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Literacy Development Project:

Transitional Literacy

Group 4:
Rachel Fetzer
Jennifer Pickles
Stephanie Turner
Debra Woodruff

LIS 664-01D
April 7, 2016



I. Characteristics and Skills of Transitional Literacy Readers

Learner Profile
The Transitional Literacy level falls between Initial Reading and Basic Literacy. Transitional
readers are usually second to fourth grade students (ODonnell & Wood, 2004). Older students who
struggle with reading, English Language Learners, and adults with limited education may be in this
group as well (Bean, 2004). Transitional readers are between "learning to read" and "reading to
learn". They have mastered phonics and decoding for the most part, but lack the comprehension to be
independent, thoughtful readers. "These readers are on the edge of independence" (Szymusiak,
Sibberson, & Koch, 2008, p. 54).
Reading Skills
Gehsmann and Templeton (2011) identified many traits of transitional readers. Readers in the
Transitional Literacy stage read with more expression and greater comprehension than children in the
preceding stages. They are moving into longer texts with less picture support. They do not track
their finger along the text. They can read independently for 30 minutes. They have about 400 sight
words. They can read 80-100 words per minute. Transitional readers usually read texts leveled J-M
on the Fountas & Pinnell Guiding Reading scale, 18-28 on the Beaver & Carter Development
Reading (DRA) scale, and books with a Lexile of 300L-500L (Phonological Awareness Literacy
Screening at the University of Virginia [PALS], 2008).
To prepare readers for the Basic Literacy stage, one must understand what is expected at this
level. According to Gehsmann and Templeton (2011), basic literate readers need to be able
comprehend what they have read silently and be able to work on a story over several days. They will
be required to comprehend the text without picture support. They will be exposed to texts with less
explicit descriptions of characters, setting, and plot and have to infer meaning. They will read books


with nonlinear plots that include flashbacks and multiple plot lines. They will encounter concepts
that are outside their realm of experience and read a wide variety of texts for different purposes
(ODonnell & Wood, 2004). They need to read at a rate of approximately 150 words per minute and
have about 1000 sight words. Readers at this level will encounter books leveled N-U on the Fountas
& Pinnell Guiding Reading scale, 30-60 on the DRA, and with a Lexile of 500L-850L (PALS, 2008).
Educators should design scaffolded instruction that prepares transitional readers for these
Writing Skills
Gehsmann and Templeton (2011) described the spelling habits at this literacy level.
Transitional literates are at the "Within Word Pattern" stage of spelling. They are mastering long
vowel features (like silent e), r-controlled vowels, diphthongs and triphthongs, the hard and soft
sounds of "c" and "g", and differentiating between homophones. "They are moving beyond thinking
about words in a strictly linear left-to-right, one letter/one sound fashion" (p. 7). To be successful
spellers at the Basic Literacy level, students need to gain a strong understanding of affixes and root
words. They need to master less common long vowel structures like -ight and oi.
Gehsmann and Templeton (2011) explain the composition skills at this literacy level also.
These students can write narratives of several paragraphs with developed characters. The writing is
more important than the illustrations. They can apply the spelling and grammar rules taught in class
to their work. The story is linear. It isn't until the next stage that they can employ multiple storylines
or flashbacks. They can do simple research and write factual reports and persuasive texts. They do
not refine argumentative writing with support from textual evidence until later stages.
II. Transitional Reading Materials
Recent Surge of Transitional Reading Materials


The literature for this literacy level has taken off since the 1980s. "Parents, teachers, and
librarians had for a long time been stressing a need for what they called 'third grade books' - books
that offered a little more challenge than the hardest easy reader and yet were still a bit easier than the
easiest chapter books. (Horning, 2010, p. 118).
In 1989 Cianciolo decried the lack of appropriate, quality transitional literature that existed at
the time. She recognized that children in this literacy stage are eager to move beyond basic readers
and enjoy a longer story, but experiencing failure when they attempt novels can damage their
enthusiasm for reading. She complained about the lack of well-illustrated fiction and nonfiction
stories of varied topics for this age group. Much of the transitional literature on the market was too
similar to boring, stilted basal stories, and lacked natural dialogue. It was hard to find books that
reflected the age groups interests and concerns. She recognized that readers want to identify with the
emotions and experiences of the characters and enjoy series about the same characters. This age
group also responds to slap-stick humor, usually based upon the discomfort of others (Cianciolo,
Twenty years later, the market was entirely different. In 2008 Lempke wrote, "Fortunately,
talented writers are filling the gap in a rapidly growing area of publishing called 'early chapter
books' (p. 34). Dozens of lauded, enduring series had arrived on the scene including the Mercy
Watson stories by Kate DiCamillo, Sara Pennypacker's Clementine, and Megan McDonald's Stink.
Features of Transitional Reading Material
Transitional reading materials can take many forms. Transitional readers can find graphic
novels, nonfiction, picture books, and magazines just right for their level, but the beginners novels
might be the most familiar transitional literature.


