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Home› Languages› Khmer› Written Language› Stages of Reading Development

Stages of Reading Development

The process of ‘learning to read’ and ‘reading to learn’ has been conceptualized along a continuum of stages (Chall, 1983), which provides the conceptual framework to better understand and assess reading performance from linguistic and culturally diverse students.

Among these are the Khmer language background students in USA classrooms who are the children or grandchildren of Cambodian refugees. These children, born in the United States exhibit varying degrees of proficiency in both Khmer and in English. In the Lowell Public Schools, most of the Cambodian students have not had instruction in the reading and writing of the Khmer language; they learn to read and write through English. Many of the American English words used in their instruction may be totally unknown to them in terms of understanding and speaking. Therefore, there is no influence of print but there is an influence of sound and culture. Linguistic influences in English encompass several factors:

  1. The students’ pronunciation of words and sounds in English, given the Khmer influences.
  2. The second language stage reached by each student.
  3. The knowledge and understanding of the words being used for reading.
Stage Reading Stages Indicators
Learning to Read

Pre-Reading Stage

Pre-Stage 1

Oral Language Development

  • Monolingual American English learner is growing though the process of native language development. On the other hand, a Khmer background student is acquiring English as an additional language and exhibits different levels of proficiency.
  • Relies on their non-visual information and contextual knowledge to begin reading. Khmer background students usually rely on visual information and their cultural funds of knowledge which are likely to be different from the majority culture.
  • Knows the English alphabet (if available in environmental context).
  • Uses logographic information to make guesses about words.

Initial Reading Stage

Stage 1


  • Knows that letters represent speech sounds.
  • Understands that speech sounds can be represented by letters.
  • Attempts to break the written language code.

Confirmation and Fluency Stage

Stage 2

Reading Fluency

  • Reads orally.
  • Reads written text with increasing fluency.
  • Consolidates knowledge graphophonic English elements and contextual meaning depending on the level of background knowledge in monolingual American English.
  • Progressively acquires orthographic knowledge of words.
  • Reaches automaticity in word recognition.

Note: Chall often calls this stage as "more of the same", the learner needs the opportunity to sharpen the skills of reading - translating graphic symbols into meaningful language.

Reading to Learn

Reading for Learning the New Stage

Stage 3

Reading to Learn

  • Reads is to learn new information.
  • Reading FLUENCY and GRAPHOPHONICS have been mastered in English as L1.
  • Expands vocabulary.
  • Builds background knowledge.

Multiple Viewpoints Stage

Stage 4 (high school)

Multiple Viewpoints

  • Analysis written expository and narrative text critically.
  • Analyzes what has been read and reacts critically to the different viewpoints encountered.
  • Reader deals with learning from multiple viewpoints.
  • Understands multiple points of view.

Construction & Reconstruction Stage

Stage 5 (college)

(Re) Construction

  • Reading serves to integrate one's knowledge with that of others, to synthesize it.

L1 – Primary/Native Language
L2 – Second language

Adapted from: Chall, J. (1983). © by Professor Maria de Lourdes Serpa (1983,2005).

To learn more: Chall’s Stages of Reading Development

©2005 Maria de Lourdes Serpa.
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