Lancaster’s Reading Continuum

Lancaster's Reading Continuum

So I’ve written a lot about research around reading and how individuals read and the kinds of things you need to put in place to create reading cultures in schools. You can read these articles here, here, here, here and also here, as well as littered through the blog.

To extend upon my thoughts regarding a hierarchy of reading and how the activate the reading brain I’ve been looking at reading in terms of a continuum, i.e. a continuous sequence of improvement. Within this there seems to be three distinct stages that a reader goes through as they first learn to read and then become proficient in the act of. The first stage is the early reading stage, earmarked for 4-9 as young people move through beginning, emerging and developing  sub stages. Each of these can also be furthered categorised by the behaviours within them. As you can see overtime and as the individual moves through the stages they grow in ability and independence in reading until you get to the point where you have an individual that is highly able and independent in all aspects of their reading.

I have taken my thoughts on the reading brain and have placed these within this model. Therefore the main parts that create a successful reader; Knowledge, Curiosity, Cognition and Grit have behaviours attached to each of the sub stages. Within this it is then possible to be able to see where a student is with their reading and potentially what it might be that is holding them back (explained in this post about the reader at a crossroads).

As the child moves through the stages they will encounter the second stage between 10-13 and will travel through the expanding, bridging and fluent stages of being able to read. This marks the transition from learning to read to reading to learn as well as the primary-secondary transition. It is worth noting at this point that this is where a child may struggle in making the transition. If, for instance, there is something holding them back in their reading abilities then they will be caught in the limbo between stages requiring intervention to allow them to make the step between the two. It is at this point that this distinction needs to be made in what the root cause is before any intervention can take place. Looking at the behaviours associated with the key success criteria (Knowledge, Curiosity, Cognition and Grit) will give you a clear idea as the why exactly they are unable to make this step up.

Once a young person has traversed their way through each of the sub stages in this ‘reading to learn’ section they move on the third and final stage of reading. This final stage is where the reader gains mastery over the skills and passes between proficient, connecting and independent. Although I suggest that the age range for this is 14-18 it is important to note that all the age ranges are an ‘average’. Young people move through reading at their own pace and just because a young person may seem behind because they haven’t moved through these stages doesn’t mean there is anything ‘wrong’. However, it is also worth noting that not all readers will progress onto this final stage. Many will plateau at stage 2 and never move on. As mentioned stage 3 is about mastery and many of the skills are akin to those needed for GCSE and A-Level but not all young people pass these or undertake them (A-Level). These individuals may not be what we would class as ‘readers’: they have the ability to process texts and to gain information from them but this is the ultimate limit of their skills. In continuing to the final stage individuals need to be regular readers; they need to access a wide range of texts for different reasons; they need to be able to connect what they have read to other things they have read or know and they need to be independent in their reading. This is way more than being independent in their choices etc it is more along the lines of knowing where to find what they need, how to go about reading ‘around subjects’ and what to do if they come across something they don’t comprehend. These are definitely a lot higher level skills that some young people will never learn to use or want to use.

Utilising this model allows us to track our students in school and see where they fit into something like this. Using the behaviour criteria we have a distinct reason why they are where they are and what we can do to move them on through the stages.
Beyond this it is a understanding of how individuals read that can be used to explain the process to a non specialist. We are using it for both these reasons as well as a guide for parents in helping them to better understand the things they might be able to do to help their child.

As far as tracking goes we are already utilising it and it is giving us a much better picture of the students we are working with.

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: War on illiteracy? | readingeducator

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