Your Child’s Pathway to Learning to Read at TNS   — Latest version as of 2020-02-09 18:15:13

Learning to read is one important milestone your child will pass during their time at TNS.  There is no best way to learn to read.  The process looks different for different children. Some will pick it up on their own, with little adult help.  Others will need lots of help. Some will be reading simple books at age 4. Others won’t start reading books until age 8.  Research shows that by the time children are in fifth grade, most “late” readers won’t show any difference in literacy from their classmates.  For perspective, in many countries, reading instruction does not even begin until age 7. In fact, research shows that pushing children to read when they are not ready can cause stress, which is not conducive to learning. 

Because children’s pathways to reading are diverse and children benefit from different approaches, learning to read is a complex topic.  We hope this guide will help.

The purpose of this document is to share our reading approach at TNS. One tool teachers use to assess literacy development is a leveled scale, based on the work of Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell and recognized both nationally and by the New York City Department of Education.  However, we do not emphasize reading levels with the children. We prefer to keep the focus on reading for pleasure and information. To be clear, it is not important that your child knows what level they are on.  

Reading levels are only one tool teachers use when guiding children to choose books.   During a year, a child will read books that are too easy, just right, and too hard.  For example, a child who is interested in animals may be so motivated by that interest to read a book on animals that is at a higher level.  Likewise, many strong readers also are drawn to graphic novels. In fact, graphic novels are among the highest-circulating items in our library.  

Children’s Literacy Development

A key indicator of students’ success in school is their vocabulary and the highest rate of vocabulary development occurs before children enter school.  Developing language and literacy skills begins at birth through everyday interactions, such as sharing books, telling stories, singing songs and talking to one another.  

Once they enter school, our goal is for all children to become fluent readers who read with insight and passion.  Singing, listening to stories, building with blocks, following directions, and playing outdoors all help to develop reading skills. Meanwhile, we embed reading in a meaningful way throughout the school day.  In this way, we show children its value and purpose. They are motivated to want to read, rather than focusing on how to read, or what level they are on. 

Because vocabulary feeds literacy development, throughout the grades at TNS we foster deep, rich, collaborative conversations around multiple subjects, interests, and experiences. We elaborate on the child’s world knowledge from home life to community studies to global awareness, from observations of the natural world to discussions of art, music, and dance.

However, this is just the foundation upon which our literacy curriculum is built. We also use many different approaches to teaching reading and writing. Our approach to literacy is multi-faceted--we use what is known as a “Balanced Literacy” approach.  In a balanced approach to literacy instruction, teachers integrate explicit instruction with authentic reading and writing experiences so that students learn how to use literacy strategies and skills and have opportunities to apply what they are learning.  Our teachers follow and adapt various approaches and programs to suit the needs of each student.  

Readers grow and change over time. The following are general guidelines for literacy development:

Emergent Readers to Early Readers

These children are moving from just becoming aware of print to being familiar with most frequently encountered words, and quickly recognize them while reading. They use information from pictures and rely on meaning and language to interpret texts. They begin with learning to hear sounds in words and connect them with letters. They grow to know many letter-sound relationships and use letter-sound information to decode unfamiliar words while reading. They use this knowledge of words to check on themselves as readers. They are beginning to use several sources of information in combination as they process longer pieces of text. When reading at an appropriate level, they read fluently and with phrasing, using punctuation.  Many children read at this stage during Kindergarten and Grade 1. Generally, books are levels A - J.

Transitional Readers to Self-Extending Readers

These readers are starting to read silently most of the time; when reading aloud, they read with fluency and phrasing. They have a large core of known words that they recognize automatically while reading. They do not rely on illustrations but use them to enhance understanding. They have a range of flexible word-solving strategies, begin to analyze words in flexible ways and start to make excellent attempts at new, multi-syllable words. They are beginning to read different genres. They are working toward sustaining reading over longer texts, sometimes requiring several days or weeks.

Many children read at this stage during Grades 2 and 3.  Generally, books are levels of H - P.  

Self-Extending Readers to Advanced Readers

These readers read silently, and when asked to read aloud they exhibit fluency and phrasing. They effectively use their understanding of how words work to employ a wide range of word-solving strategies, including making analogies to known words and using word roots, base words, and affixes. They acquire new vocabulary through reading and use reading as a tool for learning in the content areas. They grow to be the type of reader who goes beyond the text to interpret and apply understandings to other areas. They can read for extended periods of time with sustained interest and understanding. They are able to notice and comment on aspects of the writer’s craft and read to explore their world, including philosophical, ethical, and social issues. They work to connect texts, and they develop favorite topics, genres, and authors that form the basis of lifelong reading preferences.  Many children read at this stage in Grades 4 and 5. Generally, books are levels O - V.


Throughout the school year, teachers assess children’s literacy development so that we can give appropriate instruction to individual children as well as the whole class.   

We formally assess children’s literacy development three times a year, beginning in Kindergarten.  The first of these periodic assessments is conducted in September and October. For the early grades, this consists of assessing letter identification and sound correspondence and reading some sight words, or commonly used words. A reading assessment is also performed with a book on the child’s reading level.  The teacher notices if the child can read almost all the words correctly and if he/she is reading with fluency and appropriate phrasing. At the same time, the teacher evaluates the child’s level of comprehension.

In the upper grades, teachers read side by side with students and evaluate their reading in a passage that is considered at the child’s level. The teacher notices if the child can read almost all the words correctly and if he/she is reading with fluency and appropriate phrasing. At the same time, the teacher evaluates the child’s level of comprehension.

Supporting Your Child’s Reading

It is important to remember that children get stronger as readers if they have lots of opportunities to read books that are not too challenging and which allow them to use developing strategies to figure out an occasional unfamiliar word. Referred to as “just-right books” by Fountas and Pinnell, many of our teachers call them “practice books” instead.  These are books the student can confidently read and understand with a small amount of support. These books also make the student stretch a little bit so that they have opportunities to apply the strategies they have been learning and to experience new vocabulary and different genres (Routman, 2003).

Additional Support for Parents and Caregivers

If you’d like specific suggestions for how to support your individual child in reading at home, you may ask your child’s teacher.  We have also attached a link that provides caregivers specific prompts and guidance based on their child’s reading level.

June 2019

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