3 Pathways to reading

Young students learn to read in different ways:

  • Listening to stories and repeating the language they hear. In so doing, they internalise and read ‘chunks’ of language – that is to say, expressions, phrases and sentences.
  • Reading each letter and word in turn, knowing exactly what words are composed of and what each word means.
  • Using pictures to help them read and understand the words on the page.

Most students in fact employ a mixture all of these strategies.

Case Study 4: Ms Daima’s students’ reading strategies

Ms Daima, a Class I teacher in Madhya Pradesh, describes some of her young students’ reading strategies.

Nabhi was an enthusiastic and dramatic storyteller. She regularly told stories to her classmates. Some of them were recounted from memory, while others were invented then and there. She listened very carefully when I told a story to the class, repeating the key words and phrases as I did so. When Nabhi read aloud on her own, she made some mistakes, such as saying ‘horse’ instead of ‘donkey’, but her word substitutions always made sense. I decided to encourage Nabhi to read some simple reading books to improve her word recognition. I gave her a book about colours. Nabhi looked at the cover of the book, turned the pages quickly, and said excitedly ‘This is a book about the colours! It’s all about where you can see red things, yellow things, blue things – on the car, in the street, in the house, in the flowers. I can read this!’. Gently I encouraged Nabhi to read each word.

Bachan was keen to be accurate in his reading. He would sound out the letters of each word slowly and correctly. When he came to a word he did not know, Bachan would stop reading. As he struggled, he would lose the meaning of the text and become discouraged. I decided to encourage him to listen to my stories and retell them in his own words. I also invited him to read aloud along with me and other students, and urged him not to worry if he made small mistakes.

Pramila enjoyed listening to the stories that I read aloud in class. I often noticed her reading the same storybooks aloud afterwards. One day, when she was absorbed in a book containing pictures and simple sentences, I asked her if she could read a page to me. She recounted the story accurately but did not look at the text or point to any of the words on the page. I praised her, covered up the pictures and asked her to tell me the story again. With no pictures to guide her, this time she struggled. When I uncovered the pictures, however, she was able to continue. She had memorised the story but was still learning to read. I read along with her, pointing to each word at the same time so that she would begin to associate the text with the story that she knew so well.

In the case study, Ms Daima noticed that her students used distinct strategies to learn to read and took steps to support each of them further.

Pause for thought

  • Do you have students like Nabhi, Bachan and Pramila in your own classroom?
  • Do you have students in your class who use different strategies from those described above?

There is no single pathway to reading. Teachers should therefore encourage their students to try different ways of mastering and practising this complex skill.

Resource 3 provides more ideas on how to monitor and give feedback to your students effectively. Giving encouraging feedback to your students can support them in developing their early reading.

Activity 4: Observing reading in your classroom

In order to be able to offer your students appropriate support, it is important to establish what kinds of reading strategies they use. A table can be a useful way of noting this information. This information will then enable you to plan how best to support their reading development. A sample is provided below in Table 1.

As you observe your students in turn, insert their name under the reading strategies that apply to them. You might find it helpful to practise first by assessing Nabhi, Bachan and Pramila’s reading strategies as described in Case Study 4 above. Be sure that you complete the table for all those in your class over time.

Table 1 Observing your students’ reading strategies

Guesses Memorises Uses pictures to predict Predicts using first letter of a word Reads each individual word Reads chunks of text Points to each word Moves finger under sentences

Do some of your students use a mix of strategies?

Have you observed any other strategies that your students use? If so, add these to your table.

Identify those students who use similar strategies and group them accordingly. Plan your lessons so that you can respond to their different needs over time. Some students may need individual support from you.

With others you may be able to work in small groups. Consider pairing readers who use different strategies to see if they can learn from each other.

Use copies of the table to develop records of the reading progress of your young students over the school year.

You may also find it helpful to read the key resource ‘Assessing progress and performance’.

Video: Assessing progress and performance

2 Reading aloud to your students