Reading Process

“Reading is an interactive, problem-solving process of making meaning from texts.”
Literacy for Learning, The Report of the Expert Panel on Literacy in Grades 4 to 6 in Ontario, p. 61.

Reading is a complex interaction between the text, the reader and the purposes for reading, which are shaped by the reader’s prior knowledge and experiences, the reader’s knowledge about reading and writing language and the reader’s language community which is culturally and socially situated.

The reading process involves 5 stages:

  • Prereading
  • Reading
  • Responding
  • Exploring
  • Applying

Throughout the reading process readers use a variety of strategies, sometimes multiple strategies at once, to help them make meaning from a text. (Interview with Lynn Marsden).

Reading Strategies

  • Activating prior knowledge
  • Predicting
  • Visualizing
  • Questioning
  • Drawing inferences
  • Finding important/main ideas
  • Summarizing
  • Synthesizing
  • Monitoring comprehension
  • Evaluating

Stage 1: Prereading

Pre-Reading Strategies Include:

  • Activating Background Knowledge
  • Setting purposes for reading
  • Making predictions and previewing a book
  • Going on a Picture Walk
  • Making a KWL map
  • Questioning and making predictions about a story

Stage 2: Reading – Responding and Exploring

There are a variety of ways to engage students in the reading process. A balanced approach provides the necessary teacher support for reading.

During reading a number of strategies are used to help students develop comprehension skills. By way of example, view the guided reading video clips and observe how a variety of strategies are employed at various stages of the reading process by both the teacher and student.


Making Connections

Students relate to what they read by making connections to their own lives, to other texts they have read and to the things or events that occur in the world. They compare themselves with the characters in the text and recall similar situations or experiences.

Encouraging students to make connections helps the reader to stay engaged and to see the connections between reading and everyday life. Capable readers use previous personal experiences, prior knowledge, and opinions to make sense of what they have read. Capable readers make text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections. In the guided reading clip, the child makes text-to-self and text-to-text connections. Notice that the teacher prompts her to make connections at certain points, but the child also offers connections without being prompted.

To encourage students to make connections you can provide them with some prompts:

  • “This reminds of the time that …”
  • “I had a similar experience …
  • “I remember when…”


Making predictions or “best guesses” about what will happen in a text is an important literacy strategy and skill. Students’ predictions are based on their prior knowledge and experiences about the topic, the genre, and what has happened so far in the text (using both the print text and illustrations). Having students make predictions engages them in the reading task and encourages them to become active participants in the learning.

Ask the learner to make predictions at the following points:

  • Before reading:
    • Examine the cover illustration and read the title of the book. Ask the student to predict what it might be about based on the cover illustration, the title, or both. Sometimes the cover is not very helpful in giving students clues about what the story might be about so you may have to provide a brief summary of the book.
    • You might say: “Look at the picture on the book and read the title. What do you think this book is about?”
  • During reading:
    • Students make predictions at several key points throughout the text and as they read, they confirm or revise their predictions. In the guided reading clip, the teacher uses post-it notes to mark places in the text where the student might make a prediction.
    • You might say: “What do you think [main character] is going to do?”
  • After reading:
    • The student compares the predictions to what the text says. Students can record their predictions on a chart as they read and they can see how accurate they were when they finish reading.


Developing Language Skills

In the guided reading clip, the teacher uses the opportunity to help the child develop language skills by focusing on specific words and punctuation marks.

Did you notice any other reading strategies being used in the video clips?


Readers synthesize by summarizing information into key points and combining their ideas into a main idea. Synthesizing helps the reader to make generalizations and develop opinions and to integrate new information with prior knowledge.

Readers need to be encouraged to stop and reflect on what they have read, to identify and select and summarize important information and to merge new information with existing knowledge to gain new insight. Being able to summarize is very important because big ideas are easier to remember than a lot of small details.

In the guided reading clip, the teacher provides the child with an opportunity to summarize the main idea of the story.

