Understanding Assessing and Teaching Reading

Understanding Assessing and Teaching Reading

  • Developing Diagnostic Assessments to Improve Data-Driven Instruction

  • Linguistic, Prior Knowledge, Cognition, and Observations involved in assessment creation.

Hearing the words: assessment, evaluation, and data can give you a variety of emotions, ideas, and memories. For a child, assessment is something that can be rudimentary or boring. However, as we know assessments, if delivered accurately can provide insight and knowledge for your child.


Moreover, evaluation tools with the appropriate metrics and information can help you make better-informed decisions. Your evaluations include seeing how a child learns from observations, and formal measures outlined by your district or standards.


Below are a few things to remember when designing assessments or even using a company’s assessment to improve instruction.



Linguistics is a child’s language experience. Their language comes from home experiences as well as the school where the word structure that is picked up in both environments may differ. In Assessing Readers the author poses the questions on what experiences do their families have when it comes to language. Do they sing at home? Are there different native languages?




Prior Knowledge

A child’s existing knowledge or prior knowledge varies. We all come from different experiences and different backgrounds. A learner’s personal experience can determine how they make decisions and even react to certain topics.

For example, if a teacher asked an open-ended question saying, what is a pet. Neither list is wrong but shows that their schema, or body of knowledge, differs because of their experiences and prior knowledge. 





-Guinea pig




Our cognition can be categorized as schema. “Fulbrook shares schema here


“Schemas are categories of information stored in long-term memory. A schema contains groups of linked memories, concepts, or words. This grouping of things acts as a cognitive shortcut, making storing new things in your long-term memory and retrieval of them much quicker and more efficient.-Fulbrook


  • Schemata have variables
  • Schemata can embed one with another
  • Schemata represents generic to abstract concepts
  • Schemata represents knowledge from experiences rather than definitions.

    Schema is an educational and brain theory that explains how knowledge is constructed and organized in someone’s mind.

Thinking about affective is being empathetic about the child’s emotions/attitudes, interests, feelings, and needs. If designing an assessment to understand the learner, a basic interest inventory is always useful.


  1. What do you like about (topic)?
  2. What do you dislike about (topic)?
  3. Do you read for fun?
  4. What is your favorite thing to do, tell me why?
  5. How do you feel when?

Hopefully from these conversations, you can gather a deeper picture of the learner than before.

Cultural and Sociocultural Influences 


While experiences make a difference in a child’s learning, they are at home culture cannot be forgotten. “each is also strongly influenced by an individuals’ cultural and sociocultural background.

When you think about a home where a child speaks Black Language (use examples from Professor) they are accustomed to a language that differs from their academic English skills.

Also, if a child is Deaf or Hard of Hearing and learns American Sign Language. They have to learn the English language syntax, and their deaf culture influences their classroom experience.


“Teachers need to plan assessment and instruction to fairly evaluate a child in their classrooms so that each child is given maximum opportunities and encouragement to succeed.” -Flippo Assessing Readers




Observing a child gives authentic viewpoints about how he or she acts, thinks, and speaks. These observations can give you different performance metrics. With observations, it is critical to ask open-ended questions and take

 Informal Reading Interventions (IRI)

 Involve learners reading word lists, and answering questions about their readings.


 When grading, you can make an educated guess where the learner is on the Independent Level-Can read a passage on their own with ease and without any support:

Independent Level-can read without support and can comprehend the reading.

Instruction Level-Can read but might need prompting or support to read.

 Frustration Level-Struggles to read where multiple mistakes are made, rereading, skipping, or being unable to read the passage at all.


A Running Records are commercially prepared and can also be prepared by educators or professionals. Running records are historically manually given where an educator or professional evaluates one child at a time.

 1. Child and teacher sit across from each other.


2. Child reads a short passage out loud.


3. While the child reads, the teacher marks any miscues, repetitions, and more on their sheet. This sheet has the same passage that the child reads but is formatted for markings.


4. Once complete, the teacher will provide another story that is easier or more difficult and continue the same process.

5. Preferably in one session and child reads 1-3 passages, and the teacher also asks a series of questions.

There are so many different assessments especially with commercial assessments: Survey, diagnostic, standardized, norm-referenced, criterion-referenced, grade-level equivalent, and age-level equivalent.


