From parents to policy makers, an urgent question is: What does a good reading program look like?
There is no single answer, as each day, millions of children all over the country successfully learn to read under a great variety of approaches. What we do know, however, is that the most effective reading programs share certain common features, and that there are certain activities that all first grade children should be doing.
For a child to read fluently, he or she must recognize words at a glance, and use the conventions of letter-sound correspondences automatically. Without these word recognition skills, children will never be able to read or understand text comfortably and competently. Teachers help children with this hurdle by providing intense and intentional instruction on the structure of oral language and on the connections between phonemes and spellings.
In addition, first graders need intensive opportunities to read, each and every day, meaningful and engaging texts, both aloud with others and independently. In first grade and throughout the early grades, teachers should include explicit instruction on comprehension strategies, such as summarizing the main idea, predicting, and drawing inferences. In addition, first graders must have ample encouragement to write, even when this means using creative or inventive spelling.