By GreatSchools Staff
Is your child reading at grade level? Are there any gaps in her phonics or comprehension? Since learning to read is a long and complex process, some students hit college only to discover their skills aren't where they should be.
How do you know if your child's on track? Our grade-by-grade guidelines give you all the details you need to assess her aptitude.
In second grade, children begin reading for meaning, not simply as a way of sounding out simple sentences. Classrooms should give children many opportunities to read — silently on their own, aloud in groups, and aloud with a partner. Second grade curriculum should also include listening to books read aloud. Students often reread stories to increase their fluency, or their ability to read quickly and accurately with expression.
Your second-grader should be able to recognize a growing number of words, using knowledge of word structures and letter-sound relationships and a variety of strategies to read. Not only do second-graders develop skills to hear and say separate sounds in words, but they also use patterns to decode words. Second-graders should be able to read new words by breaking them into syllables. A strong reading curriculum shound include learning the meanings of many prefixes and suffixes.
As second-graders graduate to more complex material, they learn to read across subject areas, including social studies, science, and math. They begin to read books that have several chapters and develop a larger vocabulary.
In second grade, kids are taught to use different parts of a book to find information, including the table of contents, index, glossary, title page, introduction, and preface. Second-graders should know that there are different purposes for reading: for pleasure, to get directions, and to gather information.
Second-graders should be able to choose their own books based on their interests, but reading specialist Jennifer Thompson recommends using the "five-finger test" to help them choose a book at the appropriate reading level. "Have your child open to any page," she says. "If she finds five words that she does not know, the book is too difficult."
Second-graders learn to use books to research different subjects and answer questions about a topic. They may use encyclopedias, informational books, and the Internet to dig up facts.
"Reading informational text is critical for second- and third-graders," explains Thompson. "Most of the federally mandated tests contain a great deal of nonfiction reading. Children need to learn to read nonfiction for understanding and need to be taught how to use all of the conventions of nonfiction to assist with understanding. These include the table of contents, index, glossary, captions, illustrations, bold print, diagrams, charts, and graphs."
By second grade the emphasis should be on students reading their own material, but they should still get many opportunities to listen to books read aloud. Not only does this offer kids a model of fluency, but it also fosters a love of books. It should also help your child understand vocabulary and language patterns in more complex texts. By discussing books before and after they are read aloud, teachers and parents can increase literacy no matter what a child's reading level is.
In second grade, children learn strategies to draw meaning from what they read. They should be able to recognize the sequence of events in a story, as well as anticipate the possible outcome. Important skills should include retelling familiar stories, summarizing the main ideas and plot, and identifying the characters and settings. Kids may be asked to compare and contrast characters in stories to their own lives. They may also be asked questions about the text, such as who, what, when, where, why, and how. Kids at this age should learn to use a dictionary and thesaurus to discover the meanings of words.
Second-graders may take part in shared reading, an interactive reading experience guided by the teacher. During the reading, the teacher demonstrates strategies students can use to read and understand a story. The teacher may pause in the reading to teach vocabulary, introduce a reading skill, or encourage the students to predict what will happen next. The book is typically read multiple times over several days. "Shared reading is a technique that is often used to develop fluency. It offers students positive guidance and support in a social context," says Thompson.
Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever, by Mem Fox (Harvest Books, 2001).
The Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease (Penguin, 5th edition, 2001).
Read to Me 2000: Raising Kids Who Love to Read, by Bernice E. Cullinan (Cartwheel, 2000).