Elementary Spotlight: Reading


In and around 3rd grade, students make a significant transition: rather than learning to read, they begin reading to learn. That transition has classroom implications as well: instead of teaching students how to read, we instead expect them to use their (assumed) reading skills to acquire new information on their own (e.g., reading a textbook, an article, a website). Consequently, poor readers often have a difficult time keeping up with the material and, without help, fall further and further behind. It should come as no surprise, then, that third-grade reading proficiency has been shown to correlate with long-term academic achievement and high-school dropout rates [1].

Unfortunately, the Nation's Report Card shows that in 2013 only 35% of our nation's 4th graders demonstrated reading skills at or above the Proficient level*. These data represent a collective call to action focused on this question: how can we best reach early, emergent, and struggling readers?

At Curriculum Pathways, we've built tools that students, parents, and teachers can use to help young readers develop these foundational skills.

Read Aloud

SAS Read Aloud

In the formative stages of reading, shared-book reading experiences at home have been shown to be a powerful impact on young readers beyond other predictive factors such as socioeconomic status and parent education level. Although reading a book together might seem like nothing more than a bonding experience, young children are exposed to important concepts such as associations between written and spoken language, letter and word sounds, and basic print conventions (e.g., we read left to right in English)[2,3]. This is especially true when adults employ strategies to overtly bring young readers' attention to the text, such as pointing to words as they are read aloud[3,4].

From this foundation, we developed Read Aloud as a supplement to shared reading. We implemented strategies such as word-by-word highlighting and guided word interaction to draw emergent readers' visual attention to the print so they could understand how letters, words, sounds, and structure combine to form sentences and stories. We've also adding a unique recording feature so that parents, teachers, and even young readers can record themselves to further simulate the shared reading experience. Thus, anytime can be storytime!

In addition, Read Aloud provides free access to numerous books with three reading modes: Read to Me, Help Me Read, and Read by Myself.

Reading Modes

SAS Read Aloud

  • Read to Me – Words highlight as the book is automatically read aloud. Readers experience the speaker's intonation, rhythm, and stress.
  • Help Me Read – Readers are guided through the book and control the reading pace. Readers focus on developing print knowledge skills and identifying words.
  • Read by Myself – Readers can progress through books silently and select only the words they would like to hear. This traditional approach allows readers to build confidence with selected support from speakers on specific words.

Reading Records


Running records of students’ reading are a valuable source of data for reading instruction, but also a significant time sink; they can also be tricky to administer. Reading Records is an anytime, RR3anywhere solution that promises to yield the same valuable data without compromising class time (and also providing several enhancements to the old paper-and-pencil method).

Available for free on the web, in the App Store, and the Chrome Web Store, Reading Records is a flexible tool designed to support many methods for conducting running records. By utilizing the numerous features of Reading Records, educators can do the following:

  • Select passages from our built-in library, which offers more than 75 fiction and nonfiction reading passages at various reading levels. All passages have multiple-choice and open-ended comprehension assessments. Students can also work on their own devices.
  • Grade assignments at their own pace and without necessarily being one-on-one with a student. The Reading Records system actually records students as they read aloud, allowing instructors to pause and replay portions of the audio to ensure all reading behaviors are captured.
  • Analyze performance using the data-visualization tools that update in real time. Graphs and charts update automatically whenever you grade an assignment or modify students’ reading levels.
  • Use the data as a centerpiece for student instruction and parent conferences. The interface not only provides an organized portfolio of the student's work, but also recordings of the student reading aloud.

Student Interface With the student interface, young readers can do the following:

  • Complete assignments using the student-friendly, streamlined design. In fact, the assignment-creation interface lets teachers provide up to three passages from which students can choose a passage that aligns with their individual interests.
  • View their results complete with dynamic charts and graphs, a recording of their session, and the marked-up passage.
  • Listen to previously read passages to reflect on performance, hear reading behaviors, and perceive changes.
  • Monitor and share progress with teachers and parents from anywhere.

As with all of our products, we are constantly refining and adding features to our reading apps. Have a suggestion for our next release? We’d love to hear from you!

*As defined by the National Center for Education Statistics, Proficient achievement level implies the student demonstrated  solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytical skills appropriate to the subject matter.

[1] Hernandez, D.J. (2012). Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. A Annie E. Casey Foundation Report.

[2] Justice, L.M., & Lankford, C. (2002). Preschool Children’s Visual Attention to Print During Storybook Reading. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 24(1), 11-21.

[3] Bus, A. G., van IJzendoorn, M. H., & Pellegrini, A. D. (1995). Joint Book Reading Makes for Success in Learning to Read: A Meta-Analysis on Intergenerational Transmission of   Literacy. Review of Educational Research, 65(1), 1-21.

[4] Lane, H. B., & Wright, T. L. (2007). Maximizing the effectiveness of reading aloud. The Reading Teacher, 60(7), 668-675.



About Author

Lucy Kosturko

Lucy Shores Kosturko, PhD manages product development for SAS Institute's K-12 educational initiatives, a suite of cross-platform offerings promoting data literacy, artificial intelligence and computer science. After graduating with a B.A. in psychology and computer science from Rhodes College, she earned a M.S. in computer science and PhD in educational psychology from North Carolina State University. Lucy lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband and two daughters.

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