A Ride Through the Reading Stages Part 2


In A Ride Through the Reading Stages Part 1, you were taken on a journey from Jeanne Chall’s Stage 0, “Pre-reading,” also called “Pseudo Reading,” to Stage 1, where the child develops their decoding skills.  Now our journey picks up at Stage 2 and ends at Stage 5. I shall continue with the bike analogy from Dr Selznick’s website, The Shutdown Learner, to better illustrate each of these stages. 


Chall’s Stage 2 Confirmation and Fluency


Bike Confident


The typical age that children reach this stage is 7-8 years, which roughly covers 2nd grade to the middle of 3rd. If comparing this stage to bike riding, the child is a lot more coordinated, and a whole lot less wobbly, but riding is still a cognitive exercise and they need more practice to develop full automaticity. The same applies to reading; practice is necessary for the child to develop fluency. Children will read familiar stories with increasing fluency, they confirm phonics knowledge they learned in Stage 1, and read and recognize words with more accuracy. Their reading speed increases and they can begin to attend to the meaning of the text far more than they could in Stage 1. 


At this stage students should be exposed to direct instruction in the advanced decoding skills needed for multisyllable words. Reading materials can be less controlled than those used in Stage 1, where decodable text was essential, although the topics should still be familiar to most children. At this stage children will also start to read chapter books, as the focus switches to the development of reading comprehension and vocabulary development. 


For dyslexic students who still haven’t developed the skills introduced in Stages 0 and 1, this is often where the reading ability gap between them and their peers really starts to open up. It has often been described as “hitting the 3rd Grade Wall,” which this article describes in more detail.


In 3rd grade, most students are moving from learning to read to reading to learn. So what can be done for newly identified dyslexic students who are still struggling to develop those Stages 0-1 reading skills? Here are some resources that can help. 


1. In Part 1 of this blog I recommended The Orton-Gillingham Online Academy’s Basic Language Course (Level 1) training. With this, you can successfully take a child through the decoding stage and into Stage 2. If you enroll this month (April, 2018)  it includes a free Transition Layer and Syllabication unit. The academy also offers graduate level professional development credits to course participants who have successfully completed all course requirements.


2. Once the child has moved into Stage 2, I highly recommend Lynn Givens’ Connect to Comprehension Course, available through The Orton-Gillingham Online Academy. Dr Hart has described this course, as well as the Rave-O program for younger children, as a means of addressing fluency issues seen in dyslexic students. Students that perform badly on the Rapid Automatized Naming and Rapid Alternating Stimulus (RAN/RAS) Tests would greatly benefit from working through such a program. Maryanne Wolf, a leading expert in the research supporting the dyslexia double-deficit theory says it like this, “Dyslexia does not always involve a failure to decode words. Rather, it involves a failure to read fluently with comprehension.” In the Connect to Comprehension Course, fluency is stressed from the beginning of the program, as recommended by Wolf and the researchers that work with her. Lynn Givens has produced a free webinar to better explain what Connect to Comprehension covers. 


3. Learning Ally provide audio books for students who are struggling to read printed text. This allows them to access content at their grade level so they can continue to develop their vocabulary and comprehension skills, and keep up with their peers, while they work to close the gap between their reading level and their age.  Most importantly, it allows them to develop a love of reading.


At the end of Stage 2, children can read and understand about 3000 words, and recognize another 9000 when they hear them. At this stage, listening is still more effective than reading.


Chall’s Stage 3: Reading for Learning


Bike Venturing Further Afield


The age range for this stage is 9-14, which roughly covers 4th through to 9th grade. Jeanne Chall divides this stage into two phases. Phase A goes from 4th through to 6th grade and Phase B from 7th to 9th. Comparing this stage to bike riding, the child is now coordinated, the wobble has gone, and they are venturing further from home and making longer excursions as they gain confidence. However, to avoid getting lost they must remember where they have come from, they need to make a mental note of places they pass, and the different roads they take on their journey. The same applies to their reading, this is the stage at which they develop their higher order thinking skills and comprehension is key, as they learn new information. They are exposed not only to new knowledge, but also new feelings and attitudes, although this is likely from one viewpoint. Newspapers, magazines, Internet articles, textbooks and trade books, are the materials and resources students will work with at this stage. Vocabulary is enlarged and their world knowledge is expanded. 


At this stage, dyslexic students, who are still at the earlier stage of mastering the skills of decoding and fluency, are often able to keep up with their peers as long as they have access to assistive technology like the services offered by Learning Ally. However, it is at this stage we become more aware of another group of children who are having reading issues, but this time for comprehension. They may also have some difficulty with decoding and fluency, and they may even be dyslexic, but as their chief difficulties are comprehension they generally don’t get picked up until this stage. There can be a whole host of causes for their difficulties, which the web site Understood.org discusses here. 


So, how can we help these students? In some ways they are harder to help because help requires teaching strategies rather than skills. I plan to share a few resources and ideas in my next blog “The Simple View of Reading.” These are things that we found useful as we created a course based on the  7 Keys to Comprehension.” Susan Zimmermann’s book of the same title is an excellent introduction to the topic and I highly recommend reading it. It will also prepare you to make the most of the resources I’ll share next month. 


By the end of this stage, reading and listening will be equally effective ways of accessing information, for those who read very well.


Chall’s Stage 4: Multiple Viewpoints


Between 15 and 18 years of age, roughly 10th to 12th grade, students reach Stage 4. To use the bike riding analogy again, this is where a young person gets to ride further and further from home and may ride on dirt tracks and bike paths or select different routes to discover the best way to get somewhere. Reading is like that too. Now they are exposed to complex materials: Expository text, which explains or defines something, and narrative text, which tells a story, all with multiple viewpoints. For good readers, reading comprehension is now better than listening comprehension, but for poor readers listening still better than reading. So services like those provided by Learning Ally, are very important for dyslexic readers at this stage.


Chall’s Stage 5: Construction and Reconstruction


Bike Adventure

The approximate age for Stage 5 is from 18 through to adulthood. In terms of bike riding this involves long journeys in foreign countries traveling through terrain that is sometimes difficult, but with the opportunity to see amazing sites, and visit people and places they have previously only dreamt about. At this stage, reading is used for one’s own purposes and needs. At this stage, the reader is merging his or her own thinking with that of others to form opinions. At this stage, judgements and text and meaning are constructed by the reader. Now reading is more efficient than listening, but for the dyslexic adult “ear reading” provided by organizations like “Learning Ally” is still vital; they will always be slow readers. The amount of reading required at this stage makes it necessary for them to continue to access information by listening. 


The US population as a whole struggles to achieve this stage, and in a future blog entitled “Won’t Read, Can’t Read,” I plan to discuss why this might be, and what can be done about it.


For further reading, see Jeanne S.Chall (1983) Stages of Reading Development. Published by McGraw-Hill Book Company.




Lorna Wooldridge is a dyslexia specialist tutor with over twenty-five years of experience and qualifications in the field of learning differences, from both the UK and USA. Lorna has a unique perspective on this condition as she has dyslexia, and her passion is to serve this community in any way she can.

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