Overview of Reading Instruction

What is Reading?
Reading is a complex process that requires the development and interaction of a variety of skills. For early readers, these skills include phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Recent research suggests a slight shift for adolescent readers who are still developing their skills. For those readers, instruction should focus on word study, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and motivation.

How Does Reading Develop?
Jeanne Chall, a leading researcher in the field of reading, developed what is referred to as Chall’s Stages of Reading Development in 1983. In her research, Chall determined that reading skills developed in a hierarchy, each skill layering upon the previous. As an overview, Chall’s stages of reading include:

  • Stage 0: Prereading: Birth to Age 6. In this stage, children “play” read. By being read to, they have begun to understand that books contain words that provide meaning. They may “read” books from memory, start demonstrating book handling skills, and begin “writing” the alphabet.
  • Stage 1: Initial Reading and Decoding: Ages 6-7: Grades 1-2. Children begin to understand the alphabetic principle and can connect sounds to symbols. In this stage, children read small books containing high-frequency sight words.
  • Stage 2: Confirmation and Fluency: Ages 7-8: Grades 2-3. In this stage, children read familiar books in order to begin applying aspects of fluency.
  • Stage 3: Reading for Learning the New: Ages 8-14: Grades 4-8. At this point in Chall’s stages, instruction shifts from learning to read to reading to learn. Now, students read a variety of materials in order to learn new concepts.
  • Stage 4: Multiple Viewpoints: Ages 15-18: Grades 9-12. During the high school years, students are required to read a variety of materials, expository, and narrative, that contain differing viewpoints in order to compare and contrast.
  • Stage 5: Construction and Reconstruction: Ages 18+: College level and beyond. Finally, as people continue to read throughout their lives, they read relevant material in order to enhance what they already know through what they have read. This type of reading allows for the development of a new schema.

With the advent of the Common Core, some educators noted the shift in stages, which now requires students to demonstrate these abilities at increasingly earlier grades.

How Does This Connect to Landmark’s Teaching Principles™?
Based on the outlined process for developing reading skills, it is vital that educators meet students at their individual levels in order for reading instruction and expectations to yield desired outcomes. Reading skills should develop in a hierarchy, and if one stage has not been met before introducing the expectations of a subsequent stage, students will struggle to demonstrate mastery. By providing appropriate instruction based on each student’s level of achievement, educators can ensure opportunities for success, which is Landmark’s First Teaching Principle. When instruction and expectations are aligned with the student’s current abilities, educators give those students the opportunity to find success as readers. For the full text of the Landmark Teaching Principles™, including “Provide Opportunities for Success,” click here.

Strategies to Download

Explore potential informal reading assessment options in order to determine an appropriate level for instruction.


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