There is much research about effective reading instruction. For the most part, this knowledge was gained by studying the reading behaviors of proficient readers. Comprehension is a complex task that includes a wide range of skills that the reader utilizes in order to make sense of the text. Before a student is able to take ownership of these skills, we must provide explicit instruction balanced with the opportunities for the child to actually read and write. According to “What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction” (Duke and Pearson, 2002) effective classrooms have the following features:
Students spend a great deal of time actually reading;
Answering questions, completing worksheets, doing book reports, or listening to other students read may be pieces of your literacy block, however they cannot take the place of independent reading time. In order for students to grow as readers, they need time to be able to read.
Students need to read a wide range of genres.
In order for students to be able to comprehend any type of text, they need multiple experiences with a variety of genres. The skills required to navigate and understand nonfiction is different than those used to comprehend a narrative story. We must also be intentional about providing experiences with everyday types of text such as instructional manuals, news articles, and internet resources.
Students need to read high quality texts.
Not all books are created equal. In order for students to have the opportunity to think deeply about a text, it needs to have a level of complexity and substance to engage the reader beyond basic narrative elements. Quality texts have rich vocabulary, well developed characters, and interesting plots that actively engage the reader. Be selective with the books you provide in your classroom library.