Research-based programs for beginning reading instruction provide comprehensive, well-organized instructional plans and practice opportunities that permit all children to make sense of reading. Some children begin school with a well-developed understand of many aspects of reading and become accomplished readers with minimal instruction. Other children need a great deal of careful and meaningful instruction to become accomplished readers. A teacher’s task is to find out what students do understand, what they need to learn, and what needs to be provided in the classroom.
As children learn to read, they learn how spoken and written language relate to each other. For this to happen, the components of the reading program, including the instruction materials selected for classroom use, must relate to one another and be orchestrated into sequences of instruction that engage all children and meet their needs. Research also shows that for children whose first language is not English, instruction in the first language may be needed as a foundation for learning to read and write in English.
The following are twelve of the essential components of research-based reading programs. The twelve components are arranged in an order that could imply a sequence of instruction. However, these components should not be considered as rigid, sequential categories; rather, they are interrelated. Teachers work with their students on several components at a time, and children are helped to see the importance of these relationships. For example, when teachers read library books aloud in their classrooms, students make connections between reading and writing, expand their own spoken and written vocabularies and observe proficient and fluent reading.
- Children have opportunities to expand their use and appreciation of oral language
- Children have opportunities to expand their use and appreciation of printed language
- Children have opportunities to hear good stories and informational books read aloud daily
- Children have opportunities to understand and manipulate the building blocks of spoken language
- Children have opportunities to learn about and manipulate the building blocks of written language
- Children have opportunities to learn the relationships between the sounds of spoken language and the letters of written language
- Children have opportunities to learn decoding strategies
- Children have opportunities to write and relate their writing to spelling and reading
- Children have opportunities to practice accurate and fluent reading in decodable stories
- Children have opportunities to read and comprehend a wide assortment of books and other texts
- Children have opportunities to develop and comprehend new vocabulary through wide reading and direct vocabulary instruction
- Children have opportunities to learn and apply comprehension strategies as they reflect upon and think critically about what they read
As these components are translated into classroom experiences, children will have opportunities to talk, read, and write in many ways both in and out of the classroom. Because of the language arts (reading, writing, listening and speaking) are so interrelated, children must be given the opportunity to practice the strands of language arts in connected and purposeful ways.
Classroom experiences that offer children opportunities to write for real life reasons include having children write letters of invitation to parents and other community members to visit their classrooms, or writing letters of thanks to individuals and organizations that have contributed to the school.
Classroom experiences that offer children opportunities to read, listen and speak for real life purposes include the reading of “everyday” notes, news, messages, lists, labels, and the reading of compositions and reports written in the classroom. In such classrooms, reading, writing, listening and speaking become important and meaningful to every child.