Chapter books for transitional readers have some common physical features. Graves and
Liang write that these books typically have between 60 and 100 pages, reader-friendly font size and
white space, and one or two black and white illustrations per chapter (2004, p.12). Chapters are six
to eight pages (Horning, 2010). Transitional readers have difficulty remembering a story over
several days. Short chapters that can be finished in one sitting are the best choice for them
(Szymusiak et al., 2008). Usually there is a table of contents with chapter titles (Horning, 2010).
Szymusiak, Sibberson, and Koch (2008) describe some popular hooks, features that pique a
readers interest and entice them to read the book: the title, cover art, summary on the back cover,
quotes from reviews, awards, and maps.
The writing style has distinct characteristics. Precise language, active verbs, and natural
dialogue are the hallmarks of effective writing for this level (Liang & Graves, 2006). Simple and
compound sentences are used, with few complex sentences (Horning, 2010). The vocabulary is
simple, and potentially unfamiliar words are given strong context. Children at this stage of reading
are beginning to read for meaning, so it is important that the words they are reading mean something
to them (Horning, 2010, p. 118). Transitional readers need the speaker clearly identified in each line
of dialogue, usually with a phrase like "He said". More sophisticated readers can deduce who is
talking in a dialogue without explicit statements on every line (Szymusiak et al., 2008).
Certain content features are frequently found in transitional reading material. The protagonist
is usually eight to ten years old. The subjects and feelings are relatable to seven-to-ten-year-old
readers (Graves & Liang, 2004). Each chapter recounts one limited episode and can be summed up in
a few words (Horning, 2010). Changes in time and place are clearly stated and do not have to be
inferred by the reader, and plots are brisk and action-packed (Horning, 2010).


Transitional readers are especially drawn to series. In Reading Matters (2006) Ross,
McKechnie, and Rothbauer describe the appeal of series: they are attractively designed, affordable,
allow a reader to feel mature, and provide a shared experience among peers. Young readers return to
their favorite series because these books feel familiar, comfortable, and safe (p.84). Short,
conventional novels prepare students to read longer works independently. Lynne McKechnie
describes the first novels as training wheels for reading development (p.84).
III. Best Practices for Librarians
Collection Development
Students with access to a large, varied library collection read more and have better reading
skills (Krashen, 2004). As discussed in the previous section, beginners series novels are important
for literacy development and are very popular with readers at this stage, but librarians need to stock
other formats for these readers as well. Picture books, nonfiction works, and graphic novels are
appropriate choices for transitional readers. Variety increases the chances that a reader will find a
book that interests him or her personally, and this satisfaction will motivate the student to read more
(Ross, 2001).
Szymusiak et al. assert transitional readers can benefit from picture books, even though many
students in this age group believe they are too old for picture books. They contend when teachers and
librarians use picture books, it gives them value in the eyes of the students and encourages them to
select picture books for independent reading. Picture books can be incorporated into all aspects of
ELA instruction - read-alouds, whole-group instruction, small-group instruction, and independent
reading. These books can be used to teach reading skills. "Years ago, we used difficult novels to
teach students new skills. This was a mistake. We used a difficult book to reach a difficult skill" (p.


