Reading Skills in Children: Collaborative Action Research

Introduction

Knowledge acquisition and learning are natural processes that initiate at a very early age in children. For some children though, this process is a little slow affecting their academic achievements as well as effective learning. It then is the responsibility of the teacher to find the appropriate methods needed for the complete development of reading skills in a student/child. (Binder, C., Haughton, E., & Bateman, B 2002)

While good reading skills set the foundation of language fluency in children, they are the direct consequence of good reading habits. (Wolf, M. & Katzir, T 2001)

Similarly, poor reading skills result from inadequate reading habits negatively influencing not only the general academic performance but also the communication skills of the child in the form of barriers while sending and receiving communication. It has been proved that children with poor reading skills fail to comprehend what they read as also sound choppy consequently feeling uncomfortable when reading aloud. This lack of fluency which makes reading an arduous practice generates de-motivation and discouragement and is a vicious process that replicates aversion to reading, all through the academic years of the child. (Meyers, E., & Rust, F 2003)

With the academic progress, there is also an augmentation in the volume and demands of reading activities of children as they advance to higher classes, resulting in poor performances and frustrations among the affected children. More than eighty percent of school-going children, do not project a difficulty in learning how to read, and as such good Reading, methods must be imbibed to make every child a fluent reader.

The process should begin in the very formative years of the child even before he/she enters school since the development of the same is established at an early age. The process of learning begins as early as when he/she begins to utter the first words in life accentuating the need for both practice and experience in good reading attributes. According to a survey, about twenty percent of children display difficulties in reading with fluency which may be due to several factors including low intelligence, physical disabilities such as poor vision or hearing, lack of knowledge about the language concerned, and the lack of the crucial pre-reading skills reflecting the inability to recognize letters or attach sounds to letters. (Wolf, M. & Katzir, T 2001).

Research Question

  • Q.1 “How does a child develop pre-reading skills?”
  • Q.2 “How can the reading skills improve with the help of teachers, parents, and the child himself?”
  • Q.3 “What are the advantages of having good reading skills?”

In my research, I seek answers to the above questions using following a systematic data collection and data analysis plan. I will use data by gathering instruments like checklists, observation, surveys, and others. The plan will also seek to explore different data collection instruments in detail and explain how they will be used in data collection.

Survey

The survey method will be used in these studies to study different children in the classroom to compare their progress in reading fluency. The survey instrument will be used effectively to collect data from the sampled students in various settings and to collect various tertiary data from various researches that have been carried out on the performance of a student in reading fluency exercises. In the survey, students will be selected for the study. They will be then exposed to the same reading assignment and their progress observed. This will involve guided reading and repeated reading exercises given to the student.

To assess the effects of parental importance in assisted reading, students will be divided into two groups. One cohort will be assigned parental assessment forms through which parents will be used to rate students reading performance in areas of accuracy, rate, and expression. Then other groups will be exposed to normal reading assignments without the intervention of the parent. Then the two cohorts will be subjected to the same reading assignments to see if there was an effect with parental intervention in the exercise. Students will be final subject to independent practice on reading fluency and their performance assessed. (Meyer and Rust 2003, p. 78)

Checklist

A checklist will be used to collect various data in the study as per different tools that will be used. A checklist will be used to record the performance of the selected students during the reading exercise. In assessing the effectiveness of individual input in practical reading, it will be used to check on various books that will be assigned to the students. The checklist will be used to record the performance of students in reading exercises and consecutively rate them out of ten points. A checklist will be used to assess the rate, accuracy, and comprehension of the student in reading assignments, especially when using the GORT-3 assessment tool. It will also be used to assess the performance of the students as per the recorded data. (Wolf and Katzir 2001, p.67)

Observation

Observation will be used to record the facial expression of the student during reading assignments. Observation will also be used to collect data on various researches that have been carried out in the past to help in comparing that data with what is expected out of

Data analysis and Data collection

So how can a child develop pre-reading skills?

Researchers have identified spoken language, script, reading instruction method, and classroom implementation of language curricula as the primary variables for comparison and it has been established that most often, children differ in these aspects due to various psychological reasons. (Griffith and Rasinski,2004). Reading acquisition models suggest that children of second grade or above tend to rely more on phonological cues in reading, whereas children from kindergarten to about first grade tend to rely more on visual cues. (Griffith and Rasinski,2004).

Keeping these facts in mind I conducted a study on a class of children by initially using letter construction aids to assist the child in identifying various alphabetical letters and vowels. I conducted a test after several practice sessions where the simple methodology of making the children read a grade-level passage was used. I took notes and recorded them. The notes were an account of the number of words omitted by the children or pronounced incorrectly. Finally, I counted the words that read correctly. (Griffith and Rasinski,2004). I then evaluated and analyzed these results.

Reading acquisition models suggest that children of second grade or above tend to rely more on phonological cues in reading, whereas children from kindergarten to about first grade tend to rely more on visual cues. (Griffith and Rasinski,2004).

According to Griffith and Rasinsk, (2004), “Fluency requires opportunities for students to hear fluent, expressive, and meaningful reading from their teacher”. Keeping this substantiation in mind I experimented with the use of audiotapes in teaching students to teach the children.

Aspiring to transform my “reading program by incorporating fluency instruction into the curriculum” (Griffith and Rasinski, 2004), I used several interesting reading materials in the classroom to help children gain fluency in reading. (Griffith and Rasinsk, (2004), have established that the teachers who are keen on crafting smoothness in reading and want it to be an essential aspect of their practice to teach reading ought to make use of “certain key principles in designing such instruction”, by which I designed my lesson plans which I used in the reading assignments. Having a plan in place certainly did help in carrying out my research successfully.

