It’s probably no secret that here at Literacy with Aylin Claahsen that we are all about reading. Goodness, it’s practically in the name! So while we cover all sorts of subjects here (phonics, reading instruction, activities, even writing), one of the most important things we can discuss is what types of texts to which we expose our students. After all, once we teach them how to read, shouldn’t we be passionate about teaching them what to read? Incorporating a variety of texts into a student’s life and into your own classroom is essential. Let’s explore why.
Help Students Develop Their Reading skills
When we use a variety of texts in our classroom, it helps students develop their reading skills. As educators, it’s our responsibility to expose them to all sorts of texts – we shouldn’t just have one variety filling our classroom bookshelves. Kids who are exposed to varying text structures have the opportunity to prove and broaden their reading skills (like comprehension and vocabulary) and explore all sorts of reading strategies. In short, using a variety of texts improves their reading as a whole. Equipped with varying texts, a student can move from a novice reader to a more mature, well-rounded reader who reads for information and pulls apart at text to decipher its meaning.
But what are these texts and why are they important to have in your classroom? Below are some examples of different texts that should find a home within your classroom library!
These guys are all the rage right now, aren’t they? That’s because they are extremely helpful for students who are practicing decoding and just learning to use their good reading skills. Decodable texts help develop good phonological and phonemic awareness skills, too. These texts also give readers amazing confidence, which is huge for early readers. In the last decade, decodable texts have filled classrooms – and they should find a home in your library, too. But it’s important to note that we can’t let students camp out near the decodable text shelves forever. Eventually, it’s important for students to move on from decodable texts and into more authentic texts. It’s essential to remember not all texts have to be so controlled, and actually, shouldn’t be controlled as they progress through their reading journey.
Some students will stick with decodable text for longer than others, and that’s okay. If students aren’t ready to move past phonics-controlled texts, let them stay there to work on their decoding skills and reading accuracy so they can get that confidence. As they do, you can slowly start to weave in the authentic texts as they progress. And speaking of….
Authentic texts. Okay, okay – fine. So you can’t necessarily go to a library and say “Hello! I’d like an authentic text please.” The librarian might know what you mean, but “authentic” when speaking about a text isn’t in everyday language. Authentic truly just means anything that’s not written with an ulterior motive in mind. And by that I simply mean that decodable texts have an agenda behind them – they focus on a specific phonics skill that beginning readers are practicing. Decodable texts are wonderful and pave the pathway to what readers will be reading for the rest of their lives – authentic texts. An authentic text is something that’s made for all. Examples of these are endless: newspapers, magazines, poetry, a science book, a graphic novel, a fiction chapter book, a movie script, blog posts, scholarly journals, essays, short stories, etc. Think of authentic texts as texts that you would read in your everyday life – texts written for all people and for any type of circumstance. Inside these authentic texts you’ll find literary devices, themes, plots, information, statistics, humor, etc.
Incorporating these into your instruction is essential because it encourages students to apply their knowledge of decoding in a contextual way – in a way that they’ll be reading for the rest of their lives. As I always mention in my posts, the essence of reading is to read for information or enjoyment. This is why we teach letter sounds, decoding, and pair them up with a decodable text – to make them readers in the world! Because authentic texts aren’t phonics-based, their purpose is to entertain, inform, or persuade. It’s within the pages of authentic texts that students can improve on their comprehension skills, vocabulary, and inferencing. Authentic texts encourage students to become more well-rounded readers. So, stock your library shelves with a plethora of authentic texts and a variety of…
Genres! Fill your library with poetry books, nonfiction texts (biographies, history books, essays), plays, and different types of fictional stories (historical, realistic, science fiction, fantasy). A solid classroom library is home to a variety of genres – give your students tons of choices. You can even have your students search the Internet for online scholarly articles and journals for a research project, which are also authentic texts.
The reason it’s so important to have differing types of genres available to your students is because students need to practice reading “real world” materials. This doesn’t just mean nonfiction and informational texts – but poetry, fiction, and drama as well. Again, remember – being a reader out in the world is what we are ultimately preparing them for. These types of texts are not typically phonics-based because they are meant to be everyday, casual, natural reading. Therefore, it’s our job to help students feel confident in reading these types of texts so that they can feel like real-world readers! Added bonus? A wide range of genres to choose from also allows the students to explore what they’re interested in and gives them opportunities to read literature they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. How lucky we are as teachers to be the ones to hand them that key!
Leveled Readers. I know, I know – allow me to explain. There is so much incredible evidence out there about the science of reading that promotes the benefits of decodable readers. As a reading specialist myself who studied under the science of reading, I wholeheartedly believe in its importance and the value of decodable texts. That being said, there is still a place for leveled readers. Are they for beginning readers? No. Are they for readers who are focusing on a specific phonics skill? Certainly not. But are they for students who are a bit more advanced in their reading and are able to use leveled readers as authentic texts and read for information or pleasure? Yes. A leveled reader is just a text, after all! When we label compelling and complex leveled readers as authentic texts simply just for reading, the stigma that’s surrounding leveled readers fades away. So don’t toss out those leveled readers – they deserve a home on your bookshelf, too. All we need to do is save them for more mature readers, label them as authentic texts, and enjoy them for what they are.
Variety of Texts Resources
Resources, Resources, Resources! Although my resources won’t make it directly onto the shelves of your library, they certainly can still get into the hands of your students at their desks or your small group table! I have all of the passages any teacher could ever want, covering a variety of phonics skills and subjects. Take a look at the variety of passages that can be included in your rotation that will help you differentiate based upon student needs and abilities.
- Focus: phonics patterns, high frequency words, reviewing patterns
- The details:
- The Phonics Focused Review Passages include phonics focused decodable passages that cover review of phonics patterns, decoding words in context, identifying words with specific phonics patterns, and comprehension questions – all the while boosting readers’ confidence!
- The Phonics Decodable Reader Passages include phonics decodable reading passages that focus on specific phonics skills (digraphs, beginning blends, etc. – you choose!) that are quick to print and easy to implement. Each passage includes word work where students will work to decode prior to reading in context. As always, comprehension questions included!
- Focus: simple sentences, challenging context specific words
- The details: These are perfect for early readers and include word work activities, comprehension questions, highlighting focus words, and statements to encourage and celebrate the work of the reader! Students will work on both their reading and writing skills as they complete these passages.
- Focus: building literacy skills in non-controlled texts
- The details: Students practice reading passages at their instructional level and complete comprehension questions to show understanding. Includes: guided reading passages, comprehension questions, answer key, lesson plan, and a running record. Perfect for students who are learning to become more well-rounded readers!
- Focus: building literacy skills in non-controlled texts
- The details: These fluency passages come with compelling stories, comprehension questions, and fluency assessments. Students will work on their ever-important fluency skills during these passages. Includes: fluency folder cover, fluent reader reminder posters and mini posters, data tracking pages, fluent reader awards
With so much great advice and resources at your fingertips, you can now feel empowered as you set up your classroom library. As you stock your classroom library with decodable texts, leveled readers, authentic texts, and a variety of genres, you can be rest assured that you’re providing an environment that encourages mature readers. You’re not just building your bookshelf – you’re building readers!
As you’re building out your bookshelf and your readers are growing, it’s important to also think about how to make the most of your time reading these texts to your students. Want specifc ideas about how to use your read aloud time in an effective way? Check out this blog post all about building fluency during your read aloud time!