124). They suggest using a simpler text to teach a new skill, and students can apply that skill to more
challenging texts later.
Students cannot use familiar narrative reading strategies with nonfiction texts. They need to
be taught how to use the unique features of nonfiction texts. Magazines are a good source of
nonfiction reading, too (Szymusiak et al., 2008).
Graphic novels are popular, interesting, and motivating with all age levels, including the
students in the transitional phase. The generation of digital natives respond to the visual stimulus,
and the illustrations support their understanding of the text (Szymusiak et al., 2008).
Professional publications help librarians discover quality materials for transitional readers.
School Library Journal, Booklist, and other professional magazines indicate the suggested grade level
in their reviews.
Librarians may want to consult Children's Choices, published annually by the International
Literacy Association and the Childrens Book Council. On their website, they write, Each year, over
36,000 children from different regions of the United States read newly-published childrens and
young adult trade books and vote for the ones they like best. These Childrens Choices, selected from
more than 500 titles, can be counted on as books children really enjoy reading (Childrens Book
Council [CBC], 2016). Their annotated list is divided into suggested age ranges, including Young
Readers (Grades 3-4, Ages 8-10), which would be good selections for transitional readers. From this
list children across the country vote for the Childrens Choice Book Awards. Five books are
nominated for Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of Year and one grand winner is named (CBC,
Another award to watch is the annual Gryphon Award from the Center for Children's Books,
based at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at


Urbana-Champaign. According to their website, "The Gryphon Award of $1,000 is given annually in
recognition of an English language work of fiction or nonfiction for which the primary audience is
children in Kindergarten through Grade 4. The title chosen best exemplifies those qualities that
successfully bridge the gap in difficulty between books for reading aloud to children and books for
practiced readers. The Gryphon award was conceived as a way to focus attention on an area of
literature for youth that, despite being crucial to the successful transition of new readers to
independent lifelong readers, does not get the critical recognition it deserves." (Graduate School of
Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2013). Every year
since 2004 one book has won the top prize and two or three honor books have been named.
On May 1, 2016 the Washington Library Media Association will announce its first OTTER
(Our Time to Enjoy Reading) award. This award was conceived by school librarian Arika Dickens as
a way to promote transitional literature. On her blog she writes, Designed for children in 1st, 2nd, and
3rd grades, these titles are intended for transitional readers. They have ample white space, larger font
size, adequate line spacing, and/or illustrations. Most importantly, they have been read and approved
by young readers. These are books kids like. (2015). The award criteria includes a positive
representation of diversity also. All six nominees are books librarians may want to get for transitional
When librarians think of transitional readers, elementary students come to mind, but some
high school students have this literacy level. High interest-low level books for teens, like the
Soundings series published by Orca, are designed for these readers (Bean, 2004). These books are
appropriate for English language learners and adult literacy students at this literacy level as well.
High school and public librarians should be aware of these materials if they serve patrons in this


Other ways to discover popular reading choices are: consulting bestseller lists, asking other
librarians, conducting surveys, working with a student advisory group, and discussing books with
students in an informal, spontaneous way.
Instructional Practice
Since librarians possess a deep understanding of print and digital materials and information
processes, it is only natural that librarians teach literacy skills. The AASL Position Statement on the
School Librarian's Role in Reading states, While the responsibility for the successful implementation
of reading promotion and instruction is shared by the entire school community, library programs
serve as hubs of literacy learning in the school. (2010). This can be done through stand-alone
lessons in the library, but is most effectively achieved through collaboration with classroom teachers
of all subject areas (AASL, 2010).
Szymusiak et al. have "identified six areas of skill development that most often require
explicit instruction and support from teachers." (p. 58). These areas are (a) learning to select
appropriate books; (b) sustaining comprehension; (c) maintaining interest over an entire book;
(d) understanding many genres; (d) decoding and fluency skills; and (e) using text features.
(pp. 58-60). Some transitional readers need instruction in one or two areas, some students need
instruction with more skills. The following activities give students the support they need to move to
the next literacy stage.
Gehsmann and Templeton recognize that any classroom contains students at all points along
the literacy continuum and emphasize differentiation of instruction. They offer teaching strategies
that librarians can easily adopt. One strategy is reading aloud. Challenging texts are used to "expose
all students to sophisticated vocabulary and concepts" (p. 12). After listening, students engage in
conversations about the text designed to help them meet objectives like predicting, summarizing,


