How to assess your kutti (little) reader

Valerie Yule's experiment revisited

Photo by Stephane YAICH on Unsplash

Introduction

At the end of this article, you have two texts of 104 and 110 words each. The texts help you assess at home your young reader's reading capabilities. Using this test, as a complement to existing methods for evaluating children's silent reading such as comprehension questions, cloze procedures and observation of eye movements, you can gain an understanding of your child's reading ability.

This test was developed by Valerie Yule in 1987, but I still find it very useful. I particularly like this test because it gives the young reader authority, which is rarely ever the case when we test children. Authority, since the reader is asked to mark out words they recognise and can read. This instantly helps the reader gain a sense of power over his or her own knowledge of words. In the process, it makes the text familiar before reading it aloud. 

Age group

The ideal age group for this experiment will be between seven to 8.5 years. It could also be tried with older children, but older children have a more expansive vocabulary so it might turn out to be an easy read for them.

Materials

The text is sufficiently challenging. One is a fairy story with difficult spelling around a nine-year reading level but with a strong storyline (Appendix 1), and the other is a slightly modified version of a Wordsworth sonnet, renamed 'Very early in the morning on a bridge in London' (Appendix 2), with shorter words and more 'predictable' spelling, but more challenging since vocabulary, syntax and word usage are less familiar.

Procedure

Once you hand the text, ask your child to read the text silently while marking with a slash every word in it that they considered they could read. Once the silent reading has been completed, ask your child to read aloud from an unmarked copy of the same text that had been read silently. At the same time, you underscore their original marked copy of all the words they read aloud correctly and note the time taken. Keep track of their reading speed (words per minute). 

Let your child know you will not give any clues for any words so that if a word is difficult, they should "just have a shot at it and then go straight on". After the reading, ask open-ended questions to find out what was understood from the read texts. Asking open-ended questions about the content allows you to gauge how much of what they read, they comprehend. The ability to decode as you read silently is an important and sophisticated skill to build.

Why Use Self-Scoring?

Tests ask readers to read a given passage without trying to understand what the reader might already know. In self-scoring, information on silent reading that cannot be obtained in other ways is made available. It provides information about how children may be answering comprehension questions. Are they guessing? Or are they relying on single words as clues to get a full context? This is important for parents to understand. We read the information in sense groups, which means that we read several words together in order for it to make sense to us. The focus shifts away from the pronunciation of individual word sound to making meaning of content. 

If your child struggles to get past pronunciation, perhaps, comprehension hasn't been achieved. If that is the case, you have made an important discovery, and you can now help your child move past the hurdles with specific, need-based support. 

The sample texts to be used for silent reading. 

Ages: seven to 8.5 years

Appendix 1

Once upon a time the beautiful daughter of a great magician wanted more pearls to put among her treasures. 'Look through the centre of the moon when it is blue,' said her mother, in answer to her question. 'You might find your heart's desire.' The princess laughed because she doubted these words. Instead, she used her imagination and moved into the photography business, and took pictures of the moon in colour. 'I observe most certainly that it is almost wholly white,' she thought. She also found that she could make enough money in eight months to buy herself two lovely, huge new jewels too. 

Appendix 2

Earth has not anything to show more fair: 

He would be dull of soul who could pass by 

A sight so touching in its majesty: 

This City now does like a garment wear 

The beauty of the morning: 

silent, bare, Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie 

Open unto the fields, and to the sky, 

All bright and glittering in the smokeless air. 

Never did sun more beautifully steep 

In his first splendour valley, rock or hill; 

I never saw or felt a calm so deep! 

The river glides on at its own sweet will: 

Dear God! the very houses seem asleep; 

And all that mighty heart is lying still!