YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

READING: The ABC's of helping youngsters achieve literacy--the
first skill. | READING BY 9 : Head of the Class: READING

Expert Advice

April 04, 1999

Sandra N. Kaplan is a clinical professor of learning and instruction at USC's Rossier School of Education.

The current emphasis on teaching children how to read also must recognize students who are already advanced in their abilities. These students need to be allowed to practice the skills and habits of sophisticated readers.

We need to teach such children to become selective. Sophisticated readers do not always feel compelled to read a single book from cover to cover before they turn to a new book. Rather, they often have a stack of books piled on the bed stand or the table next to their favorite chair. They select from the stack to match their mood or the time available to read. Advanced readers need to be encouraged to stockpile books they want to read and to select from the pile to match their needs. Over time, most of the children will read their entire stacks.

We also need to teach advanced readers to become investigative readers who explore a single area of study by using a collection of varied reading materials. To pursue an interest in dogs, for example, a third-grader might collect information from a fiction and nonfiction reference text, a contemporary veterinary journal, a biography about a dog trainer and art books depicting dogs drawn in various styles.


Reading a variety of genres to investigate a single topic enables children to learn the subject from many points of view, to note trends affecting the topic and to identify overarching patterns or ideas related to the topic.

Children who are advanced readers know how to read the same material using different academic lenses. In many ways, they approach text like adult readers. For example, a historian reads text to determine what and why an event occurred, while the sociologist reads the same material to determine the nature of group dynamics.

Children follow the same principle. While reading about the Industrial Revolution, a 10-year-old advanced reader can read the text assuming the roles of historian, economist, sociologist and political scientist.

Instructors should teach children to read as a means of becoming critical thinkers and problem solvers. Reading should facilitate the ability to engage in the art of argumentation or intellectual debate. Children read to gather evidence to prove a point, to identify quotes and citations needed to strengthen a position or to offer alternative solutions. Sophisticated readers know how to locate and organize information they have read to formulate arguments.

While parents and educators are excited by students who read at or above grade level, they also must encourage the continuous teaching of advanced and sophisticated reading strategies.


* Monday in Eagle Rock: "Bedtime Stories," at the Eagle Rock branch library offers stories for children who come dressed in their pajamas. Stuffed animals and blankets are welcome. 5027 Caspar Ave., 7 p.m., (323) 258-8078.

* Monday-Thursday in San Pedro: Homework help for children in grades 1-8, provided by the San Pedro Youth Coalition. San Pedro branch library, 3:15-5:15 p.m., 931 S. Gaffey St., (310) 548-7779.

* Monday in Torrance: Storytime at Catch Our Rainbow Books, with songs and dances, by storyteller Charlotte Rivera. Two hours, at 10 and 11 a.m., 3132 Pacific Coast Highway, (310) 325-1081.

* Wednesday in Montrose: Reading especially for preschoolers, ages 3-6, at Once Upon a Time bookstore, 2284 Honolulu Ave. at 11 a.m., (818) 248-9668.

Los Angeles Times Articles