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Learning to Read v. Reading to Learn

In elementary and middle schools, there tend to be two different stages of reading: learning to read, and reading to learn. These stages highlight the shift that children go through once they have learned to read, as they then use their reading to learn in all subject areas.

Learning to Read: For most children, this stage encompasses kindergarten through third grade. In these earlyThe Progression of Reading Skills elementary school years, children are learning the alphabetic principle, or the systematic and predictable relationship between sounds and letters. Children begin to understand how sounds make up syllables, syllables make up words, and words have meaning.

Reading to Learn: Once children reach fourth grade, the expectations change. Children are now expected to be proficient readers, and their learning is highly contingent upon reading abilities. Children become more independent with their education, and often homework assignments pertain to reading passages and answering questions or reading materials to study for tests and quizzes.

Potential Difficulties:

This system certainly has benefits. It builds upon previously learned skills and allows children to become more independent with their own learning. Once children are in the “reading to learn” phase, school work becomes more challenging, often targeting reading comprehension and more advanced writing activities. There are potential difficulties with this model, however. Once children reach fourth grade, many are still struggling with reading. As school work becomes more difficult, children stuck in the “learning to read” stage may fall behind in class, begin avoiding or disliking reading, and a larger gap than previously noticed may arise.

Warning signs of a Reading Disorder:

  • Dislike or avoidance of reading
  • Not understanding that words can be segmented
  • Trouble with sound-letter relationship
  • Difficulty sounding out words
  • Difficulty understanding written and spoken language
  • Difficulty rhyming

The later into schooling that children progress, the greater impact reading has on academic success, across all subjects. Math gets harder as story problems are introduced, science often has new concepts requiring children to read about, and even in English classes, children will no longer have spelling lists but will grades will suffer due to poor spelling. It is so important for parents and families to identify early struggles in reading and intervene!

NSPT offers our Blossom Reading Program in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!