The Continuum of Reading Stages

Readers will pass through five stages of reading skill and competence, from emergent through advanced.  While students typically pass through these stages in a continuum, new genres of text or challenging material may move a reader down the continuum temporarily.  The five stages along the  continuum are emergent, early, transitional, self-extending, and advanced.   Skills associated with each level of the continuum are provided below:

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Emergent Readers:

  • Show an awareness of print and that printed words hold meaning
  • Read orally and point to words while reading, correctly matching written and spoken words
  • Comprehend meaning from simple texts
  • Hear individual sounds in words
  • Recognize the letters in their own names
  • Use illustrations to extract meaning
  • Notice that words have spaces between them and are individual units
  • Know the names of some alphabet letters
  • Know some sound-letter relationships
  • Understand that text is read from left to right
  • Recognize a few high frequency words
  • Read simple stories with one to two lines per page and illustrations that provide a lot of information

Early Readers:

  • Know the names of most alphabet letters and many sound-letter relationships
  • Use letter-sound relationships and contextual meaning to solve unknown words
  • Read without pointing to individual words
  • Begin to read silently
  • Read fluently on easy texts, using phrasing and punctuation correctly
  • Recognize most easy high-frequency words
  • Monitor their reading for sound and meaning accuracy
  • Use illustrations for additional information about text rather than a primary source of information
  • Read longer stories with high frequency words, repetition, and illustrations that support the meaning of text

Transitional Readers:

  • Read silently most of the time
  • Have a large collection of words read with automaticity
  • Rely on multiple text and graphical features for making meaning
  • Use letter-sound relationships, context, and grammatical structure to monitor meaning-making
  • Compare text to illustrations to monitor reading accuracy
  • Use illustrations for additional meaning but do not rely on them for meaning
  • Understand and interpret graphics in informational text
  • Have strategies to approach a few different genres
  • Use a variety of word – solving strategies flexibly
  • Read fluently and with phrasing
  • Read texts with many lines of print, short chapters, and more complex picture books
  • Read texts from multiple genres

Self-Extending Readers:

  • Read silently but read fluently during oral reading
  • Use all available sources of information in concert and flexibly
  • Read text that require sustained understanding over several days or weeks
  • Enjoy illustrations and use them for information
  • Interpret a variety of graphic elements when reading informational text
  • Attempt new multi-syllabic words well
  • Experience many different kinds of texts and new vocabulary often so that reading ability grows quickly
  • Understand the need for and use of background knowledge in reading
  • Easily become absorbed in books as reading becomes fluent and enjoyable
  • Make connections between characters and events and their own lives or imagine themselves in characters’ places
  • Make connections between text and previously read texts
  • Read a wide variety of texts in a variety of genres

Advanced Readers:

  • Use sophisticated word solving strategies, including analogy to known words, knowledge of word root meaning, and how affixes change the meaning of base words
  • Learn new vocabulary by reading
  • Read to learn in content areas
  • Access a variety of texts so that reading strategies and background knowledge are constantly growing
  • Develop reading preferences relating to subject matter, genre, and author
  • Analyze text for deeper understanding
  • Apply meaning gained from text to other situations
  • Maintain understanding and interest over long texts and time periods
  • Notice the existence and effect of writer’s craft on text
  • Read to learn about larger social and philosophical issues
  • Read from a wide range of genres, styles, and text lenghts for a range of purposes

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