later literacy

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Page 44 development via their impact on general development, we focus in this chapter on factors that differentially affect reading. Counting, number concepts, letter names and shapes, phonological awareness, interest in literacy, and cooperation with peers are some of the preschool accomplishments that are of particular relevance to later academic challenges. For instance, children grasp the notion that one object or event may stand for another quite young (Marzolf and DeLoache, 1994). Learning that the alphabet is a symbol system for sounds fits into this stream of development. The ability to use symbols is gradually acquired during the first years of life as children interpret and create first iconic and then graphic representations. At age 3, most children in the United States recognize that golden arches "stand for" MacDonald's. But the fact that most 3-year-olds are able to use symbols in one context or domain does not mean that they can apply this ability across all contexts and domains without specific practice. Young children also begin to learn how symbols work, for instance, using both hash marks and numerals to represent numerical information, noting the differences between numerals and letters, comparing the way letters work in their own and their friends' written names, and understanding that letters symbolize sound segments within words. Children's concepts about literacy are formed from the earliest years by observing and interacting with readers and writers as well as through their own attempts to read and write (Sulzby and Teale, 1991). In each situation they encounter, their understanding is both increased and constrained by their existing models of written language. In other words, while these existing models mediate and enable understanding, the knowledge and beliefs of which these models are composed are modified with use as the child explores language, text, and meaning. Beyond incremental learning, certain changes in perspective and reorganizations of concept are also necessary. In this way, the breadth, depth, and nature of children's engagement with text determines a great deal of literacy learning. The interplay between elaboration and reorganization of children's mental models has been well documented in the domain of orthographic development (Ehri, 1991; Gough and Juel, 1991). Vi-

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Page 45 sual word recognition can flourish only when children displace the belief that print is like pictures with the insight that written words are comprised of letters that, in turn, map to speech sounds. Even as children begin to learn about spellings, they must also develop more sophisticated understandings of the forces beyond pictures and individual words that direct text meaning. These include, for example, the nature of word, sentence, paragraph, and text structures and the sorts of thinking and devices that hold them all together. Whereas each such type of learning depends on experience and exploration, it must also depend on certain conceptual insights. For the child, Downing (1979:27) suggests, language is not an object of awareness in itself but is "seemingly like a glass, through which the child looks at the surrounding world, . . . not [initially] suspecting that it has its own existence, its own aspects of construction." To become a mature reader and writer, charged with constructing and corroborating the message of an author, this perception must change. Moreover, each such change must be guided by the metalinguistic insight that language invites inspection and reflection. Indeed, literacy growth, at every level, depends on learning to treat language as an object of thought, in and of itself (Halliday, 1982; Olson, 1995). See Box 2-1 for definitions of metacognition and metalinguistic. For most children, growing up to be a reader is a lengthy process that begins long before formal instruction is provided in school or elsewhere. The following sections offer a brief sketch of what is BOX 2-1 More Definitions "Metacognition" refers to thoughts about thinking (cognition): for example, thinking about how to understand a passage. "Metalinguistic" refers to language or thought about language: for example, noting that the word ''snake" refers to a long skinny thing all in one piece but that the word itself is neither long nor skinny and has four parts when spoken and five parts when written.

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Page 46 learned, when it is learned, and in what kinds of situations learning takes place during the course of successful language and literacy development in early childhood. Language Development Children with intact neurological systems, raised by caring adults in a speech community, fairly effortlessly acquire the spoken language of that community, exhibiting abilities within the domains of phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and lexicon or vocabulary (see Box 2-2). Knowing a language, however, does not require a conscious awareness of the various systems involved in that language, nor does it necessitate an ability to articulate the underlying principles or components of the systems. Metalinguistic insights about some language domains typically emerge in the preschool years, however, as discussed later in this section. Practically from birth, infants are able to distinguish all the sounds of any human language, and within a short time their perceptual abilities become tuned to their native language, even though their productive repertoire remains limited to nonspeech sounds and babbling for much of the first year of life (e.g., Werker and Lalonde, 1988). Phonological development continues well beyond the first BOX 2-2 Key Definitions of the Components of Language "Phonology" refers to the way sounds of the language operate. "Morphology" refers to the way words are formed and are related to each other. "Semantics'' refers to the ways that language conveys meaning. "Pragmatics" refers to the ways the members of the speech community achieve their goals using language. "Lexicon" or vocabulary refers to stored information about the meanings and pronunciation of words.

