Reading Development: Chall's Model

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on May 1, 2014

Chall's model of reading development grew out of her seminal research on the effectiveness of different beginning reading approaches (Chall, 1967). In her later book on the Stages of Reading Development (l983), Chall described six stages of development that are entirely consistent with the stages of instruction that constitute the direct-instruction model which we advocate. For that reason, we describe Chall's model briefly here and then discuss important commonalities among her model, the direct-instruction model, and the NRP report.

Stage 0 (up to Age 6) Stage 0 (up to age 6) is a prereading stage that is characterized by children's growth in knowledge and use of spoken language. Increasing control of words (vocabulary) and syntax is apparent. In addition, children acquire some beginning understandings of the sound structures of words. For example, they learn that some words sound the same at the beginning (alliteration) and/or the end (rhyme), that spoken words can be broken into parts, and that the parts can be put together to form whole words. Most children also acquire some knowledge of print at this stage. They may, for example, learn the names of the letters of the alphabet and learn to print their names and some letters not in their names. Although much of their reading may best be described as "pretend reading," most children do learn to hold the book right-side up and turn the pages. Some may learn to point at a word on the page while saying the word. Reading to children provides them with opportunities to acquire this kind of prereading knowledge.

Stage 1 (Grades 1–2) In Stage 1, children learn the letters of the alphabet and the correspondences between the letters and the sounds that they represent. By the end of this stage, they have acquired a general understanding of the spelling-sound system. Direct teaching of decoding accelerates development in Stage 1, particularly for those with limited readiness.

Stage 2 (Grades 2–3) In Stage 2, confirmation of what was learned in Stage 1 takes place and children learn to apply the knowledge gained in Stage 1 to read words and stories. Children learn to recognize words composed of increasingly complex phonic elements and read stories composed of increasingly complex words. Through practice, oral reading of stories and passages becomes more fluent and sounds more like talking.

Stages 1 and 2 Together Together, Stages 1 and 2 constitute a "learning to read stage," at the end of which children are no longer glued to the print on the page. They recognize most words automatically and read passages with ease and expression. Decoding the words on the page no longer consumes all of their cognitive attention; cognitive capacity is freed for processing meaning. At this point, children are ready to make the important transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn."

Stage 3 (Phase A, Grades 4–6; Phase B, Grades 7–8 and/or 9) In Stage 3, children begin to learn new knowledge, information, thoughts, and experiences by reading. Growth in word meanings (vocabulary) and background knowledge are primary goals. Children read selections from an increasingly broad range of materials (e.g., textbooks, magazines, encyclopedias) about an increasingly broad range of topics (e.g., history, geography, science). Most reading is for facts, concepts, or how to do things. In Phase A of Stage 3, when vocabulary and background knowledge are still rather limited, reading is best developed with materials and purposes that focus on one viewpoint. As students move through Phase B, they start to confront different viewpoints and begin to analyze and criticize what they read.

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