identifying main idea and supporting details, and differentiating between facts and opinions. From
these experiences the instructor creates anchor charts which students can refer to during independent
work time. This is an activity the librarian can easily employ during stand-alone or collaborative
Tankersley (2005) also advocates reading aloud. "For students to become fluent readers, they
must hear good models of what fluent reading sounds like and be able to imitate them." (p. 49). She
also recommends students perform poems, plays, and Readers' Theater to improve fluency.
Interviews, debates, and mock trials can improve oral fluency. Positive feedback from peers and the
teacher are an essential component of the activity. These are activities the librarian can incorporate as
well as the classroom teacher.
Mini-lessons are another technique from Gehsmann and Templeton that librarians can use
when teaching literacy skills. During direct instruction, the instructor uses a text and graphic
organizer to model a concept like cause and effect. The teacher solicits ideas from the class to
complete the data. Students are then directed to practice the concept with their own level-specific
texts in small groups or individually. These charts can be used in writing instruction to help students
organize their products as well.
Gehsmann and Templeton also describe how to effectively use mentor texts in writing
instruction. Mentor texts are used in whole group instruction to model specific writing techniques
that students will practice independently later. Students share work in small groups, giving the
opportunity for peer assessment and feedback. Librarians can help classroom ELA teachers select
mentor texts and co-teach writing lessons.
A final idea from Gehsmann and Templeton is developmentally responsive small group
instruction (p. 13). The teacher reinforces the mini-lesson and mentor texts the whole class uses at


the students' literacy level. Beginning level students might focus on word recognition and decoding
skills. Transitional students study text features and literary elements, vocabulary, comprehension,
writing conventions, and the author's craft. Intermediate students are given coaching on their written
products, refining their arguments, and analyzing texts. Librarians co-teaching with classroom ELA
teachers can help with groups such as these. Librarians with a flexible schedule can pull an
enrichment group to deliver just-in-time ELA instruction, helping them work on a project assigned by
the classroom teacher, creating a project, and using a project collaboratively planned by the librarian
and teacher.
Many schools employ a Reading Buddies program, where children are matched with older
students, usually two or more grades ahead. This strategy helps students move from Beginning to
Transitional literacy, and is a way for transitional readers to improve their skills. The help of an older,
more experienced reader helps the novice reader bridge the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky,
1978, as cited in Ross, et al., 2006). Not surprisingly the younger pupil makes greater gains, but the
older students fluency improves as well (Caserta-Henry, 1996). The most successful programs take
time to train the older students. Mentor readers learned how to select appropriate books, praise and
redirect the younger child, ask probing questions, and read aloud effectively. In successful programs,
the teachers carefully match the reading buddies, looking for compatible personalities and skill levels
(Theurer & Burson, 2008). The school librarian can initiate or assist with a reading buddy program:
training the older buddies, providing materials, and reserving library space for reading buddy time.
Facility Organization


Transitional readers need help locating resources in the library. Librarian can label highinterest sections (McKee & Torp. 2011). Clear, illustrated signs with the dinosaur books in the 560s
or jokes at the 810s direct students to popular sections.
Time for reading at school is important because many students do not have a home
environment that is conducive to reading (Krashen, 2004). In addition to supplying the reading
materials, libraries can provide comfortable reading areas in the media center. We can schedule times
before and after school that students can come in for independent reading. Students need this time of
free, voluntary reading to achieve the flow which will build their reading stamina and help them reach
the next literacy level (Krashen, 2004).
IV. Issues and Controversies Surrounding Transitional Literacy
Lack of Diversity
Research shows the increased motivation students demonstrate when they have books that
reflect their culture. Evidence suggests increased engagement leads to better comprehension, recall,
phonological awareness, and fluency (De Leon, 2002; Hefflin & Barksdale-Ladd, 2001; Gangi, 2008,
as cited in Hughes-Hassell, Koehler, & Barklay, 2010). Hughes-Hassell, Koehler, and Barklay (2010)
analyzed transitional literature and discovered only 16.9% of books at this level features African
American characters and only 2.2% was created by African American authors. "It seems that at a
time in their lives when it is most critical for them to engage with texts, African American children
are not being presented with enough books that are written by people who can provide culturally
DEVELOPMENT section, para. 2).
Hughes-Hassell et al. have assembled a bibliography of multicultural transitional readers.
This can be used to help librarians with collection development. The authors have other suggestions