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Page 47 year and probably continues to be refined even in the early school years (e.g., Nittrouer, 1992; Gerken et al., 1994; Fowler, 1991). It has been argued that children's perception of speech undergoes a shift from holistic (based on overall prosodic or acoustic shapes of syllables and words) to truly segmental (based on small phonemic units) during the late preschool period (Jusczyk et al., 1993; Studdert-Kennedy, 1986; and other studies reviewed in Gerken et al., 1994). This issue could be important for alphabetic reading, in which the letters correspond roughly to phonemes, especially if, as has been suggested by some speech researchers (Walley, 1993), it is not until the early school years that a child's lexicon becomes large enough to force the shift from holistic to segment-based strategies. It also points to one possible basis for the well-documented link between vocabulary size and early reading ability: the development of fine within-word discrimination ability (phonemic representation) may be contingent on vocabulary size rather than age or general developmental level. The potential immaturity of some children's phonological encoding/representation systems at the time formal reading instruction begins may impede their achieving a level of phonemic awareness for spoken words related to fluent decoding of written words. Comprehension of words emerges somewhat before the ability to produce words, at around the time of a child's first birthday (Huttenlocher and Smiley, 1987; Nelson, 1973), and many children exhibit a sharp increase in the size of their working vocabularies during the second year of life (Bates et al., 1988). Vocabulary growth is rapid throughout the preschool and school years, and it is highly variable among individual children. Although there have been many attempts to estimate the size of children's vocabularies, problems arise because of definitions (e.g., what it means to know a word) and differences in the procedures used to estimate vocabulary size (Beck and McKeown, 1991; Nagy and Anderson, 1984). Despite this imprecision, individual differences have been shown to be reliably related to demographics; for example, one study found that first graders from higher-income backgrounds had about double the vocabulary size of those from lower-income ones (Graves and Slater, 1987).

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Page 48 Vocabulary size continues to increase with schooling and beyond. It is estimated that students acquire around seven words per day (2,700-3,000 words per year) during the elementary through high school years (Just and Carpenter, 1987; Nagy and Herman, 1987; Smith, 1941). A review of this research points out that it may be more correct to say that children become aware of seven words per day but that a longer learning process is necessary for these words to affect the child's comprehension and use of language (Beck and McKeown, 1991). Another perspective on vocabulary growth stresses that new words are not simply added in a serial fashion to a static and established vocabulary. Rather, the exposure to new words alters and refines the semantic representations of words already in the child's vocabulary and the relationships among them (Landauer and Dumais, 1997). Word counts, then, may be a very imprecise measure of vocabulary development. Research on grammatical development in young children suggests a very rapid acquisition of the basic syntactic structures of the native language (e.g., Brown, 1973; Pinker, 1984; other studies reviewed in Bloom et al., 1994). For example, children under two years of age show the kind of knowledge of word order in English that allows them to appreciate that "Big Bird is tickling Cookie Monster" means something different from "Cookie Monster is tickling Big Bird" (Hirsh-Pasek et al., 1987; see Golinkoff and HirschPasek, 1995, for a review). Some time after they are able to comprehend simple sentences, children begin to combine words so as to express some structural and/or syntactic relationship between them. The child's sentences grow in length and complexity from two to three to four or more words, on average, over the remainder of the preschool period. By the time of school entry, most children produce and comprehend a wide range of grammatical forms, although some structures are still developing. Children's increasing linguistic sophistication allows them to use language as a means of engaging in more complex information exchanges with adults and older children. During book sharing with an adult, for instance, children progress from just focusing on the names of objects in the pictures to asking questions about the con-

