23 February 2014

The joy of listening to kids read

Not long after I started school as a little girl I was curled up in the book corner reading away when the Headmaster, Mr Evans, came into the classroom and said 'What's that silly girl doing over there pretending to read?'

I was four, and I still remember it - perhaps I need to get over now! I still remember being so angry that he thought I was pretending. I even remember the book I was reading - The Princess and the Pea from the Ladybird series. As a child I amassed many of these little hardcovers. I wish I still had them - they are worth a fortune now!

Anyway, back to Mr Evans - needless to say, he wasn't my inspiration to become a teacher - well, maybe he was. I think I knew then that kids deserve a lot better than that.

There is nothing I enjoy more than listening to kids read - any kid, at whatever level of development they are at. Reading is the key to the world and every time an adult listens to a child read and uses gentle timely interventions, they are helping the child cut another notch on that key.

I listened to couple of little girls in 3/2B the other day. They had picked a book for partner reading and were having the best fun. At the end of taking turns, using funny voices, flipping backwards and forwards through the pages, laughing at the funny parts and asking questions about the hard words I told them I thought they were amazing readers and I asked them how I would know that.

'Oh' they said 'We are fluency [sic], we use expression, we know what the words mean, and we can work stuff out - we comprend it.'

'Great,' I said. 'And how do I as the listener know you can understand what you are reading? That you comprend it, so to speak.'

'The voices we use and the funny bits we laugh at - if we weren't comprending we wouldn't know when to laugh or stop reading and think and stuff...' they said. Hmmm...

I was so glad they didn't say 'You know we are good readers because we are on Level J reading books'.

A child's reading level says nothing to a child about how they see themselves as a reader. A reading level is information for the teacher that helps guide instructional decisions. It is the result of a complex array of factors including decoding skills, voice control, fluency, expression, strategies used to make meaning, knowledge about punctuation and vocabulary, and much more.  It's not a competition nor a badge of honour. It's simply a tool teachers use to ensure children are reading at exactly the right level to continue to learn, to continue to make meaning. It's a way of making sure we don't expect children to jump to the top of a flight of stairs from half way down.

Because in the words of a couple of Year 2 girls, it's all about comprending it!


  1. Alistair Beveridge26 February, 2015 14:52

    I enjoyed your post Gwen. I had a similar experience when I was in Grade 2...I'm still not over it either!

    1. Thank you, Alistair. I'm always glad to know that someone is reading my blog