for librarians. They encourage librarians to write to publishers asking for more transitional books
written by black authors and featuring black protagonists. Also write to the authors themselves
asking them to considering creating work in this format. Librarians should "provide professional
development for teachers and administrators about the role multicultural literature plays in reading
motivation and achievement for African American children. Many teachers may be unaware of the
negative consequences using literature that features mainly animals and White children potentially
has on the literacy development of African American children. Include in this conversation, a
discussion of the importance of dispelling the belief among some Black children that doing well in
school is an exclusively White domain." (RECOMMENDED STRATEGIES section, para. 1).
Additionally, they encourage librarians to organize sessions for parents showing them how to select
books for this reading level and recommending culturally and linguistically relevant books.
In the article Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors (1990) Bishop writes how diverse
childrens literature has a positive impact on minority children and those from the dominant culture as
well. Children from dominant social groups have always found their mirrors in books, but they, too,
have suffered from the lack of availability of books about others. They need books that will help
them understand the multicultural nature of the world they live in, and their place as a member of just
one group, as well as their connections to all other humans. (n.p.). Librarians should be aware of
ordering and promoting materials with positive portrayals of African Americans, as Hughes-Hassell
advocates, and seek out representations of other groups, too. Materials for transitional readers with
diverse races, religions, nationalities, abilities, ages, and sexual identities will allow students to see
themselves and gain understanding of others while learning valuable literacy skills.
Using (and Misusing) Leveled Books


In their book Beyond Leveled Readers: Supporting Early and Transitional Readers in Grades
K-5, Szymusiak et al.(2008) give an explanation of how leveled books came to be a staple of
American elementary schools. The first leveled reading materials were the McGuffeys Readers,
anthologies for specific grade levels that were published from 1836-1907. The phonetically regular
and controlled vocabulary basal readers of the 1950s and 1960s were not much different from these
early primers. Naturally, these stories were stilted and lacked authentic language. Basals published
in the 1970s and 1980s included natural language and more attention to story quality. In the 1980s
and 1990s literature-based programs with authentic reading became popular, but didnt meet the
needs of struggling readers. Leveled books with phonetically regular, easily decodable language,
sight words, and predictable patterns were introduced to fill this need.
The authors do not condemn leveled reading materials, but censure the ways some educators
use them. They write, We need to remember that we added those first leveled readers years ago to
fill a small gap in our classroom libraries. They were never intended to replace a broad range of
reading material or to be the only material that students read on their own (p. 22).
Programs that help educators identify the level of books in their collection can be a useful
tool. Teachers can use these resources to match readers with good, interesting books at the
appropriate level for independent and guided reading. However, some teachers misuse the system
and restrict the students book choices to specific levels. This has many negative side-effects. It hurts
their chances of becoming lifelong readers because they do not learn how readers select books. They
do not have ownership over their reading experiences and this dampens their enthusiasm. The
formats are limited; students do not get to experience periodicals, poetry, or graphic novels.
Children in elementary classrooms need to have choice in what they read if they are going to
develop the skills to become lifelong readers (p. 14).


Moreillon (2013) provides another reason that using Lexile level as the only criterion for book
selection is a mistake. The Lexile score is a measure of language complexity, but does not take into
account content. She gives the example of Markus Zusaks The Book Thief. With a Lexile of 730, the
book can be read by a fifth grade student, but the content is beyond most students this age. Forcht
(2012) suggests librarians educate classroom teachers about the strengths and limitations of the Lexile
Another misuse: leveling systems were not intended to be a tool of student assessment.
Using them this way has negative consequences. Children, parents, and some teachers began to
focus on moving to higher levels instead of paying attention to what readers were doing and how
particular books supported them (Szymusiak et al., 2008, p. 13). The authors interviewed students
as young as kindergarten who focused on achieving the next level and have little interest in what they
are reading. When levels are key, they dont learn to pay attention to authors they love, to read
nonfiction topics that interest them, or to talk to others about characters they relate to (p. 21). These
students are not getting the true purpose of reading for entertainment or information, and this mindset
persists as the students pass from the emergent level to the transitional stage. Students continue to
feel driven to race to the next level. The authors explain that many students who are capable of
reading chapter books abandon picture books entirely, even though many picture books are a perfect
match. The students miss the rich vocabulary and themes picture books offer. "It is our role to
help ... our transitional readers understand that fatter chapter books are not necessarily better than
picture books" (p. 48). Librarians can use book talks to accomplish this.
Many classroom libraries are arranged solely by levels. The authors caution, If all of our
[classroom] library space is organized into baskets by level, students will think that level is what
matters (p. 21). They suggest some creative classroom library organizations that school librarians


