Striving for independence


Editor's note: In her biweekly column, Jerdine Nolen discusses the reading skills of students in the fourth and fifth grades.

By the time they are in fourth and fifth grades, students are attaining a greater independence in their reading skill. Peer group acceptance is becoming more important. They tend to want to read and talk about things that relate to their personal lives and experiences. Some may prefer to read for uninterrupted blocks of time. Others may still need support and guidance.

Fourth- and fifth-graders are able to:

* Understand that reading is an important part of life.

* Read familiar texts with ease.

* Enjoy books written especially for them.

* Enjoy reading full-length novels.

* Enjoy books that allow them to use their developing sense of humor.

* Begin showing devotion to a particular author, illustrator or genre.

* Enjoy discussing and talking about books.

* Make reading choices influenced by their peer group.

* Read directions (bus and train schedules, recipes, etc.)

* Use reference materials (glossaries, thesaurus, dictionary, etc.) to build their reading and writing vocabulary.

* Decipher maps.

* Begin finding deeper meaning in what they read.

* Enjoy biographies and adventure stories.

* Continue to enjoy being read to.

Things to support your fourth- or fifth-grader:

* Continue reading aloud to or with your child (novels, picture books, articles from newspaper, magazine, etc.)

* Create sustained silent reading times in your home.

* Talk to your child about what she is reading.

* Read the kinds of books your child's peer group is reading.

* Play games that involve reading and thinking.

* Introduce your child to crossword, mazes and other kinds of puzzles.

* Offer practice time reading schedules for television, trains, buses, etc.

* Allow her to help map out your next trip by car.

* Allow him opportunities to plan a family dish or meal using simple recipes.

* Give magazine subscriptions as gifts.

* Give reference book materials as gifts (thesaurus, dictionary, etc.)

Some Favorite Authors

Louis Sachar, Jerry Spinelli, Lois Lowry, Virginia Hamilton, Louise Fitzhugh, Roald Dahl, Scott O'Dell, Mildred Taylor, Jean Craighead George, William Steig, Natalie Babbit, Patricia MacLachlan, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Mildred Pitts Walter, Sid Fleischman, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Gary Paulsen, Walter Dean Meyers, K. A. Applegate, Andrea Davis Pinkney Lloyd Alexander, Beverly Cleary, Katherine Paterson, C.S. Lewis, Robert San Souci, Kathryn Lasky, Katherine Krull, Jean Fritz.

A resident of Ellicott City, Jerdine Nolen is the award-winning children's author of "Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm" and "Raising Dragons." She is a former teacher and administrator in elementary education, and has personally field-tested her suggestions on her son and daughter.

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