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Page 49 tent of the text. The child's ability to produce and comprehend complex sentences (with appropriate vocabulary and accurate pronunciation) then enables him or her to discuss abstract ideas ("What if . . . ?"), absent objects, and past events. This decreased reliance on immediate context as a support for communication is a developmental accomplishment that may ease the transition to school, where decontextualized language is highly valued. Throughout the preschool period and well into adulthood, individuals learn the pragmatics of their language, that is, how to use language appropriately and effectively in social contexts (see Ninio and Snow, 1996, for a review). During the preschool years, the development of these abilities occurs in three domains: (1) production of conventional speech acts, such as requesting, attention getting, and describing (Dore, 1974, 1975, 1976; Snow et al., 1996); (2) use of conversational skills, including turn taking, topic contingency, and topic development (Bloom et al., 1976; Dorval and Eckerman, 1984; Schley and Snow, 1992; Snow, 1977); and (3) production of extended autonomous discourse such as narratives, explanations, definitions, and other socially defined genres (Donaldson, 1986; Peterson and McCabe, 1983; Snow, 1990). Much of the work in the field of pragmatics describes how children learn the rules for using language in specific situations, such as book reading (Ninio and Bruner, 1978; Snow and Ninio, 1986; Snow and Goldfield, 1983), sharing time (Michaels, 1991), and dinner table talk (Beals, 1993; Blum-Kulka, 1993). One avenue for introducing and refining new pragmatic functions is through experience with books and other literacy activities. For instance, in time, children begin to appreciate stories in which characters use language to deceive or pretend, to understand the point of fables and other texts that include metaphors and other figurative devices, and to grasp the differences between narrative, expository, poetic, and other varieties of texts that books can contain. As proficiency in the forms and functions of language grows, children also gain "metalinguistic" skills. These involve the ability not just to use language but to think about it, play with it, talk about it, analyze it componentially, and make judgments about acceptable versus incorrect forms (e.g., Pratt et al., 1984). Metalinguistic in-

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Page 50 sights are applied in all language domains (phonology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics), such that pronunciation, word usage, and sentence and text forms can all be thought about in this new way by the child. It was originally thought that this aspect of language development did not begin to emerge until about school age, but more recent research has demonstrated that some children exhibit rudimentary metalinguistic skills by age 3 or even younger and that many children acquire a considerable degree of metalinguistic insight about sentences, words, and speech sounds by age 4 to 5 years, before they enter school. It is also clear that metalinguistic skills continue to improve throughout the school years. One interesting metalinguistic development is the child's growing appreciation of what a word is. Although even very young children understand the idea that things have "names," the more abstract concept of words as the building blocks of phrases and sentences, and as linguistic units whose sounds are arbitrarily related to their meanings, is only gradually attained during the preschool years (e.g., Tunmer et al., 1984; Chaney, 1989; Papandropoulou and Sinclair, 1974). These studies revealed that young children initially are unable to make a distinction between the word itself and the object or action it refers to and cannot break sentences into their component words. When asked to judge the length of words, for instance, "snake" is typically deemed to be a "long" word, and "caterpillar'' a "short" one, until the child begins to understand words as distinct from their referents. Likewise, when asked to segment sentences (e.g., on the pretext of saying it slowly enough for the examiner to write it down), young children rarely isolate single words but instead break the sentence into phrases (e.g., The little girl / was eating / an ice cream cone.) Gradually, nouns, then verbs and modifiers, and finally function words (such as articles, conjunctions, and prepositions) come to be understood as individual linguistic units, even though the boundaries between them may sometimes be mistaken (e.g., "a / nambulance" rather than "an / ambulance"). Another aspect of metalinguistic development is the child's ability to attend to and analyze the internal phonological structure of spoken words.

