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.
'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!