What is Reading for Meaning?

Children become curious about printed symbols once they recognize that print, like talk, conveys meaningful messages that direct, inform or entertain people. By school age, many children are eager to continue their exploration of print.

One goal of this curriculum is to develop fluent and proficient readers who are knowledgeable about the reading process. Effective reading instruction should enable students to eventually become self-directed readers who can:

  • construct meaning from various types of print material;
  • recognize that there are different kinds of reading materials and different purposes for reading;
  • select strategies appropriate for different reading activities; and,
  • develop a life-long interest and enjoyment in reading a variety of material for different purposes.

To assist teachers in achieving these goals, this curriculum advocates the use of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction resources including:

  • environmental signs and labels
  • rhymes, chants, songs
  • poetry
  • wordless picture books
  • predictable books
  • cumulative stories
  • maps, charts
  • novels
  • print resources from all subject areas
  • notes, messages, letters
  • folktales
  • myths and legends
  • writing by students and teachers
  • newspapers, magazines, pamphlets
  • mysteries

The resources shared with students should stimulate their imaginations and kindle their curiosity. Familiarization with narrative and expository materials, and frequent opportunities to write in all subject areas, facilitate the reading process. By becoming authors themselves, students increase their awareness of the organization and structures of printed language.

To read for meaning, students must simultaneously utilize clues from all cueing systems. Readers bring knowledge and past experiences to the reading task to construct interpretations and to determine if the print makes sense to them. It is easier for readers to understand print when the content is relevant to their personal experiences. Familiar content and topics convey meaning or clues through the semantic cueing system. When students are comfortable and familiar with the content of a passage, they can predict upcoming text and take greater risks in reading. Research has repeatedly shown that fluent readers risk more guesses when interacting with unfamiliar print than poorer readers. They derive more meaning from passages than readers who frequently stop to sound or decode words by individual phonemes or letters.

Knowledge of word order and the rules of grammar which structure oral language, guide readers' predictions for printed language. Such language-pattern clues comprise the syntactic cueing system. Readers should constantly question the text to ensure that what they are reading makes sense and sounds like language.

Reading experiences that focus on relevant and familiar content, vocabulary and language patterns increase students' chances of constructing meaning and being successful readers. At the elementary level, successful reading experiences reaffirm students' confidence as language users and learners. The holistic approach to the reading process stresses the importance of presenting students with whole and meaningful reading passages. This approach is based on the principle that the readers' understanding of an entire sentence, passage or story facilitates the reading and comprehension of individual words within those passages.

The graphophonic cueing system relates sounds to printed symbols. When print is translated into words that are in their listening vocabularies, readers will recognize and comprehend the words. If the sounded words are unfamiliar to readers, they must rely on the other cueing systems to construct meaning. Teachers are reminded that students may know the common sound-letter relationships and still be unable to obtain meaning from print. For that reason, this curriculum emphasizes that phonics should be taught or practiced in context and in conjunction with the other cueing systems.

(Saskatchewan Education English Language Arts, June 1992)



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