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Page 51 Phonological Awareness This sketch of language development and of initial metalinguistic accomplishments applies quite universally to all children learning to read. For children learning an alphabetic language, like English, there is an important additional ingredient: phonological awareness and, in particular, phonemic awareness. As discussed in Chapter 1, in English, the printed symbols (letters or graphemes) systematically represent the component sounds of the language. Understanding the basic alphabetic principle requires an awareness that spoken language can be analyzed into strings of separable words and words, in turn, into sequences of syllables and phonemes within syllables (see Box 2-3). The assessment of phonemic awareness typically involves tasks that require the student to isolate or segment one or more of the phonemes of a spoken word, to blend or combine a sequence of separate phonemes into a word, or to manipulate the phonemes within a word (e.g., adding, subtracting, or rearranging phonemes of one word to make a different word). Spoken words can be phonologically subdivided at several different levels of analysis. These include the syllable (in the word protect, /pro/ and /tEkt/); the onset and rime within the syllable (/pr/ and /o/, and /t/ and /Ekt/, respectively); and the individual phonemes themselves (/p/, /r/, /o/, /t/, /E/, /k/, and /t/). The term phonological awareness refers to a general appreciation of the sounds of speech as distinct from their meaning. When that insight includes an understanding that words can be divided into a sequence of phonemes, this finer-grained sensitivity is termed phonemic awareness. For most children, an awareness of the phonological structure of speech generally develops gradually over the preschool years. Among the first signs of awareness that spoken words contain smaller components are monitoring and correcting speech errors and "playing" with sounds (e.g., "pancakes, cancakes, canpakes"), both of which even 2- to 3-year-olds have been observed to do occasionally in naturalistic conversational settings. Appreciating rhymes (for instance, that light rhymes with kite) has also been noted in young preschoolers. The entry to phonemic awareness typically begins with

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Page 74 printed word identification. One view is that words are represented as full forms without reference to their morphological constituents (Butterworth, 1983; Osgood and Hoosain, 1974). An alternative view, more widely held, is that morphemes contribute to word reading. Whether words are decomposed into morphological components before or after word recognition is a further question (e.g., Fowler et al., 1985; Feldman, 1994; Taft and Forster, 1975; Taft, 1992). Whether the morpheme is a unit of processing and mental organization is the question, and this question has proved difficult to answer in a simple manner. How morphology is actually used in skilled word identification is probably less important for learning to read than the awareness of morphology that a child can use to support learning words. Along with syntax (the structure of sentences), morphology (the structure of words within a sentence) provides a grammatical foundation for linking forms and meanings in a systematic way. For reading words, morphology is especially important because it connects word form and meaning within the structure of sentences. For example, children learn that events that have already occurred are marked by morphological inflections such as -ed. For children, sensitivity to morphology may be an important support for skill in reading and spelling. Research by Nunes et al. (1997) has identified a series of stages that characterize the development of children's spelling of simple inflectional morphology, such as the -ed that signals past tense of regular English verbs. For words like "kiss" and "kissed," for example, children appear to progress from phonetic spelling of the past tense (kist) to a morphological spelling (kissed). Notice that phonetically, "kissed" and "soft'' have identical endings. Children may learn the -ed spelling and overgeneralize it to produce "sofed" as well as "kissed," before learning to use ed specifically for regular past tenses. The key development here may be an increased sensitivity to parts of speech, a "morphosyntactic awareness" that allows fuller use of the linguistic system in spelling (Nunes et al., 1997). Thus, although phonological sensitivity is critical for the discovery of the alphabetic principle (and is reflected in very early spellings), a fuller sensitivity to the syntactic system may be critical to a full mastery of English spelling.