can share with the staff. They suggest categories like Favorite Authors, Interesting Nonfiction Topics,
Favorite Book Characters, Song Books, Familiar Stories, Interesting People, and Books Weve Read
Aloud. The school librarian can help teachers develop and arrange their classroom libraries. Some of
these categories would make interesting library displays or booktalk topics too.
We cannot imagine the entire collection of a school library arranged by levels, but librarians
might be asked to indicate the reading level on the book. Moreillon offers a compelling argument
against labelling books: When a students proficiency level is indicated on a books spine, peers and
other students parents have access to confidential information. This loss of privacy should be of
concern to librarians who hold confidentiality as a core value (p. 29). If librarians are required to
include the reading level, it must be done in a discreet manner. Forcht suggests, Adding the Lexile
level to the cataloging system and perhaps including it somewhere on the book can lessen the
frustration for the student who needs an on-level reader (p. 22).
The authors encourage educators to think beyond levels when selecting books for instruction,
and look at text features. "Instead of focusing on levels, we look for supports in various books that
can be used to teach skills these readers lack" (p. 75). Librarians can conduct lessons on skills like
making inferences, recognizing flashbacks, and using background knowledge. They can help
teachers select books that align with their teaching objectives.
Skill Building vs. Whole Language ELA Instruction
Educators have long-debated the best methods to teach reading. Krashen (2002) explains, the
advocates for phonics instruction and word study methods favor the "Skill-Building Hypothesis", a
bottom-up approach where students learn rules and patterns, then apply them to words and reading.
This method involves a lot of direction instruction and error correction. The proponents of whole
language instruction hold with the "Comprehension Hypothesis". This top-down method involves


providing students with lots of interesting texts with mostly comprehensible language. Direct
instruction of skills is only employed when those skills make the text more comprehensible to
A major criticism of phonics instructions is the complexity and irregularity of the English
language. For every phonics "rule" taught, there are dozens of exceptions and contradictions.
Krashen refers to many studies that show some of the best-known rules work in less than 50% of
English words. The adage "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking" is true 45%
of the time according to one study (Clymer, 1966, as cited in Krashen, 2002). Consider the words
"fruit" and "build".
Krashen points out that the advocates for phonics lack one important thing: evidence to
support the assertion that students need great quantities of phonics. "To support such a claim, one
would have to show that there are substantial numbers of children who have learned to read without
extensive phonics training (this is easy to find), and also substantial numbers of children who cannot
'learn to read by reading,' who require extensive phonics instruction. The existence of this second
group has never been demonstrated: To do so, one must find large numbers of children who have
been read to, who have substantial exposure to comprehensible and interesting texts, and who
nevertheless fail to learn to read." (THE COMPLEXITY ARGUMENT: JOHNSON [2001] section,
para. 9).
Krashen conducted a meta-analysis of 11 studies comparing the reading comprehension scores
of classes that primarily used phonics instruction and classes that predominately used whole language
strategies. After ruling out studies that did not meet the criteria, he concluded, "these studies actually
provide evidence for the limits of phonics instruction and the efficacy of whole language"


Cantrell sought to compare the effects of skill-building instruction and meaning-centered
literacy instruction on reading and writing. She studied eight third grade classes in Kentucky. Four
teachers employed whole-language strategies the majority of the time, and four teachers implemented
these strategies to a low degree. In the first group Chambers observed lots of open-ended discussion
and writing in response to literature and content-specific readings (i.e. science and social studies),
interaction among the students and between the students and the teacher, and more use of authentic
texts than basals. Skill instruction usually occurred in the context of the reading material and the
students own writing. In the second group, she observed more use of worksheets, flashcards,
computerized drills, and basal readers.
When the reading assessments of students in all classes were analyzed, both groups performed
equally well on measures of word analysis, but the students of teachers who use meaning-centered
methods did better on tests of reading comprehension, fluency, and language mechanics. The content
of written pieces, use of language mechanics, and spelling were scored significantly higher for
students of high implementors than for students of low implementors. Chambers concluded, It
appears that the high implementors in this study were effective teachers of reading and writing,
especially since they worked with many students who might be considered at risk based on their
socio-economic status. In that same vein, it could be said that the low implementors were less
effective in leading students to high levels of literacy." (p. 20). She goes on to say, The fact that
these teachers engaged students in many meaningful literacy experiences and activities as well as
provided explicit instruction in reading and writing skills further illustrates that skill instruction can
and should be part of meaning-centered literacy programs for young children. It appears that skill
development is enhanced, however, when students have many opportunities over the course of the
school day to practice using their skills through meaningful reading and writing activities." (p. 24).


