In my previous blog post, I talked about one of my favorite “old school” concepts still valuable, but not discussed enough – The Stages of Reading development. All children pass through these stages, but some progress more smoothly than others. Children who are considered “dyslexic” or reading disabled Stage have difficulty moving from one stage to another.

Knowing what stage your child is in provides you with a roadmap as to what should be your instructional emphasis at any given point. For example, if I said to my educational coordinator that a child was in early Stage I, she would know immediately that the emphasis with the child would be on teaching very early, basic decoding. Conversely, if a child was in Stage III, my coordinator would know that the child had essentially mastered his/her decoding skills and the emphasis would be on comprehension and broader-based reading.

The following is a thumbnail, overview of the stages:

• A Stage 0 child has not yet progressed into actual word or text reading. This stage typically overlaps with pre-school through the end of kindergarten. For a child to be good to go out of Stage 0, they need to know their letter names cold (not just the alphabet song) and to know the sounds of each letter. For a child to leave Stage 0, it is probably good for the child to know a handful of high frequency (sight) words such as cat, stop, come, book.

• Stage I, the “Cat in the Hat” stage, is the beginning of “real reading.” Learning to expand sight word knowledge and to target decoding skills is the emphasis in this stage. Stage I is like learning to ride a bike and is wobbly just like initial bike riding. There will be little fluency in this stage. Be patient here and expose your child to simple word patterns. Do not overwhelm the child with too much text. Your child is pretty ready to leave this stage when he/she knows most of his sight words automatically and decode one syllable words that have one short vowel such as fend, crunch, fast, stick.

• Stage II normally spans from the beginning of second grade to the middle of third grade. When a child is in Stage II the assumption is the child has mastered fundamental decoding skills but needs to consolidate these skills to develop fluency. This stage of development is an exciting one, especially if the child is in this stage at the expected time. The primary focus in this stage is reading – lots of it – both out loud and silently using small chapter books that are fairly easy (but not too easy) for the child to read independently. You will know your child is leaving Stage II when he/she knows all high frequency words automatically and can read text smoothly that is less controlled.

One point – don’t rush the stages. It is far better to have your child stay with the activities of a given stage longer than to rush them into the next stage before they have mastered the one that they are in currently.

In future posts I will do a deeper dive into these stages and review the remaining stages.

Adapted: “School Struggles,” Richard Selznick, Ph.D. (2012 Sentient Publications)