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  • Alison Davis

Learning to read is like learning to ride a bicycle!

Updated: Jun 1, 2020



Learning how to read is like learning how to ride a bike. The ultimate experience is exhilarating once you have mastered it – but it takes a little work to get there!

Modeled reading is like riding a bicycle with an adult.

The initial experience for the learner is with an expert – who shares the love and excitement and explains what is happening. This is true of both bike riding and reading. Adults do the riding and explain what is happening as, together, they experience the thrill of whizzing past, going fast, slowing down, avoiding danger and stopping. Early reading experiences should be the same - filled with the thrill of engaging with the ideas together, looking for meaning and exploring the illustrations while the adult does the reading. We call this modeled reading.

Shared reading is like riding a bicycle with training wheels.

Of course, the child wants to get on their own bike and start riding! They have the motivation – but not the skill! So those trainer wheels keep them stable while they learn the behaviors and technical skills needed to be successful. The child controls the pedals as the adult holds, steers and supports with instruction about different techniques needed. The child is moving and safe, as they see and hear how things work; described by the adult who has the most control. In reading this means learning how print works, decoding words and ideas, what words mean and comprehension of the ideas in the text. This is shared reading.

Guided reading is like riding a bicycle without training wheels.

Then they need practice – lots of it! Practice with different techniques they have learnt so they can do things automatically – without thinking about it. The training wheels come off, the child rides and – of course – things will go wrong! They will forget to steer properly, fall off or even crash. And the adult is right there coaching for improvement, guiding with techniques and encouraging the successful behaviors. In reading, the child does the reading and the adult guides, prompts, praises positive behaviors, questions and instructs where they notice a problem. This is guided reading.

Independent reading success is like independent cycling success.

And then they ride on their own! They ride in the same places over and over again as they practice and perfect their riding behaviors and skills. And of course, the adult rides beside them, doing the same thing! In reading, learners re-read familiar texts which are just the right level – not too hard and not too easy! This repetition helps build confidence, fluency, comprehension and a passion for reading. And just as in mastering riding a bike, we don’t stop reading to them once they are independent readers. We keep on doing it together as a shared passion - in different places, spaces and with different books. Those learned behaviors can be used anywhere and anytime. So, to become brave bikers, learners should cycle often and to become confident readers, learners should read, read, and read some more!


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