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A Proficient Reader

The following was included in my final examination for my Masters in the Teaching of Reading.

What Is A Proficient Reader? 

Proficient readers and writers usually possess an enjoyment of words and language.  This enjoyment is most often fostered from an early age.  Reading to a child from birth is the beginning of proficient reading. Eventually they will look on and know when a word is skipped.  Through observation, they learn which way to hold the book, reading from left to right. Immersion is an important part of this process.  “[Immersion] refers to the state of being saturated by, enveloped in, flooded by, steeped in, or constantly bathed in that which is to be learned.  From the moment of birth, young language learners are immersed in the medium they are expected to learn” (Cambourne, p.185, 1995).  Just like any other learning process, you need to be surrounded by it.  If reading is not reinforced in the home from a young age the reader may not learn to be proficient.  He or she may develop severe reading difficulties, which can lead to further learning problems.

Another important quality is to read for meaning.  If you do not read something in context it is not worth reading.  People who read for context see a whole word, not just a group of letters.  Some also look for some sort of relevance to their life so they can connect with what they are reading. 

Proficient readers also read a whole sentence over again, if they are not sure of its meaning. They may even look back in a paragraph if they come to an interesting part of a reading that is not clear. 

These qualities can be documented using miscue analysis.  You can see by what miscues readers make.  If they are reading a sentence over while reading aloud they are most likely looking for context.  Good readers may make more miscues involving repetition due to high levels of prediction.  Less proficient readers may know all the words, but not know what the story was about.

Jonah is a third grade student that I saw improve in the four weeks of my summer literacy internship.  He was an extremely intelligent boy who had trouble reading.  His story telling ability was very good, but he did not appear to enjoy reading or writing.  On the third to last day he showed an amazing improvement.  He wrote a whole paragraph without any misspellings or misuse of grammar.  He enjoyed what he was writing about, so he showed more interest in what he was writing.

I would have assessed his literacy development skills by using miscue analysis.  The Flint/Cooter, a standardized test version of a running record, was administered to Jonah. According to the test, he moved up one grade level after four weeks of tutoring.  I personally would have used a miscue analysis. It is a more in-depth form of assessment. I think an informal miscue analysis is also a more accurate way to assess reading ability.

I would also follow his writing progress using a response journal about what is happening in his life and what he is reading.  Being that Jonah is a sensitive child who needs reinforcement, it would be easier to comment about what he is writing.  He could get a chance to tell me what he needs to improve his education.

Overall, a proficient reader needs to be encouraged, immersed in literacy, and reinforced when they are correct.


Cambourne, Brian. (November 1995).  Toward an Educational Relevant Theory of Literacy Learning: Twenty Years of Inquiry.  Reading Teacher, v49 n3 p182-90.



  © 1999-2005 Doug's Reading Corner, All Rights Reserved

© 1999-2005 Doug's Reading Corner, All Rights Reserved