As always do not forget these assessments that are being created could have errors. Over the years, educators have discovered problems with test questions, limitations in context, validity, authenticity, and even relevance. Historically standardized tests and commercially driven assessments have widened the gap making this now an Opportunity Gap.

 More here about Standardized Tests


With the data gathered from an assessment, you can use the information to create your lesson plans, small group instruction, and units of studies. The assessments should have the insights so you can teach the appropriate skills to move your students forward. 

 At Pennez, we want to speak with our readers and learn about their educational needs. What is exciting we launched an online tool called Read2Think which delivers running records online using Artificial Intelligence. If you would like to pilot our program, click here.














Author Spotlight C.L. Fails-LaunchCrate Publishing

Author Spotlight C.L. Fails-LaunchCrate Publishing

  1. Founder of LaunchCrate shares her story.

2. C.L Fails writes children’s, teen, and adult books.

3. C.L. Fails writes to honor her mother and family.

In a small university classroom, Cynthia and her mother sat through hours and hours of lectures together. She quietly pretended to take notes while her mother participated in the classroom discussions. Once class ended, she and her mom walked to the humming copy machine. Her mother made copies for class, and Cynthia made copies too. Following her mother’s shadow, off to the university’s library, they checked out books. At a young age, Cynthia witnessed her mother being an adult learner who later earned her Master’s Degree and then a Ph.D. “Superpowers” is what Cynthia described her mother as having.

Later she witnessed her mother as an educator and worked professionally. “It struck a chord, I watched how she rephrased things. Put the power back in her court and made people appropriate or inappropriate in how they said things. I was fortunate for this experience.”-C.L. Fails


C.L Fails and Mother

Today, Fails writes stories inspired from her mother’s aptitude, strength, and superpowers. Her mother’s superpowers are honored in her book series with a main character named Ella. Fails was an educator herself and is currently an author, editor, copywriter, publisher, business owner, podcaster, and illustrator. In most of the stories that she writes, she places parts of her own experiences or individuals that she knows in her books. For example, one can find elements of her niece in her Ella books as well.

Fails self-published her first book in 2012. She had a 5-month gap in between jobs to create her first story. She wrote, The Christmas Story, because it was a story that she needed at the time. “Having faith in something you cannot see yet; A Christmas cookie waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve,” Fails explained. This book is a stocking stuffer.

Self-publishing was the option because the service that she was using profited from her work but she was not compensated for the work that she did herself. She learned through this hurdle that self-publishing had more opportunities for her. Later on, she began to write more and started her full-time job again. Juggling 40 hours of full-time work and 40 hours of writing books for herself, and others, did not make sense in her mind. This is why she developed LaunchCrate.

“The goal with LaunchCrate is to create ripples of change throughout the publishing industry. Trying to flip the publishing where it favors creatives author or the illustrator. We want to make sure they are receiving fair compensation for their work.”-C.L. Fails

LaunchCrate publishes books for children and adult audiences. Fails publishes her work under her company and has released not one but two series. Ella is her first, and Raine the Brain is her second series for teen audiences. Raine the Brain is also based loosely on her brother for preteen audiences. Fails expressed that her books and LaunchCrate had community support from the beginning, “When people believe in you then they believe in your work,” Fails shared.

Ella was the first series of books that LaunchCrate published. “Superpowers-the stuff you have in you that you are starting to develop are powerful tools that can help you be whoever you become. I saw how she navigated the world as a black woman. They are superpowers we all have within us. But I got to observe the way she navigated life in general. I wanted to make sure I highlighted those areas.”

“My hope is that people can see us as agents of hope for the publishing industry.” C.L. Fails

Fails juggles so much but is creating change within the publishing industry. She wants creatives to know there are different paths to success, and they have other options now that we have different multimedia tools in her hands.

“You know this title will be a ripple in the seed that creates change.” C.L Fails

Fails shared that everything that she has done has led to where she is today. “The good stuff and not so good stuff. Me choosing to self-publish that first book. Had I not chosen the path that I chose, I would not have learned what I learned today. Everything that I have experienced has propelled me.”

Fails exhibits those same Superpowers her mother exhibited-strength, high aptitude, creativity, and more. “I want people to know there are other options that exist. You don’t have to follow the same models as the big 5. Just because things have been done one way for decades doesn’t mean that they have to stay that way. Growth is the way things continue to evolve for communities and nations.” Her company LaunchCrate is publishing creative’s work that plants the seeds of knowledge in different communities.

