Aitken to Know Article

book worm

Reading Lingo

From Joanna Rioux and Lynn Owens


            Parents hear many terms brought up by educators about reading development and progress.  There’s fluency, accuracy, and comprehension to name the “Big 3”.  But what do they actually mean?


            The easiest to convey and determine, is accuracy.  It means exactly what you might expect.  How many words were correctly read in a given chunk of continuous text?  This is often how we teach children and suggest to parents as a guide for choosing Just Right books.  For example, if you open a book of interest to any page, you could use the 5 Finger Rule to help determine if it’s an appropriate difficulty.  Reading an entire page of text without having to figure out any words is considered easy text.  In like fashion, reading a page and having to figure out 1-3 words would be considered just right.  Children can learn from that work and progress their own reading by having an appropriate amount of challenge.  The point where there is too much work, making the book too hard (frustrational) would be if there are 5 words or more that have to be solved in order to keep reading.


            Another term we use is fluency.  Most often this is thought of as the speed at which a text is read.  While this is true, there is much more to fluency than simply the rate of reading.  It also includes phrasing, rather than reading word by word.  Likewise, ability to use punctuation appropriately is considered when teachers think about fluency.  This includes pausing for periods and commas as well as changing our tone of voice for dialog, question marks, and exclamations.  The ultimate goal in this area, is for the reading to sound conversational.


            Then there’s comprehension.  Most often this is thought of as understanding what we’ve read.  While that is partially true, there is so much more to comprehension than that.  That understanding of what we’ve read is literal understanding.  For example, who is the book about, what happens in the story, how does it end, etc.  On a deeper level, comprehension includes making inferences about character motives as well as having theories about what personality a character has and allowing that theory to change as the story progresses.  Comprehension also involves considering an author’s purpose for writing and what we can take away from the reading such as a lesson, particular information, or broad understanding.  Another big piece of comprehension is making connections to the text while we read.  For example, does a character remind you of yourself, someone you know, or a character from another book or a show?  Likewise, can you make such connections for events and settings?


            Reading is the single most complex learning we engage in over the course of our lives.  It is amazing that such a huge process begins so young.  If parents and educators alike are using the same language to discuss this progress, our children will get the best start they can.