When students are beginning to learn to read, I believe one of the most important strategies to faithfully employ is helping students to learn to be accountable to the text that they are reading on the page. As a special education teacher, this is one of the biggest challenges I have on a day to day basis. Not holding students accountable to the text on the page allows unnecessary barriers to develop preventing students from becoming good readers.
You may ask, “What does it mean to hold a child accountable in reading?” Accountability in reading means that a child should read the text exactly as it is written. Letting a child continually say a for the, of for for, come for came, was for saw, those for these, or ignore punctuation, etc. does a lot of damage. Usually failing to correct a child of these small errors leads to bigger errors later such as, the student saying peers for pears, think for thank, fake for face, sister for sitter.
As a child continues to read with so many uncorrected errors, eventually these word misconceptions begin to form in the student’s brain leading students to think words can become anything they wish them to be. The longer a child is allowed to read as such, the deeper the misconceptions in reading develop. As time passes, the once believed idea that students thought reading to be easy and fun begins to fade, and the thoughts of reading being hard and dreadful begin to take shape in the child’s mind.
One of two scenarios will play out. Either the child will continue to move through their academic career without a teacher who will closely monitor their reading, and if this happen, then most likely the child will continue be a poor reader. Or else, the child will eventually have a teacher who will hold her/him accountable to the text on the page. And with a lot of work, these reading misconceptions can be reversed, and the child can begin to actually read [along with other reading strategies taught].
There are times a certain student makes so many errors when reading that I suggest to parents that for a space of time the student should never read alone. Sometimes, a student is “so good” at substitutes/adding/ or omitting words that would make sense in a story, that if a person was not intently watching and listening, the story would make sense just to hear it. So this is even a greater reason to be present [sitting right next to] your child when he/she is reading. And the reason being is if a teacher and/or parent can stay continually present during reading with a child that is struggling, then there is a greater chance of fluency and accuracy increasing sooner than later.
If a child knows that no one is listening in on their reading, they will continue to make errors. For example, if a child’s reading is not monitored closely when they are in Kindergarten and First Grade, then by the time they are in second grade, these misconceptions are so entrenched into their thinking that it takes a ton of time and work to reverse the child’s idea of reading.
So how does accountability look? A student is reading along and substitutes/adds/omits another word, or ignores punctuation, I interject a statement such as, “That’s not saw,” or “That doesn’t make sense.” The child is then aware to stop and figure out the word using given strategies. If the students can’t figure out the word, then I help them sound out the word, chunk out the word, or either tell them the word. It just depends on their how high/low their confidence and stamina are. Then once they know the correct word, I have them to reread the complete sentence that has the word they missed in it. This way they can correctly hear themselves reread the sentence and hear it accurately and fluently. After enough practice, most students eventually begin to stop and figure out unknown words.
Depending on how long the wrong reading habits have been in place and the amount of accountability present determines the time it will take to instill the right reading habits. Holding a student accountable in reading is a huge investment in students to becoming great readers. Once the child knows that they can’t keep reading when it doesn’t make sense or their reading makes sense but they’re reading the wrong words, then the child develops an awareness of words. Usually, I have found students who are not accountable readers take two to four months to get the hang of being an accountable reader. Then once we see growth as a teacher, we know our work has been well worth it! And most of all the child feels successful in reading!