Reading is a fundamental skill that opens the door to a world of knowledge, imagination, and inspiration. As we develop our reading skills, we unlock the power to explore new ideas, understand complex concepts, and connect with the voices and experiences of others. But not all reading is the same – there are many different types of reading skills, each with its own unique purpose and approach.
From skimming and scanning to critical reading, close reading, and the use of manipulatives, the way we approach a text can have a profound impact on what we gain from it. Whether we’re reading for information, entertainment, or personal growth, developing a range of reading skills can help us to become more discerning, thoughtful, and engaged readers. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the different types of reading skills and how they can enhance our understanding and appreciation of the written word.
Types of reading skills for different ages
Reading skills develop over time, with different skills being appropriate for different ages. By understanding the appropriate reading skills for different age groups, educators and parents can help children and students develop the skills using important strategies they need to become successful readers. So, here’s an age-wise classification of essential reading skills.
A. Emergent readers (preschool to kindergarten):
Emergent readers focus on developing basic reading skills such as letter recognition, phonemic awareness, and understanding print concepts. This includes learning the names and sounds of letters, understanding that words are made up of individual sounds, and learning how to hold a book and read from left to right. At this stage, picture books and simple stories with repetitive patterns are great for developing reading skills.
1. Letter recognition
Letter recognition is the ability to identify and name letters of the alphabet. Being an important early reading skill, it helps children to understand the sounds of language and how words are formed. When children learn to recognize letters, they are better able to decode words and begin to read simple texts. Some activities that help children learn letter recognition include singing the alphabet song, pointing out letters in books or on signs, and playing games that involve identifying letters.
2. Phonemic awareness
Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. This skill is essential for learning to read because it helps children understand that words are made up of individual sounds, or phonemes, hence, most children often develop this along with reading out loud strategy. For example, the word “cat” has three phonemes – /k/ /a/ /t/. Phonemic awareness is developed through activities such as clapping out the syllables in words, segmenting words into their individual sounds, and blending sounds together to form words. Phonemic awareness is a foundational skill for phonics, which is the ability to associate sounds with letters and to read words accurately and fluently.
B. Early readers (grades 1-2):
Early readers are focused on developing reading fluency, and building vocabulary, and comprehension skills. They work on decoding skills, understanding context clues to help them figure out the meanings of unfamiliar words, and beginning to identify story elements. At this stage, books with shorter paragraphs, larger fonts, and more illustrations help early readers to build confidence and reading skills.
1. Decoding skills
Decoding skills are the ability to use knowledge of letter-sound relationships to sound out words. Early readers focus on developing decoding skills, which enable them to read simple texts independently. This involves learning the sounds that letters make and blending them together to form words. Early readers start with simple words with regular letter-sound patterns, then progress to more complex words with irregular letter-sound patterns. To develop decoding skills, early readers can practice sounding out words, learning sight words, and reading books with simple vocabulary and sentence structure.
2. Understanding context clues to help figure out the meanings of unfamiliar words
Early readers are not expected to know every word they encounter in a text.They need to learn how to use context clues to figure out the meanings of unfamiliar words. Context clues can include the words and sentences surrounding the unfamiliar word, as well as pictures and diagrams that may accompany the text. For example, if a child is reading a story about a zoo and encounters the word “giraffe”, they can use the picture of a long-necked animal to help them understand the meaning of the word. Early readers can also learn to use word parts such as prefixes, suffixes, and root words to help them decode and understand unfamiliar words.
3. Identifying story elements:
Early readers begin to learn about story elements such as plot, characters, setting, and theme. They learn to identify the beginning, middle, and end of a story and to make predictions about what will happen next. They also begin to recognize basic literary devices such as dialogue and descriptive language. To develop this skill, early readers can read simple stories with clear plotlines and identifiable characters, and discuss the story with a parent or teacher. They can also engage in activities such as retelling the story in their own words, making connections to their own experiences and asking and answering questions about the story.
C. Intermediate readers (grades 3-5):
Intermediate readers work on building reading comprehension skills by analyzing texts, identifying main ideas, and making inferences. They also develop critical thinking skills by analyzing and evaluating information in texts. At this stage, they can read more complex texts and use graphic organizers and other strategies to better understand and remember what they are reading.
