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Monitoring Children's Beginning Reading Development

Encouraging Reading Behaviours

In order to support and encourage children's reading development we need to know where children are in their development and whether they are making progress as readers.

The best sources of such information are the reading behaviours which children display and the range of books which they can read.

Reading Behaviours

The following descriptions of each of the sets of early reading behaviours (Self Motivation, Self Direction, Self Regulation) and the sequence in which they emerge provide a picture of healthy development in reading. We can compare children's behaviours with these descriptions to decide where children are in their development and to ensure that we reinforce appropriate behaviours.

Analysing Records

Knowing where children are provides some information about where they are also located within a sequence of beginning reading development. But we also need to monitor whether children are growing as readers. We can build up a long term view of children's reading development by analysing records, taken over time, of their performance on texts to detect appropriate changes in their behaviours.

Such changes witll reflect the expansion of children's understandings about reading and the facility with which they can use a much broader range of information available to them through the cueing systems.

Record of Books Children Can Read

We also keep records of the books which children can read so that we know the range and scope of the challenges to which they have been exposed. Both of these kinds of monitoring occur over a time span of weeks and months to provide a long term perspective on children's development.

On a short term basis, the most important thing we can look for to assure ourselves that children are developing, or at least on the right track, is the behaviours which indicate that children are functioning healthily as readers and learners.

Children's progress is dependent on their establishing and refiining a system which enables them to regulate and improve their reading competencies. This means functioning as self motivated, self directed and self regulated learners.

The following kinds of behaviours can be interpreted to mean that children are functioning in these ways.

Children who are self motivated typically:

• Choose to read frequently

• Enjoy reading independently

• Use reading to fulfil a variety of purposes and needs

• Enjoy sharing the satisfactions which they gain from reading.

Children who are self directed typically:

• Select books which satisfy them

• Take what they need from other people's demonstrations of how to control the reading process

• Attend to and resolve the challenges they perceive

Children who are self regulated typically:

• Self correct when they realise they have made an error

• Pause or hesitate to check their predictions

• Repeat words or phrases

• Stop reading when they are not making sense of the text

Monitoring and Adjusting

Monitoring children's reading development in these ways allows us to know in the short term that children are functioning in effective ways and that in the long term, their learning is moving in an apporpiate direction.

If we find that children are not progressing as readers, the most significant intervention we can make is to find texts which allow children to restore sound functioning. 

Books Using a Variety of Supportive Text Controls

We can find texts from a wide range of avenues that have supportive text controls to enable begining readers to develop self regulation, self motivation and self direction. When selecting texts for each beginning reader we can look for text features such as :

Story Features

• Simple circular plot

• Episodic story

• Cumulative story structure

• Story follows logical sequence

• Simple plot line

• Based on what children know

• Story reflects everyday experiences

• Story framework allows children to predict events and unknown words

• Story makes sense

• Story structures are predictable

• Humour and fun abound

 

Sentence Features

• Sentence structure is repeated for each episode

• Predictable sentence patterns closely aligned to children's oral language

• Each page of text expands the sentence which begins the story

• Repetition of vocabulary and phrases

• Repetition of a basic sentence pattern

• Similar sentence structure is used to describe situations

 

Language Features

• Strong rhythms and/or rhymes

• Simple repetitive rhyming pattern

• Repetitive language pattern that reflects children's talk-pattern

• Sequences of simple rhyming couplets

• Humourous use of a language devices such as alliteration

• Strong swinging rhythm

 

• Natural language patterns

 

Font Features

• Type face matches the word, indicating how the word should be read

• Font is consistent

• Font is clear, well spaced and easy to read

 

Illustrative Features

• Illustrations perfectly balance with the text

• Pictures add detail and humour and raise children's anticipation

• Pictures carry most of the story and humour

• Pictures mirror the text

• Strong, colourful supportive illustrations

 

Print Features

• Print is large, clear and well spaced

 

Layout Features

• Layout simple and clear