Program Approach for Reading
The BJU Press elementary reading program challenges students to engage with what they read. Literature—whether it is fiction, nonfiction, drama, or poetry—enables people to consider, make sense of, celebrate, lament, and even change the world. We want students to enjoy reading all types of literature so that they will become lifelong readers. We also want them to analyze, interpret, and evaluate everything they read from a biblical worldview. More than any other people, Christians should value reading because God reveals Himself to His people through a book. In addition to helping us know God, reading skills also prepare us to be better servants of Christ. The apostle Paul lays out for us the standard by which Christians should measure what they read: things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and commendable (Phil. 4:8). In other words, we should read that which conveys truth, goodness, and beauty.
Fostering the Joy of Reading
Students who are properly equipped to read are more likely to enjoy reading so much that they will pursue it on their own. However, in order to get there, students must have a reason to start reading. Our hope is that a lifelong love for reading begins in each student using our elementary reading materials. The teacher materials, basal readers, and novel studies have been designed to motivate and engage the students with a wide variety of literature. Teacher editions provide suggestions for exciting introductions and interactive lessons that help capture students’ attention before they start reading. The basal readers use a colorful design with a balance between open space and text. Each selection is age-appropriate and leveled according to student ability, and the selections offer variety between author styles and genres. Students should have every opportunity to actively participate in each lesson.
The BJU Press reading teacher editions encourage using reading groups so that teachers can tailor instruction to student needs. Teachers can move at a slower or faster pace according to the needs of each group. The teacher editions offer additional opportunities for scaffolded learning, as well as questions that can be selected or adapted to meet the abilities of the group.
Integrating a Systematic Phonics Approach to Decoding
Because the study of phonics is an important tool for teaching reading, the BJU Press elementary reading program begins phonemic awareness and instruction in K3–K5 and progresses to systematic phonics instruction starting in grade 1. Students are introduced to the forty-four sounds of the English language by using phonemic awareness activities that emphasize identifying the beginning, middle, and ending sounds of words. The program also highlights reliable syllable patterns in one-syllable words that students can later apply to more complex words. Students will be able to practice and learn letter-sound association and syllable patterns by using phonograms, or word families—a set of words that share the same vowel pattern as well as the same consonant pattern after the vowel pattern.
Teaching Vocabulary in Context
The elementary reading program provides strategies for learning new vocabulary words from the surrounding contexts. Students will learn to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words so that they can become more proficient readers. As they find new words and learn their meanings, students will be able to use them in discussion and apply comprehension in worktext activities.
To develop reading fluency, students need regular opportunities to apply the strategies they have learned during silent and oral reading. The basal readers and additional novel studies included in the reading program offer abundant opportunities for silent reading practice, while the teacher edition offers suggestions for oral reading practice. Silent reading is a vital life skill that is strongly emphasized throughout the BJU Press reading program. However, it’s a difficult skill to assess. The teacher edition will include direction on measuring a student’s silent reading skills, including observing the student’s ability to use context clues to determine unknown words, to apply metacognitive skills to the reading, and to demonstrate comprehension. Oral reading, on the other hand, is a demonstrative skill that gives students an opportunity to communicate what they have learned. Again, the teacher edition will include guidelines for assessing oral reading. Students excel at oral reading when their reading sounds like normal speech and when it demonstrates phrasing, pacing, and rhythm that match the meaning of the text. While both oral and silent reading have their functions in a reading lesson, the teacher editions emphasize having each student read silently at his or her own pace before reading it aloud or discussing it.
The BJU Press elementary reading program teaches students key strategies for developing reading comprehension. Along with continued phonics instruction to reinforce early reading skills, students will learn reading strategies for comprehension. The teacher and student editions give suggestions for a reading-process approach (before reading, during reading, and after reading) for introducing a text and maintaining focus for comprehension. Close reading strategies will help students get more from a story in a single reading. Questions in the student text will encourage students to find cause-and-effect relationships within the text, while self-monitoring questions will help them stay focused on key details during reading. Students will also be able to study literary terms that help them to understand not only what is happening in a story, but also why it’s happening. The teacher edition offers suggestions for using graphic organizers for understanding the text and organizing information, including Venn diagrams and KWL charts. These items can also be found on Teacher Tools Online. Discussion questions in the teacher edition develop higher-order thinking skills. Additionally, the reading skills and strategies developed throughout the program naturally translate to Bible study.
Developing Discernment by Evaluation from a Biblical Worldview
Ultimately, students must learn discernment as they decide the value of the literature they read and what literature they will read on their own. Lessons integrate biblical principles that help students evaluate what they read through the lens of the Bible. Selections in the student edition will point students to specific statements in Scripture that help them respond to the texts they read. Retellings of Bible accounts and selections taken directly from the Bible teach students to read Scripture using the reading strategies they have developed throughout the course.
Reading: The Key to Language Arts
At BJU Press, we want to challenge students both spiritually and academically. We want them to grow as they are learning to think biblically, applying critical-thinking skills, and enjoying what they learn. The key to success across all the subject areas and even throughout life is reading ability. An integrated, well-balanced language arts program is crucial to helping students achieve this success. It provides practice with skills necessary for all other content areas. BJU Press phonics, reading, spelling, handwriting, and English materials offer a consistent and progressive approach to all components of language arts—including writing. A reading program that does not incorporate writing skills is not reaching its full potential. The BJU Press reading program includes a heavy emphasis on developing writing skills for communicating effectively in a God-honoring way. Students will have opportunities to apply grammar, spelling, and handwriting skills as well as practice responding to literature through writing.