1. Analyzing texts
Analyzing texts involves breaking down the text into smaller parts, such as sentences or paragraphs, and examining the meaning of each part. This skill helps early readers to understand the structure and organization of the text, as well as the purpose and tone of the writing.
2. Identifying main ideas
Early readers can learn to identify keywords, phrases, or sentences that convey the main message or theme of a text. This skill helps them to focus on what is most important in the reading and to remember and retain information better.
3. Making inferences
Making inferences involves drawing conclusions based on information that is not explicitly stated in the text. Early readers can learn to look for clues in the text, such as descriptions, actions, or dialogue, and use that information to make reasonable guesses about what the author is trying to convey. This skill helps them to think critically and to engage more deeply with the text.
D. Middle school readers (grades 6-8):
Middle school readers focus on analyzing complex texts, interpreting literary elements, and reading to learn across different subjects. They develop critical thinking skills by analyzing the author’s purpose, point of view, and bias, and evaluating the evidence presented. They also learn research skills such as finding and evaluating sources. At this stage, they read a wide range of texts, including literary classics, non-fiction, and scientific articles.
1. Critical Thinking:
Critical thinking in a reader can be broken down into two parts: being able to analyze the author’s purpose and author’s point of view and then reflecting on it. Analyzing the author’s purpose involves understanding why the author wrote the text. Early readers can learn to look for clues in the text, such as the title or the introduction, to determine what the author is trying to communicate. This skill helps them to identify the main message or theme of the text and to understand the author’s intent.
Analyzing the author’s point of view involves understanding the perspective from which the author is writing. Early readers can learn to consider the author’s background, experiences, and beliefs to determine how these factors might influence the author’s writing. This skill helps them to identify the author’s bias and to evaluate the text critically.
2. Interpreting literary elements
Interpreting literary elements involves understanding the techniques that authors use to create meaning in their writing. Early readers can learn to identify literary devices such as symbolism, imagery, and foreshadowing, and to consider how these devices contribute to the overall meaning of the text. This skill helps them to appreciate the artistry of the writing and to engage more deeply with the story.
E. High school readers (grades 9-12):
High school readers acquire advanced reading comprehension and interpretation skills, as well as research skills necessary for academic purposes. They analyze complex texts, identify literary devices, and interpret themes and motifs. They also learn to synthesize information from multiple sources and to evaluate and present their findings in written and oral formats. At this stage, they read a wide range of texts, including literature, scholarly articles, and primary sources.
Essential skills needed to be masters at reading
Becoming a master at reading requires a range of skills, from basic decoding and fluency skills to advanced comprehension and critical thinking skills. Here are some essential skills that are needed to become a master at reading:
- Vocabulary: A broad vocabulary is considered a foundational skill for reading. It is essential for comprehension and for understanding the meaning of unfamiliar words. Good readers have a large and varied vocabulary that they can draw upon when reading.
- Fluency: Reading fluency refers to the ability to read with accuracy, speed, and expression. Fluent readers can read a text smoothly and with ease, allowing them to focus on comprehension.
- Comprehension: Comprehension is the ability to understand what is being read. Good readers have a range of comprehension strategies that they use to understand the text, such as identifying the main idea, making inferences, and summarizing.
- Critical Thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information. Good readers engage in critical thinking as they read, asking questions, making connections, and evaluating the author’s arguments.
- Metacognition: Metacognition refers to the ability to monitor and regulate one’s own thinking. Good readers are aware of their own thinking processes as they read, monitoring their comprehension and adjusting their reading strategies as needed.
- Persistence: Reading can be challenging, especially when faced with difficult or unfamiliar material. Good readers persist through these challenges, using their skills and strategies to overcome obstacles and deepen their understanding.
In conclusion, becoming a master at reading requires a range of essential skills, from basic decoding and fluency skills to advanced comprehension and critical thinking skills. By developing these skills and persisting through challenges, readers can become adept at navigating complex texts and gaining a deep understanding of what they read.
I am Shweta Sharma. I am a final year Masters student of Clinical Psychology and have been working closely in the field of psycho-education and child development. I have served in various organisations and NGOs with the purpose of helping children with disabilities learn and adapt better to both, academic and social challenges. I am keen on writing about learning difficulties, the science behind them and potential strategies to deal with them. My areas of expertise include putting forward the cognitive and behavioural aspects of disabilities for better awareness, as well as efficient intervention. Follow me on LinkedIn