Stage 3: Post-Reading – Applying

Strategies Include:

  • Story retelling all or part of a story
  • Discussing favorite parts or elements of a story
  • Answering questions
  • Comparing to another book
  • Writing new ending
  • Drawing a picture about the story
  • Playing a game related to the story
  • Creating a radio play or other kind of performance

Shared Reading (back to Stage 2)

T he shared reading model was developed by Holdaway (1979). The model is based on research that supports storybook reading as critically important in the development of young children's reading (Wells, 1986). Research also suggests that engaging in storybook reading at home with parents is particularly effective in reading development (Strickland & Taylor, 1989). It is very difficult for classroom teachers, however, to orchestrate one-on-one reading time for each student. Sometimes parent or community volunteers in the classroom can take on this role but usually, a teacher reads to a group of children at the same time. The shared reading model provides many of the benefits that are part of the storybook reading experience that happens at home.

The Shared Reading Process

For students in primary classrooms, the teacher often uses “big books” (oversized versions) that contain large print and illustrations. For junior students, texts can be projected through technology such as overheads, visualizers or using a data projector. As the teacher reads the text aloud, all of the children can see the print and illustrations and follow along.

The teacher and students return to the text several times over the course of several days. The first reading is generally for enjoyment. In subsequent readings, the children are encouraged to read along orally as they become more comfortable with the text. The teacher uses these opportunities to extend comprehension of the story or to focus students’ attention on vocabulary development. The teacher often pauses during the reading to ask for predictions or to allow students to make connections to the text. The use of repeated readings and predictable texts (such as Simms Taback’s version of “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”) encourage students to become familiar with patterns and to recognize words and phrases.

Benefits of Shared Reading:

  • Quality children’s literature that might not be accessible to the children at their stage of reading development, can be used, even with very young students
  • The teacher models reading at the same time that students practice their reading
  • Allowing students to become familiar with the text’s language patterns through multiple readings promotes word-recognition skills and builds students’ confidence as readers
  • All of the students experience success because less skilled readers still have the support of the teacher and their classmates, while more advanced readers can enjoy the challenge of reading high quality literature

Guided Reading (back to Stage 2)

  • Based on careful observation of students, the teacher selects books that are supportive, predictable, and closely matched to the students' needs, abilities, and interests. The chosen texts should support the objective, but be readable enough for students to proceed with minimal assistance. (Approximately 90-94% accuracy)
  • The guided reading lesson provides the opportunity for the teacher to interact with small groups of students as they read books that present a successful challenge for them.
  • The assessment provides information for the homogeneous groupings which are necessary for guided reading. This allows the teacher to tailor instruction to suit students' changing instructional needs.
  • The teacher acts as a facilitator who sets the scene, arouses interest, and engages students in discussion that will enable them to unfold the story line and feel confident and capable of reading the text themselves.
  • Guided reading is reading by students. The students are responsible for the first reading of the text, although the teacher might read a page or two to begin the session, particularly at the primary level.
  • Approximations and predictions are encouraged and praised. The teacher closely observes, monitors, and evaluates ways in which individual students process print utilizing reading strategies such as checking meaning and self-correcting.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Guided Reading at the Junior Level

1. Before Reading

a. Access prior knowledge
b. Build background and introduce genre, title and author
c. Ask for predictions based on the cover of the text
d. Access concepts, images and vocabulary in the readers’ memories that are related to the story
e. Begin a graphic organizer
f. Do a ‘Book Walk’
i. Scan through the text and examine any illustrations
ii. Look at the format of the book (pages, chapters, titles, table of contents, index, etc.)
iii. Introduce and discuss key vocabulary in the title

2. During Reading

a. Each group member reads a selected portion of the text silently
b. Teacher directs the students’ reading by suggesting what they might look for in each paragraph
c. Teacher selects appropriate reading strategies and focus questions

3. After Reading

a. Reflect on reading strategies
b. Discuss characters, setting, plot, genre as a group
c. Discuss vocabulary
d. Teach mini-lessons based on the needs of those in the group
e. Develop reading skills and strategies
f. Responding and Extending:
i. Build comprehension by discussing the text in more depth (explore theme, character development, make connections)
ii. Respond to the text in writing, orally, visually, dramatically
iii. Compare earlier predictions to actual events in the text
iv. Complete the graphic organizer

Anchor Charts

The teacher and students record students’ thinking about a text, lesson, or strategy by creating an anchor chart.  The charts can be returned to help students remember the process. They serve to connect past teaching and learning to future teaching and learning. All of the students in the class are involved in the process of constructing meaning. 

ALL grade levels can have similar charts in student/grade-level friendly language. That  the purpose of developing a common language or strategy that is used across the district. Strategies do not change as students change grade levels - the material becomes more complex.