In 2013, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced
a Reading Blitz programme for schools.
I'm all for any kind of focus on teaching kids to read - without the ability to read - so many other things become more difficult. If you just look at your own day to day life and imagine not being able to read. Not just reading books, magazines, junk mail - words on TV shows - how about signs when you're driving or out and about - food packages, menus.... I don't think anyone can doubt the importance of learning to read.
Reading is the basic foundation for kids schooling. They need to be able to read to understand every subject as they continue through school - how can kids progress even in maths - if they cannot read the questions and explanations in text books and on the classroom whiteboard.
But being able to read is more than just being able to recognise the words - UNDERSTANDING what is written is vital. The Naplan tests are a way for schools to check that kids are comprehending texts at a level they should be.
Most schools will have reading programmes, where children's reading levels are checked and suitable books then given for them to practice and progress in their reading and comprehension abilities.
The kids at our school have access to the Lexile Reading Programme. In this programme - the kids take an online reading comprehension test to determine their level - and then they read books found in the school library that are labelled as being within their reading level range. After each book they answer some comprehension questions online and then every few weeks take a new test to see if their level has improved.
I really like the idea of this programme - that it allows the kids a certain amount of independence to be able to take the tests themselves on the computer and there are a range of books in each level for kids to choose from.
One of the best ways to check your child's reading comprehension is to read a book with them - or aloud to them, asking them questions through the book as to what is happening - what they think is going to happen etc.
We do this with our girls - choosing books that may be just a bit above their own comfortable reading level - and enjoy them as a family. Recently we read The Hobbit all together - and then went to watch the new movie when it was released after Christmas. We all enjoyed the story, everyone reading some parts aloud to the family (the girls liked reading - or rather singing the dwarf's songs!), and then to see the movie afterwards - to see the characters come alive, was brilliant!
Reading books together can become very interactive and lots of fun as you discuss what is happening and what might happen. Towards the end of Harry Potter 6, which I read with my girls recently - the last few chapters went quite slowly as they were punctuated with so many cries of "Oh NO!" "But what if..." "Didn't he.....?" as all the pieces of the story fell into place. It was so nice to see their comprehension of the story so clearly!
In terms of Naplan - and other school tests, there are plenty of practice materials for kids for reading comprehension questions.
I found several printable texts with worksheets and answers for all different levels
There are also some online reading comprehension games using different types of texts - like poetry and non-fiction
And some more printable worksheets for many different levels
I hope that our Prime Minister's reading programme is put into effect and is successful in raising literacy levels in Australian kids - it is a vital skill and there should be a strong emphasis placed upon teaching it well from a very young age.