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Page 75 Progress in Fluency and Automaticity Gaining fluency in reading entails developing rapid and perhaps automatic word identification processes (LaBerge and Samuels, 1974). The main mechanism for gains in automaticity is, in some form or another, practice at consistent input-output mappings (Schneider and Shiffrin, 1977). In reading, automaticity entails "practice" at word identification, such as frequent retrievals of word forms and meanings from print. On a word-based account of reading acquisition, automaticity is a characteristic of words, not readers. Words move from the functional lexicon to the autonomous lexicon in this perspective (Perfetti, 1992). These gains from experience normally come from accumulating normal reading activity centered on reading text of increasingly greater complexity. Progress in Understanding For children learning to read, comprehension can take advantage of skills they have been using in their oral language: the shared basic language components (lexical, syntactic, and interpretive processes), cognitive mechanisms (working memory), and conceptual knowledge (vocabulary, topic knowledge). As mentioned earlier, reading comprehension skills are at first limited by unskilled decoding; later, comprehension when reading and when listening to a text are highly correlated; still later, the advantage of listening over reading disappears and, in some cases, for some kinds of texts and purposes, reverses (Curtis, 1980). But in the beginning, many tricks of the trade that children have as native speakers will help a great deal. Moreover, early books can be well designed to support the child's engagement and curiosity and keep the process going. Theories of individual differences among both younger and older readers have emphasized, in one way or another, the dependence of higher levels of comprehension on high levels of skill in elementary word identification processes (Perfetti, 1985) and processes required to manage limitations in functional working memory (Just and Carpenter, 1992; Gernsbacher, 1993; Perfetti, 1985; Shankweiler and Crain, 1986). Of course, systematic differences between oral lan-

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Page 76 guage and written language may produce some difficulties for learning to comprehend what one reads, and limits on background knowledge or a lean conceptual vocabulary can affect some text passages and not others. It is not clear that limits on inferencing processes for reading- and comprehension-monitoring strategies can be viewed as independent of the powerful effect of knowledge—background and word knowledge as well as knowledge of the features of written language that are not in the child's oral language repertoire. Research on what young good comprehenders do is not as far along as research on children's word processing. Studies that contrast skilled and less skilled comprehenders have shown that skilled comprehenders are better at decoding (e.g., Perfetti, 1985), have superior global language comprehension (Smiley et al., 1977), and have superior metacognitive skills (Paris and Myers, 1981). As Stothard and Hulme (1996:95) note, though, many studies use measures of comprehension that "confound decoding and comprehension difficulties" and are less useful for identifying the crucial features of skilled comprehension in children. Few studies have been completely successful, however, in avoiding this confound. Some studies have matched subjects on decoding measured in oral reading by counting errors. In a series of studies of 7- and 8-year-olds in English schools, Yuill and Oakhill (1991) compared children matched for chronological age and for reading accuracy but who differed significantly in reading comprehension on a standardized norm-referenced test that measures the two aspects of reading separately. The skilled comprehenders (at or slightly above the level expected for their chronological age in comprehension) were notable for the work they did with the words and sentences they encountered in texts. For example, they understood pronoun references, made proper inferences about the text from particular words, drew more global inferences from elements of the text that were not adjacent, detected inconsistencies in texts, applied background knowledge, and monitored their comprehension. Stothard and Hulme (1996) compared similarly identified skilled and less-skilled comprehenders but included a comprehension age match for the less skilled as well and found an additional feature:

