If you missed part 1 of this article, you can read it here.
Continuing on from part 1 of ‘Starting a Children’s Reading Program’, ‘Benefits to Students & Schools’, in this entry I’ll be looking at what to look for in a good children’s reader.
As many of you will know, there is an absolute sea of children’s readers available in the marketplace today. Knowing which reader to choose for your students when starting a reading program can be quite a daunting task as a teacher / school owner. What reader will suit my students best, and quite simply, what should I look for when choosing a reader? I hope some of the following suggestions may help to make the choice a little easier, or clearer for those of you in this situation.
A good place to start is possibly telling you of some of the problems we encountered when starting our own reading program. We actually tried many readers during the years of establishing our program. We wanted a reader that was not going to overwhelm students who were new to reading with word counts that were too high. Also, as I mentioned in my first entry of this series, we have a comprehensive phonics program at our school and wanted our readers to tie in with this. So, we wanted a reader that was phonics-based. Because of this, we also searched for a reader that contained some color-coding to support the students as they became more familiar with sight words that were phonically irregular. Obviously, a reader with clear and stimulating illustrations to draw the reader in is also highly desirable. Additionally, we wanted a reader that would complement much of the language that the students were studying in their coursebooks. Finally, cost was obviously a consideration. We wanted to establish a reading program where all students in the class could read the same story at the same time. With many readers this kind of system can become very expensive for a school.
A fundamental feature of any great reader is recycling of vocabulary, language structures and phonics. The more often students have the opportunity to ‘meet’ phonics, vocabulary and language structures, the better chance they have of retaining and being able to use that language. This will help our students to absorb the language they are studying in class at a deeper level, allow them to review and reinforce language and strengthen their English skills.
It is also important to choose readers that have a gradual increase in word count. As teachers, we don’t want students to become overwhelmed with a word count that is too high in their reading activities. In saying that, we also want to challenge and encourage our students to develop their reading skills and ability. It is wise to choose readers with a steady, gradual increase in word count.
It may not always be possible, but idealistically, choosing a reader that contains / complements much of the language
that students are studying can help to increase the benefits of a reading program. Not only do we want our reading program to develop students’ reading fluency and decoding skills, but also to allow students to reinforce, review and see the language that they are studying in context, hence helping them to absorb language at a deeper level.
When choosing a reader suitable for our school and students, we obviously want to choose a reader with a very simple, generic style font that is easy to understand and matches the writing style the students are learning, avoiding confusion for students.
Illustrations account for a huge part of a reader. Well illustrated readers should stimulate the children and clearly illustrate the language they are intended to complement. While overly detailed illustrations may stimulate the reader, we also need to be careful not to include too much detail in illustrations, to avoid confusing the reader. The most effective illustrations will complement the language by clearly and unambiguously illustrating the meaning of the language it relates to.
Well illustrated readers should clearly illustrate the language they are intended to complement.
Some children’s readers also contain color-coding. Personally, I’m a big fan of color-coding of phonically irregular words in the earlier stages of children’s readers. Color-coding can help to make phonetically irregular words easier for students to recognize and decode.
An example of color-coding from Fun Phonics Readers
Readers can be very expensive. Particularly when schools look at starting a comprehensive reading program and are buying readers in considerable quantities, the cost can be very high. In our school, we wanted to implement a reading program in classes where all students were able to read the same stories in class at the same time. With many readers on the market where individual stories are produced in individual books and then sold as sets, this meant that our school had to buy between 6 – 12 sets of each book, the cost of which can run into the thousands of dollars and become a huge expense for a small school, or, find a reader that was a single book containing many stories. We decided on the later.
Each student now buys their own reader and the cost is incorporated into their yearly text fee. This is a very affordable and cost effective way to introduce a reading program into your school.
I hope some of this information will help to guide those of you who are thinking of starting a reading program in your schools / classes. If you have any questions about starting your own reading program, please feel free to contact me.
Greg Crawford is the author of Fun Phonics Readers. Youcan learn more about Fun Phonics Readers here.
For fun ways to use readers in class, check out our YouTube tutorials here.
Fun Phonics Readers are available at the ETJ Book Service here.
In the mean time….
Have fun reading!