In my previous article I questioned whether or not the time has come to change the traditional perspective on reading gaps, and suggested that perhaps conventional reading resources were largely to blame. Learning to read and building vocabulary are two different areas of learning – let’s begin by looking at these two definitions:
When children are just learning how to read they follow a natural progression:
These beginning stages of learning to read meet the most basic definition of reading – interpreting the characters or symbols of which words are composed. Reading and vocabulary mean two different things. The vocabulary that we know is not limited to words we can decode and read – our vocabulary includes words we use to verbally communicate and aurally comprehend.
Since vocabulary building and reading are not one and the same, why do the reading resources provided to educators combine learning to read with vocabulary building? For example, the level one readers my child brings home for “reading practice” and to “consolidate learning” include words like ‘collar’, ‘people’, ‘eating’, etc. Shouldn’t there be one set of readers designed for vocabulary building, accompanied by verbal and aural comprehension activities (and intended for teachers and parents to read aloud to children), and another set of readers meant purely for learning how to read – a set that sticks to the basics of decoding simple words while building reading comprehension? Early readers need books they can actually read to parents – ones that directly align with what they’re being taught at school in the beginning stages of reading, books that actually assess where a child is at in their reading abilities. If we re-aligned reading resources with the early stages of learning how to read, would reading gaps still exist?