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Page 77 skilled comprehenders (and the comprehension-age-matched children) had strong verbal semantic skills, whereas the less skilled comprehenders were better at performance IQ than verbal. Stothard and Hulme suggest that high verbal abilities facilitate vocabulary learning from context, so that children with high verbal ability know more words to begin with, can read them, and when they encounter unknown words in their reading can also learn from them. Cain (1996), also comparing 7- and 8-year-olds who differed in comprehension while being matched on word errors in context, added comprehension age match in studying story knowledge in reading comprehension.   In a study of story production, skilled comprehenders and the comprehension-age-matched children told stories with the events more integrated when the prompt was simply a title. When the prompt for the story was a sequence of pictures that provided an integrating structure, the less skilled comprehenders performed better and the difference between them and their comprehension-age matches disappeared. Cain also interviewed the children about the parts of stories that they encounter in reading. Skilled comprehenders had more formed ideas of the information that can be gleaned from a title and definite expectations that the beginning of a story will provide information needed to understand characters, setting, and plot. Up to and including third grade, children are learning to monitor their comprehension. It is clear that these skills can improve with training (e.g., Elliott-Faust and Pressley, 1986; Miller, 1985; Palincsar and Brown, 1984; Paris et al., 1984). Baker (1996) showed that providing information and examples about what kinds of difficulties might be encountered in a passage helped children to identify them, but that children in grade 3 worked with a smaller range of types of difficulty than did children in grade 5. Tracing the development of reading comprehension to show the necessary and sufficient conditions to prevent reading difficulty is not as well researched as other aspects of reading growth. In fact, as Cain (1996) notes, "because early reading instruction emphasizes word recognition rather than comprehension, the less skilled comprehenders' difficulties generally go unnoticed by their classroom teachers." It may well be that relieving the bottleneck from

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Page 78 poor word recognition skills will reveal, for some children, stoppages in other areas that create comprehension problems; more research is called for on factors related to comprehension growth from birth to age 8 that may produce problems as children read to learn in elementary school. The "fourth-grade slump" is a term used to describe a widely encountered disappointment when examining scores of fourth graders in comparison with younger children (see Chall et al., 1990). Whether looking at test scores or other performance indicators, there is sometimes a decline in the rate of progress or a decrease in the number of children achieving at good levels reported for fourth graders. It is not clear what the explanation is or even if there is a unitary explanation. The most obvious but probably least likely explanation would be that some children simply stop growing in reading at fourth grade. Two other explanations are more likely. One possibility is that the slump is an artifact; that is, the tasks in school and the tasks in assessment instruments may change so much between third and fourth grade that it is not sensible to compare progress and success on such different tasks and measures. It may be that the true next stage of what is measured in third grade is not represented in the fourth-grade data and that the true precedents for the fourth-grade data are not represented in the third-grade data. A second possibility is that it is not so much a fourth-grade slump as a "primary-grade streak," that is, that some children have problems in the earlier years that are hidden while so much else is being learned, in the same way that a tendency to make errors in the outfield does not bother a ball club while the pitching staff is having a streak of strikeouts. Previously "unimportant" reading difficulties may appear for the first time in fourth grade when the children are dealing more frequently, deeply, and widely with nonfiction materials in a variety of school subjects and when these are represented in assessment instruments. It may be that there had been less call for certain knowledge and abilities until fourth grade and a failure to thrive in those areas might not be noticed until then. It is, of course, this latter possibility that is important for preventing reading diffi-

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Page 79 culties, and more attention needs to be paid to research on the fourthgrade slump. CONCLUSION Table 2-2 shows a set of particular accomplishments that the successful learner is likely to exhibit during the early school years. This list is neither exhaustive nor incontestable, but it does capture many highlights of the course of reading acquisition that have been revealed through several decades of research. Needless to say, the timing of these accomplishments will to some extent depend on the particular curriculum provided by a school. For example, in many areas of the country, the kindergarten year is not mandatory and little formal reading instruction is provided until the start of first grade. The summary sketch provided by the table of the typical accomplishments related to reading over the first years of a child's schooling presupposes, of course, appropriate familial support and access to effective educational resources. At the same time, there are enormous individual differences in children's progression from playing with refrigerator letters to reading independently, and many pathways that can be followed successfully. Ideally, the child comes to reading instruction with well-developed language abilities, a foundation for reading acquisition, and varied experiences with emergent literacy. The achievement of real reading requires knowledge of the phonological structures of language and how the written units connect with the spoken units. Phonological sensitivity at the subword level is important in this achievement. Very early, children who turn out to be successful in learning to read use phonological connection to letters, including letter names, to establish context-dependent phonological connections, which allow productive reading. An important mechanism for this is phonological recoding, which helps the child acquire high-quality word representations. Gains in fluency (automaticity) come with increased experience, as does increased lexical knowledge that supports word identification. Briefly put, we can say that children need simultaneous access to some knowledge of letter-sound relationships, some sight vocabu-

