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Stages of Development

Early Emergent Readers (Levels aa-C)

Aspiring readers are just beginning to grasp the basic concepts of book and print. They are acquiring a command of the alphabet with the ability to recognize and name upper- and lowercase letters. They are also developing many phonological awareness skills, such as recognizing phonemes, syllables, and rhyme.

Early Emergent readers are beginning to learn sound/symbol relationships--starting with consonants and short vowels--and are able to read CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words, as well as a number of high-frequency words.

Books at this level have:

  • Strong picture support
  • Carefully controlled text
  • Repetitive patterns
  • Controlled, repeated vocabulary
  • Natural language
  • Large print
  • Wide letter spacing
  • Familiar concepts
  • Limited text on a page


Emergent Readers (Levels D-J)

Readers at this stage have developed an understanding of the alphabet, phonological awareness, and early phonics. They have command of a significant number of high-frequency words.

Emergent readers are developing a much better grasp of comprehension strategies and word-attack skills. They can recognize different types of text, particularly fiction and nonfiction, and recognize that reading has a variety of purposes.

Books at this stage have:

  • Increasingly more lines of print per page
  • More complex sentence structure
  • Less dependency on repetitive pattern and pictures
  • Familiar topics but greater depth


Early Fluent Readers (Levels K-P)

At this stage, reading is more automatic, with more energy devoted to comprehension than word attack. Readers are approaching independence in comprehending text.

These readers are experiencing a greater variety of text and are able to recognize different styles and genres. Independence often varies with the type of text being read.

Books at this stage have:

  • More pages
  • Longer sentences
  • More text per page
  • Richer vocabulary
  • Greater variation in sentence pattern
  • Less reliance on pictures
  • More formal and descriptive language


Fluent Readers (Levels Q-Z)

Readers have successfully moved from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Their reading is automatic and is done with expression and proper pauses. Their energy is devoted to understanding, and they have good command and use of the various comprehension strategies.

These readers read a wide range of text types and do so independently. They will continue to refine and develop their reading skills as they encounter more difficult reading materials. But for the most part, they are capable of improving their reading skills and selection of materials independently through increased practice.

Books at this stage have:

  • More text
  • Less familiar, more varied topics
  • Challenging vocabulary
  • More complex sentences
  • Varied writing styles
  • More description