Click Here if you would like to connect with LaunchCrate.

Author Spotlight-María García Esperón

Author Spotlight-María García Esperón

 María García Esperón is a researcher, historian, and writer of ancient Greek mythology. Her inspiration for history also comes from her research and visits to the ancient city of Teotihuacan. As a young woman, she discovered stories about her ancestors by her nanita, grandmother. Her nanita orally told her about the way that her people lived and is a writer because of the stories that her grandmother told. Esperón shared that many people in Mexico tell their history through oral traditions.

Esperón described that she is, “an expert in Aztec art and also in the ancient culture of Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan is like the Egyptian Pyramid-a complete city. The name means where men are formed into gods.” For Mexico, Teotihuacan is important because it has preserved landforms of how the people lived before the Spanish arrival.

In her newest book, Esperón wrote stories about the experiences of native people from the Americas. Each story was orally told and is found in, The Sea-Ring World, Sacred Stories of the Americas are oral mythological stories told from ancient people and tribes. It is a mythological book for children. It was first published and written in Spanish, in 2017 but published in English in 2020.

My books are raising the mystery. It is the story of our road, pilgrimage.

Esperón is a steward of literature and knows that through stories you can discover stories of humanity, “Travel back in time through literature.”-María Esperón

Her work started when she met a Spanish poet-Aurelio Gonzalez Ovies -Latin professor in Asturias. They became close friends because they both share a love for Greek and Roman literature. María explained that, “We were in Spain presenting one of my books, Dido for Aeneas (Female character). Once we said our goodbyes, he said, “Why don’t we write a book of Greek & Roman myths books for children?”

The book that she wrote with Ovies was a success called Dictionary of Classical Myths.

Years later, on a beautiful day in September 2017, Esperón was writing a poem. Her friend, Aurelio Gonzalez Ovies, emailed her proposing to write another book with her. She pressed “SEND” agreeing to the message, minutes later her floor shook, and she was thrown back into her chair. “Ahh,” she screamed. This was the 2017 Mexico City earthquake. This was not the first earthquake that  Esperón lived through. “I lived the earthquake of 1985 as well. For the first time, I realized the earth was alive. I thought it was concrete. I heard the earth, and I changed.”

She connected her life-altering experience to the myths of the Aztecs. Her studies of the Aztecs who inhabited Tenochtitlan and the people that lived in Teotihuacan shared prophecies of the world. She knew that these earthquakes and myths were predicted on the Aztec calendar.

“Coming here in 2017, when I felt the earthquake I felt that I must write a book of myths that define our America.”-Esperón

3 months later, after the 2017 earthquake, Esperón started writing the book. Her colleague designed the poems, and Esperón added additional flair to the text. In Spanish, this book is called “Dictionary of Myths in America.”

“This is the book of ethnicities, different people, and different cultures. The English title is due to the translator. He is a man who speaks nahuatl, the original Aztec language.”-Esperón

We have the power of our roots to speak aloud and become one. We are the same. The great spirit is mentioned in the book.

María’s work with the collaboration of Amanda Mijangos (illustrator) and David Bowles (translator) created a body of work that shares stories about the ways of life and beliefs of people who lived in the Americas. There are many ways to read. Esperón shared that, “Use the book and retell it in your own way, your own tradition, your own way of being.”

It is a book to play with. It was originally organized alphabetically in Spanish. You can learn about people from Andes, Guarani, Nahua, K’iche, Maya, Mexica and so much more.

In the English version, she suggests that you can read other myths in a different order, find connections. One can use this book to retell, perform, and to build on other stories. María García Esperón has lived through many experiences and has a joy for taking her readers into the past. María’s desire to write about ancient people comes from her lived experiences and from reading and hearing their stories. Discover stories about our ancestor’s belief, thoughts, and way of life in her book, The Sea-Ring World, Sacred Stories of the Americas.