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Page 80 TABLE 2-2 Accomplishments in Reading Kindergarten Accomplishments · Knows the parts of a book and their functions. · Begins to track print when listening to a familiar text being read or when rereading own writing. · "Reads" familiar texts emergently, i.e., not necessarily verbatim from the print alone. · Recognizes and can name all uppercase and lowercase letters. · Understands that the sequence of letters in a written word represents the sequence of sounds (phonemes) in a spoken word (alphabetic principle). · Learns many, though not all, one-to-one letter sound correspondences. · Recognizes some words by sight, including a few very common ones (a, the, I, my, you, is, are). · Uses new vocabulary and grammatical constructions in own speech. · Makes appropriate switches from oral to written language situations. · Notices when simple sentences fail to make sense. · Connects information and events in texts to life and life to text experiences. · Retells, reenacts, or dramatizes stories or parts of stories. · Listens attentively to books teacher reads to class. · Can name some book titles and authors. · Demonstrates familiarity with a number of types or genres of text (e.g., storybooks, expository texts, poems, newspapers, and everyday print such as signs, notices, labels). · Correctly answers questions about stories read aloud. · Makes predictions based on illustrations or portions of stories. · Demonstrates understanding that spoken words consist of a sequences of phonemes. · Given spoken sets like "dan, dan, den" can identify the first two as being the same and the third as different. · Given spoken sets like "dak, pat, zen" can identify the first two as sharing a same sound. · Given spoken segments can merge them into a meaningful target word. · Given a spoken word can produce another word that rhymes with it. · Independently writes many uppercase and lowercase letters. · Uses phonemic awareness and letter knowledge to spell independently (invented or creative spelling). · Writes (unconventionally) to express own meaning. · Builds a repertoire of some conventionally spelled words. · Shows awareness of distinction between "kid writing" and conventional orthography. · Writes own name (first and last) and the first names of some friends or classmates. · Can write most letters and some words when they are dictated. First-Grade Accomplishments · Makes a transition from emergent to "real" reading. · Reads aloud with accuracy and comprehension any text that is appropriately designed for the first half of grade 1. · Accurately decodes orthographically regular, one-syllable words and nonsense words (e.g., sit, zot), using print-sound mappings to sound out unknown words. · Uses letter-sound correspondence knowledge to sound out unknown words when reading text. · Recognizes common, irregularly spelled words by sight (have, said, where, two). · Has a reading vocabulary of 300 to 500 words, sight words and easily sounded out words. · Monitors own reading and self-corrects when an incorrectly identified word does not fit with cues provided by the letters in the word or the context surrounding the word. · Reads and comprehends both fiction and nonfiction that is appropriately designed for grade level. · Shows evidence of expanding language repertory, including increasing appropriate use of standard more formal language registers. · Creates own written texts for others to read. · Notices when difficulties are encountered in understanding text. · Reads and understands simple written instructions. · Predicts and justifies what will happen next in stories. · Discusses prior knowledge of topics in expository texts. · Discusses how, why, and what-if questions in sharing nonfiction texts. · Describes new information gained from texts in own words. · Distinguishes whether simple sentences are incomplete or fail to make sense; notices when simple texts fail to make sense. · Can answer simple written comprehension questions based on material read. · Can count the number of syllables in a word. · Can blend or segment the phonemes of most one-syllable words. · Spells correctly three- and four-letter short vowel words. · Composes fairly readable first drafts using appropriate parts of the writing process (some attention to planning, drafting, rereading for meaning, and some self-correction). · Uses invented spelling/phonics-based knowledge to spell independently, when necessary. · Shows spelling consciousness or sensitivity to conventional spelling. · Uses basic punctuation and capitalization. · Produces a variety of types of compositions (e.g., stories, descriptions, journal entries), showing appropriate relationships between printed text, illustrations, and other graphics. · Engages in a variety of literary activities voluntarily (e.g., choosing books and stories to read, writing a note to a friend).