I undertook the comparison technique in the research study using both independent as well as dependent variables, by dividing the class into four groups. For the assessment of results, I used resource materials such as the Gray Oral Reading Test-3. I also referred to several other types of research that had been carried out before and took field notes to come to a substantial conclusion. I compared the results of all groups after the assessment of the samples. The results confirmed the hypothesis that ‘visual complexity’ does impact the fluency with which children read. Other factors affecting the fluency are the spacing of the structure of words as well as the graphic units.

I noted that the well-established fact that fluent readers often identify high-frequency words based on the familiar visual configurations of syllables, words, or phrases without prior identification of the component letters, but they must rely on the prior identification of letters to identify low-frequency words. (Mckool, 2007). There were noteworthy distinctions in the fluency and comprehension between the reading skills groups which support the legitimacy of the MLPP classification scores. (Lagrou et al, 2006). I have concluded that a teacher needs to have a well-devised plan which uses audio as well as visual techniques in teaching how to read efficiently and that fluency can be achieved by the correct selection of text.

McCool underlines that goals and motivation have a great impact on fluency of reading. He states that the perception of this fact will enable teachers and parents alike, to encourage reading practices outside the school, consequently augmenting the “vocabulary development, fluency, comprehension, and general intellectual development” (Mckool, 2007). The relationship between reading habits outside that school and the students’ accomplishments at school has been proved and is a matter of great concern now than ever because there is a deficiency in reading practices outside the school. (Mckool, 2007).

To answer the second research question, which is, “How are the reading skills improved by the teacher, parents, and the child himself?” I undertook a comprehensive approach and conducted a study based on quantitative and qualitative methods. I used mixed methods as I had to “reveal both statistical data about factors related to out-of-school reading and to investigate students’ perspectives on voluntary reading through individual interviews” (Mckool, 2007).

During the course, I gave the students reading assignments, both in the class as well as at home. I recorded the fluency level of the class before I began my experiments. I then gave the class reading assignments as homework which was to be assessed by their parents. All along I kept a record of the number of assignments that a child had completed both at home and school. After conducting several such assignments I took a final assessment test of the children. I noticed that fluent readers often identify high-frequency words based on the familiar visual configurations of syllables, words, or phrases without prior identification of the component letters, but they must rely on the prior identification of letters to identify low-frequency words.

I graded them according to their fluency, number of correct or incorrect words, and pronunciations. I sent grading sheets with the child which were recorded by the parents and they gave their remarks on their children’s assignments. I compared the previous records with the current ones and also the parents’ grading with my own. Age and societal differences were found in children’s overall literacy attainment. Likewise, differences in-home and classroom literacy environments were also reflected across the varying sociolinguistic contexts.

I was successful in proving that if the reading practices are encouraged at home, there will be a substantial improvement in the fluency and comprehension of the children.

It has been proved that reading skills are both theoretically and practically important. Without automatic character recognition, comprehending the text would be impossible, and “oral reading fluency was often recommended as a global measure of reading skill” (Lagrou et al, 2006). In other words, familiar words or even phrases are processed as one whole reading unit, whereas each subcomponent part of a word constitutes a reading unit in less familiar words. The development of reading is considered as a progression through different stages, (Griffith and Rasinsk, 2004). Considering the inter-reliant character of the different sub-skills in reading, “oral reading fluency was often recommended as a global measure of reading skill” (Lagrou et al, 2006).

Coming to the third question of my research, “What are the advantages of having good reading skills?” I have concluded that the overall performance of children’s in-class work is closely related to reading fluency performance. Every subject that the children study is a reading practice. The more the children read the greater will be their fluency and the better will be their comprehension capability of the matter they are reading. I have proved this successfully in the preceding paragraphs.

All the reading assignments given to the children were maintained in the record books. The teacher’s assessment records were also maintained. A comparative study was undertaken and it was obvious that children with a greater history of reading were not only performing well in their studies due to the better comprehension but were also reading with proper pronunciation, expression, and greater fluency. The study established the fact that there are several advantages of being able to read well both academically and otherwise (Meyers, E., & Rust, F 2003).

Conclusion

The sources analyzed above allow understanding the nature of reading fluency and methods to improve it. Interesting questions exist as to whether reading comprehension processes are similar or different across languages. Some studies have shown that different processes are involved in reading different texts because of the orthographic and linguistic features (Binder, C., Haughton, E., & Bateman, B 2002). This research will help to construct a research study and answer the questions of the research. A major theme of reading research examines the roles of type of text in reading. Reading fluency has several dimensions, including students’ knowledge and beliefs and their strategies for learning. Specifically, students have different beliefs about the nature of learning, and they need to apply strategies in reading to construct the meaning of text information. (Meyers, E., & Rust, F 2003)

References

Binder, C., Haughton, E., & Bateman, B 2002, ‘Fluency mastery in learning, Teaching Exceptional Children’, Vol. 11(4), 13-56.

Griffith, L. W., Rasinski, T. V. (2004). ‘A Focus on Fluency: How One Teacher Incorporated Fluency with Her Reading Curriculum’. ‘Her Reading Curriculum. The Reading Teacher’, 58, pp. 126-130.

Lagrou, R. J., Burns, M. K., Mizerek, E. A., Mosack, J. (2006). ‘Effect of Text Presentation on Reading Fluency and Comprehension: An Exploratory Analysis’. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 33, pp. 100-110.

Meyers, E., & Rust, F 2003, ‘Taking Action with Teacher Research’, Heinemann, Portsmouth.

Mckool, S.S. (2007). ‘Factors That Influence the Decision to Read: An Investigation of Fifth Grade Students’ Out-of-School Reading Habits’. Reading Improvement, 44, pp. 111-115.

Wolf, M. & Katzir, T 2001, ‘Reading fluency and its intervention, Studies of Reading’, Vol. 5, p. 134-654.