The 2000 report by the National Reading Panel supported phonemic awareness (PA)
instruction as a part of reading instruction program. "PA training does not constitute a complete
reading program. Although the present meta-analysis confirms that PA is a key component that can
contribute significantly to the effectiveness of beginning reading and spelling instruction, there is
obviously much more that needs to be taught to children to enable them to acquire reading and
writing competence. PA instruction is intended only as a critical foundational piece. It helps children
grasp how the alphabetic system works in their language and helps children read and spell words in
various ways. However, literacy acquisition is a complex process for which there is no single key to
success. Teaching phonemic awareness does not ensure that children will learn to read and write.
Many other competencies must be taught for this to happen" (pp. 2.6-2.7). Their meta-analysis of 96
studies found students in kindergarten and first grade benefitted the most from phonics instruction. It
markedly improved word recognition, reading of pseudowords, spelling, and comprehension for
beginning literacy students. Children in second through sixth grades did not benefit as greatly.
From all of this research we surmise that for transitional readers whole language strategies
should be center stage with phonics and discrete skill instruction playing a supporting role. Skills
should be taught at the point of need and in meaningful context with authentic pieces. Librarians can
employ this teaching method during stand-alone mini lessons in the library. Librarians can include
whole-language strategies when planning and co-teaching lessons with teachers, regardless of the
subject matter being addressed.
V. References
American Association of School Librarians. (2010, September 1). Position Statement on the School
Librarians Role in Reading. Retrieved from


Bean, J. (May 31, 2004). In Search of New Readers. Publishers Weekly, 251, 22.
Bishop, R.S. (1990). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives, 6(3), ixxi. Retrieved
on April 1, 2016 from
Cantrell, S. C. (December 07, 1999). The Effects of Literacy Instruction on Primary Students'
Reading and Writing Achievement. Reading Research and Instruction, 39, 1, 3-26.
Caserta-Henry, C. (March 01, 1996). Reading Buddies: A first-grade intervention program. The
Reading Teacher, 49, 6, 500.
Childrens Book Council. (2016). Childrens Choices. New York: Author. Retrieved from
Cianciolo, P. J.. (1989). No Small Challenge: Literature for the Transitional Readers. Language
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Hughes-Hassell, S., Koehler, E., & Barkley, H. A. (2010). Supporting the literacy needs of African
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Efficacy of Whole Language Instruction. Reading Improvement, 39,1, 32-42.
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review)(Book review). Reading Today, 26, 1.
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Appendix A
Library Lesson Plan for Transitional Literacy Students
Title: Is the Bunny Really a Vampire?: Making Inferences with Bunnicula
Grade Level: 4th

Literacy Level: Transitional

Library Context: Flexible

Collaboration Continuum: Extensive collaboration: The 4th grade teachers collaborate with the
librarian to plan and deliver instruction and assess the students.
Content Topic: Making inferences
Estimated Lesson Time: 50 minutes.
Standards for the 21 Century Learner:

1.1.2 Use prior and background knowledge as context for new learning.
1.1.6 Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (e.g., textual, visual,
media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning.
2.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to analyze and organize information.
Scenario: Transitional readers need to learn to make inferences based on longer texts (Jacobson,
2003; Szymusiak, et al. 2008), a skill that is required of them by the fourth grade Common Core
ELA standards. To help students master this skill, the librarian approached the fourth grade
teachers about collaborating to teach an inference lesson as part of the class unit on Bunnicula.
Connections to State and Local Standards:
Common Core ELA Standards:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.1 - Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining
what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
North Carolina Information and Technology Essential Standards:


