This post is one of three posts.
Post One: The benefits of children reading books below their level
Post Two: The benefits of children reading books at their level
Post Three: The benefits of children reading books above their level
Books your child reads can be categorised into three levels:
Easy: 0-1 error when reading 100 words – this means the book is easy for your child.
Instructional 2-4 errors when reading 100 words – this means the book is at an instructional level for your child
Difficult 5 or more errors when reading 100 words – this means the book is difficult for your child to read independently
If you do not know your child’s reading level, this post on Your Child’s Reading Age may help.
To be an effective reader a child needs to use the following five skills:
Fluency– the ability to recognise words easily, read with speed, accuracy, and expression
Vocabulary– have a large range of vocabulary
Comprehension – understanding the meaning of individual words and in context of the text
Phonemic Awareness – knowledge that spoken words can be broken apart into smaller segments of sound known as phonemes, and the ability to manipulate these phonemes (sounds).
Phonics – knowledge that letters of the alphabet represent phonemes (sounds), and that these sounds are blended together to form written words.
These five areas have been heavily researched with recent scientific studies released March 2016 from The Centre for Independent Studies (Australia) . Five from Five is a direct result of this research and is a program encouraging children by age 5 to be using all 5 of the above reading skills.
Prior to this research, the 2005 National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (Australia) released their findings, which also contained the above five skills needed to become an effective reader.
Benefits of your child reading a book below their level
If your child is reading an easy book or a book below their level, they are making 1 or no errors while reading.
Regardless of your child’s stage of reading, an easy book is not only a confidence builder it is also essential to help with fluency, comprehension and vocabulary.
Reading is a difficult skill to learning. There are many words as adults we are still learning and with the inclusion of words from other languages integrating into the English language the skills we once used to decode words, need to be widened.
If your child is frustrated by their reading ability, choose a book which is below their instructional level of reading. Ask them to read a book to a younger sibling, or read a favourite, well known book via Skype to a family friend/relative.
Allowing your child to read a text below their level, shows them how far they have come with their reading. Confidence building may be needed at any reading stage of development.
We know as adults when we read a book which doesn’t need a lot of thought to understand, it is relaxing and usually stress-free. Children have similar feelings when they read an easy book.
Fluency is an essential skill in becoming an effective reader.
Fluency is defined as the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and appropriate expression.
Reading fluently is necessary for children to understand what they are reading, whether reading aloud or reading silently.
If your child is not reading fluently their reading is broken up, decoding individual words. This will stilt their ability to understand what they are reading.
If a child is reading a book below their level, it is a chance for them to practise reading fluently, using expression and pausing appropriately at punctuation.
If a child is not understanding what they are reading, it can be frustrating for them and also meaningless.
Reading fluently, helps a child understand what they are reading. They are not stopping and starting to decode unfamiliar words.
They may be using a variety of comprehension strategies depending on their level of reading ability.
There are many statistics, studies and research completed on children’s vocabulary which state, preschool vocabulary is linked with later success in learning to read and with overall achievement in school.
Increasing a child’s vocabulary whether they are a pre-schooler or teenager can easily be achieved by reading books.
Find books below your child’s reading ability on a topic unfamiliar to them. For example if they are younger and live in the city, find books to read about country life. If your child is older find topics outside their interest zone, to increase knowledge and vocabulary.
All three levels of books should be given to your child.
Children should be reading books below their level, usually given as home-readers once at school.
Children should be reading books at their level, usually books read at school during guided reading sessions.
Children should encounter books above their level, usually during shared reading.
For the later two, blog posts are still to come with the benefits of each of these two levels of reading.
Final note, remember reading is about Stages not Ages of development. A book which may be easy for your child to read, could be difficult for a child of similar age to read. Remember to be mindful of other children and their confidence in their reading ability.