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Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty.

It should be offered to them as a precious gift.

Kate DiCamillo

What We Understand About Reading

The power of reading opens doors for every child. But a love of reading doesn’t happen naturally for everyone. It needs to be nurtured and guided by caring teachers and dedicated parents. To do this we must make a wide range of high interest books available to children matched to their interests and capabilities, and give them plenty of time to read independently and voluminously. We must teach them what they need to know to make meaning in the increasingly complex books they read each year. And we must support them as they read, creating safe spaces that inspire risk taking and goal setting. Our goal is to prepare students for any reading task they will face or set for themselves, and this in turn, will create confident, lifelong readers.

How We Teach Reading

In Mamaroneck, reading instruction is multi-faceted. Across the elementary grades, students learn to construct meaning from print by decoding words, reading sentences fluently and expressively, and monitoring their comprehension. In this way, reading and thinking go hand in hand. Each year, the texts grow in complexity, and readers acquire the tools they need to meet these challenges. Instruction is comprehensive and sequential, responsive to individual student needs, and aligned to the foundational and comprehension standards for New York State.

In the earliest grades, students are sorting out the concepts related to reading (books are read from left to right, printed words and spoken words match, and words are made up of letters with corresponding sounds, which can be blended together). Even in the simplest of these books, students are using the illustrations to help them follow and understand a storyline, think about characters and do complex thinking.

As students move through the grades, these reading and decoding behaviors become internalized, and students begin to read more automatically and fluently, following a complex sentence across several lines of text. While reading, students continue to make meaning, and engage in more sophisticated thinking about the text. They learn to set and follow their own reading paths, navigate different genres, hold onto longer texts, and even compare and contrast multiple texts.

Teachers use read aloud, shared reading, and small group instruction in order to model important reading and thinking behaviors for their students. In this way, students have the opportunity to see these new skills used, and then to rehearse these skills with the support of the teacher. The reading workshop structure then allows students to independently practice these new understandings in books that match their interests and capabilities.

How We Measure Reading Progress

Learning to read is a fascinating developmental process. Each child is unique; therefore not everyone progresses at the same rate and in the same way. Our primary goal in Mamaroneck is for every child to grow as a reader every year. The district has established independent reading level benchmarks to guide goal setting and progress monitoring. Teachers monitor students’ growth through a range of formal and informal assessments.

For example, the district uses the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment, a research-based and field-tested reading assessment tool. This measures a child’s ability to read a text accurately and to understand that text on several levels (events within the text, conclusions reached about the text, and connections made beyond the text). If concerns are identified for select students, additional district assessment measures and tools may be used to more specifically pinpoint student challenges and instructional needs.

Teachers regularly confer with student readers throughout the school year. In these one-on-one conversations, a teacher notes and names a student’s progress, identifies new challenges, and teaches into these new skills and understandings. The reading conference is a flexible assessment tool that allows teachers to promote a love of reading, differentiate instruction for individual students, and revise instruction for her class.