4.IN.1.1 Implement appropriate reading strategies when reading for information.
Overview: Fourth grade ELA classes are engaged in a unit around Bunnicula by Deborah and
James Howe. Prior to this lesson, the classroom teacher read aloud the introduction and first
chapter, and students answered comprehension questions. Since students benefit from repeated
readings of a text (Tankersley, 2005), the librarian will read aloud passages from the introduction
and first chapter, having students focus on drawing inferences from the text. The librarian will
model how to use the It Says - I Say - And So graphic organizer for making inferences.
Graphic organizers help students visualize a concept and can serve as anchor charts for future
practice (Gehsmann, 2011). The students will then work in pairs to complete the chart on a
Google doc. At the end of class the students will participate in an interactive quiz game on
Kahoot! regarding author, main ideas, and inferences.
Final Product:
Completed It Says I Say And So graphic organizer from Reading Rockets
Library Lessons:
Students will

make inferences from the text.

organize information in a graphic organizer.

use technology to respond.

collaborate with others to complete a task.

Assessment Products and Processes:

While students are answering questions from the video, the librarian and teacher will
monitor answers to gauge students facility with making inferences.



The teacher and librarian will circulate while students are completing the graphic
organizer, offering feedback and help as needed. Completed graphic organizers will be
used to determine how much more instruction is needed with this topic.

Students will take an interactive Kahoot! quiz to demonstrate their knowledge of the
main idea of the text and inferences regarding the text they have already read. The
librarian and teacher can use the results of the quiz to determine how much more
instruction is needed with these topics.
Instructional Plan


Class set of Bunnicula

Computer w. projector or SMARTBoard

It Says - I Say - And So graphic organizer on Google docs



Direct Instruction:
1. Prior to this lesson, the teacher has introduced the book and read aloud the first chapter to the
class. Students have answered basic comprehension questions about the text.
2. The librarian will define inferences and ask the class what they know about making
inferences from a text.
Modeling and Guided Practice:
3. The students will watch the video What Can You Infer? from Youtube which allows them to
practice making inferences. They will write their answers on individual white boards.


4. The media coordinator will read aloud passages from the introduction and first chapter of the
book and model how to fill out the It Says - I Say - And So graphic organizer.
Making Inferences Graphic Organizer
It Says I Say And So
Names: _______________________________________________________
The following graphic organizer helps you to find information in a text and put it together with
what you already know to come up with a complete answer.

Think about the

Who is the narrator of

the story?

Does the family seem

concerned that the
bunny might be a

How do Toby and

Peter get along?

How does Howard

feel about his family?

It says
Find information from
the text that will help
answer the question.

I say

And so

Think about what

Combine what the
you know about that text says with what
you know to make an


Independent Practice:
5. The students will work in pairs, reading and filling out the graphic organizer on Google docs
using Chromebooks.
Sharing and Reflecting:
6. At the end of class students will participate in the interactive Kahoot! quiz game. Kahoot!
gives students immediate feedback, allowing students to see the content they have mastered and
areas for further practice.

The teacher may create strategic groups for the think/pair/share activity.

Students who struggle with writing may use a speech-to-text app.

Computer video and audio can be adjusted appropriately for students with vision or
hearing impairments.

ELL students may use a translation or text-to-speech app.

Gehsmann, K. M., & Templeton, S. (January 01, 2011). Stages and Standards in Literacy:
Teaching Developmentally in the Age of Accountability. Journal of Education,191, 1, 516.
Jacobson, J. R. (September 01, 2003). Helping Students Make the Leap from Beginning Readers
to Chapter Books. Knowledge Quest, 32, 1, 37-38.
Szymusiak, K., Sibberson, F. & Koch, L. (2008). Beyond leveled books: supporting early and
transitional readers in grades K-5. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.


Tankersley, K., & Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (2005).Literacy
strategies for grades 4-12: Reinforcing the threads of reading. Alexandria, Va:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
WELCOME TO DJ MASTER Cs WEB SHOWS! (February 22, 2009). What Can You Infer?
[Video]. Retrieved on April 1, 2016 from
WETA Public Broadcasting. (2015). It Says I Say And So [Graphic Organizer PDF].
Reading Rockets. Retrieved on April 1, 2016 from


Appendix B
Annotated Bibliography of Sources for Librarians Working with Transitional Literacy