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Five stages of reading development

Learning to read does not happen by chance. It has to be taught through systematic and organized instruction. Reading is a skill that develops through stages and is an ongoing process.

If a stage of reading development has not been learned, students will lose their reading ability, which also affects their writing skills. It is imperative that teachers make certain students fully understand each stage of the reading/writing process before moving on to the next level.

Jean Chall, a world-renowned reading expert and psychologist for fifty years, and a former professor emeritus at Harvard University, cites her five stages of reading development below:

Pre-reading stage:

Unsystematic accumulation of reading comprehensions between preschool and kindergarten.

Level 1:

Early Reading or Decoding Stage (Grades 1-2; Ages 6-7)

The central task of the student is to learn arbitrary letters and associate them with the corresponding parts of spoken words. The student acquires knowledge about reading. Phonics.

Stage 2:

Confirmation, Fluency, Detachment from Print, Automaticity Stage (Grades 2-3; Ages 7-8)

Consolidation of what was learned in Stage 1. Requires reading many easy and familiar books for reading development. Gradual increase in functional and recreational reading. Common use of basal readers. Important functional reading – content area texts – this is where we fail in our attempts to prepare our students. Range of possible recreational reading increases.

Stage 3:

Read to Learn the New Stage: A First Step (Grades 4-8; Ages 9-13)

Readers need to contribute background knowledge to their reading. Children acquire facts.

Stage 4:

Multiple Points of View Stage: (High School; Ages 14-18)

Must include instruction in reading/study skills and reading strategies for success.

Stage 5:

Construction and Reconstruction Stage: University; over 18 years)

Adult literacy should emphasize the acquisition of useful skills for the participants and the ability to apply those skills.

These are the stepping stones of reading development. They build and scale as students grow in their literacy development. Sometimes students get stuck in one of the stages. My job as a literacy specialist is to “unstick” them so they can move on to the next phase and beyond, empowering them to become enthusiastic readers and writers.

Copyright © 2006 by Pamela Beers. All rights reserved.

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