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Page 82 TABLE 2-2 Continued Second-Grade Accomplishments · Reads and comprehends both fiction and nonfiction that is appropriately designed for grade level. · Accurately decodes orthographically regular multisyllable words and nonsense words (e.g., capital, Kalamazoo). · Uses knowledge of print-sound mappings to sound out unknown words. · Accurately reads many irregularly spelled words and such spelling patterns as diphthongs, special vowel spellings, and common word endings. · Reads and comprehends both fiction and nonfiction that is appropriately designed for grade level. · Shows evidence of expanding language repertory, including increasing use of more formal language registers. · Reads voluntarily for interest and own purposes. · Rereads sentences when meaning is not clear. · Interprets information from diagrams, charts, and graphs. · Recalls facts and details of texts. · Reads nonfiction materials for answers to specific questions or for specific purposes. · Takes part in creative responses to texts such as dramatizations, oral presentations, fantasy play, etc. · Discusses similarities in characters and events across stories. · Connects and compares information across nonfiction selections. · Poses possible answers to how, why, and what-if questions. · Correctly spells previously studied words and spelling patterns in own writing. · Represents the complete sound of a word when spelling independently. · Shows sensitivity to using formal language patterns in place of oral language patterns at appropriate spots in own writing (e.g., decontextualizing sentences, conventions for quoted speech, literary language forms, proper verb forms). · Makes reasonable judgments about what to include in written products. · Productively discusses ways to clarify and refine writing of own and others. · With assistance, adds use of conferencing, revision, and editing processes to clarify and refine own writing to the steps of the expected parts of the writing process. · Given organizational help, writes informative well-structured reports. · Attends to spelling, mechanics, and presentation for final products. · Produces a variety of types of compositions (e.g., stories, reports, correspondence). Third-Grade Accomplishments · Reads aloud with fluency and comprehension any text that is appropriately designed for grade level. · Uses letter-sound correspondence knowledge and structural analysis to decode words. · Reads and comprehends both fiction and nonfiction that is appropriately designed for grade level. · Reads longer fictional selections and chapter books independently. · Takes part in creative responses to texts such as dramatizations, oral presentations, fantasy play, etc. · Can point to or clearly identify specific words or wordings that are causing comprehension difficulties. · Summarizes major points from fiction and nonfiction texts. · In interpreting fiction, discusses underlying theme or message. · Asks how, why, and what-if questions in interpreting nonfiction texts. · In interpreting nonfiction, distinguishes cause and effect, fact and opinion, main idea and supporting details. · Uses information and reasoning to examine bases of hypotheses and opinions. · Infers word meanings from taught roots, prefixes, and suffixes. · Correctly spells previously studied words and spelling patterns in own writing. · Begins to incorporate literacy words and language patterns in own writing (e.g., elaborates descriptions, uses figurative wording). · With some guidance, uses all aspects of the writing process in producing own compositions and reports. · Combines information from multiple sources in writing reports. · With assistance, suggests and implements editing and revision to clarify and refine own writing. · Presents and discusses own writing with other students and responds helpfully to other students' compositions. · Independently reviews work for spelling, mechanics, and presentation. · Produces a variety of written works (e.g., literature responses, reports, "published" books, semantic maps) in a variety of formats, including multimedia forms.

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Page 84 lary, and some comprehension strategies. In each case, ''some" indicates that exhaustive knowledge of these aspects is not needed to get the child reading conventionally; rather, each child seems to need varying amounts of knowledge to get started, but then he or she needs to build up the kind of inclusive and automatic knowledge that will let the fact that reading is being done fade into the background while the reasons for reading are fulfilled.