How to Read Different Nonfiction Books

How to Read Different Nonfiction Books

  • Reading Nonfiction Picture Books

  • Reading Nonfiction Using Text Features

  • Reading Nonfiction with 0-10 year olds

Reading Nonfiction stories introduces new vocabulary words, truthful ideas, and new information about our world. Nonfiction can be defined as, informational text that expresses researched content from science, art, mathematics, history, engineering, and many other areas. As your child progresses into different stages of reading features will be important to know such as the text, the vocabulary, and topics. Many of these features will become more complex, and eventually, when they are in secondary or high school your reader will have more informational text to advance their studies.

In this article, you can find additional information about nonfiction reading here. 

At any stage that your child is in, you can read nonfiction text from infant, toddler, child, teen, and up. The best way to select nonfiction stories is to think about what your reader likes to do, and what you as a parent/guardian like to do. For example, if your child loves trucks, food, and planes then you can read about those topics. Alternatively, if you work in the arts or software then it would be good to read books about your areas of interest as well. 

Below you will find suggestions on How to Read Nonfiction Texts using examples from these nonfiction books.

My First 100 Technology Words



Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering


Little Legends


Ocean (Magnetology)

Nonfiction Feature: Photographs, Illustrations, Icons & Captions

Pre-K book Examples

Imagery can help your reader understand the language throughout the book. The image gives a reference to what the word means. To read nonfiction books such as, My First 100 Technology Words  or Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering series, the books use illustrations to expand on complex topics.

My 100 Technology Words is a visual text using images and captions. This book can support learning vocabulary. In addition, you can describe the word or icon as an example, stating in a sentence, or looking for other examples that you might see.

Example Questions

  • Hammer “A hammer is a tool used to… What can you use a hammer with?
  • Cloud “You can see clouds outside, but a cloud lives in the computer which keeps information.”
  • Lever “A lever can be found on your belt, the handle on a car door, even if place it right your arm.

Furthermore, using the word in different ways can build a deeper connection to the text and allow for you and your reader to have conversations. To make an iconic book even more real you can encourage them to draw/scribble, or even use their toys if it is similar to an image in the book.

A series of narrative nonfiction books are written in Baby Loves Series. These are a series of STEM and history books for children ages 0-3. The author takes complex topics and breaks them down with a character who demonstrates or plays with the topic. For example in the Gravity book the baby practices dropping things. In Aerospace Engineering, the baby sees a bird fly and then sees an airplane fly. The author explains how flying is a form of aerospace engineering. In this example of a narrated nonfiction book, the characters are experiencing the topic and having a lot of fun as well. To expand on the vocabulary and illustrations, you can ask questions about the book.

Example Questions

  • What do you see?
  • I saw you do this too, let’s try____.”
  • What happened when__?” “I like ___”

 These are examples and you can ask many more.


Nonfiction Feature: Headings, Index, Bibliography
Elementary-Aged Books

Little Legends Exceptional Men in Black History, by Vashti Harrison

Little Legends Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison

Little Legends shares different historical stories about prominent Black men and another book about prominent Black women. This book is for readers ages 6-10 due to the word complexity and information. Each character is shaped the same, but she uses the different text features, colors, and wardrobe illustrations to differentiate the characters. In this nonfiction book, you can learn important details about each character.

Additionally, as you read use the text features to guide your questions.

Example Questions

  • Look at the Heading, “What is his name and where was he born?”
  • “Let’s find___ in the index.”
  • “Look at the backgrounds how is this page illustrated?”

Nonfiction Feature: Captions, Images, Types of Print

Ocean by Ines Adam
Books for children ages 4-8 years old

Twirl books have a different mechanism so the reader can manipulate objects. In Ocean, Magnetology you can place objects on different pages. The book has backgrounds so these magnet pieces support the text. Also, different types of print are used to show the difference of text to read, captions, and headings of each page. You can discuss how the object moves on the page and what it does in the real world.

Click here for a full list of nonfiction text features. If you are lucky enough to have a library or books at home, take many chances to read nonfiction and fiction text with your reader.



Booklist: Inspired by #BrownBoyJoy

Booklist: Inspired by #BrownBoyJoy

Derrick Barnes wrote I Am Every Good Thing to celebrate the experiences of black boys. The imagery captivates a brown boy’s experiences of skating, swimming, and growing into a future leader. Barnes stated, “I wrote this book for Black boys and the people that love them all over the globe.” His storybook amplifies this message and positively shows them. 

The hashtag #BrownBoyJoy is trending for the reason that Black boys should have more positive images seen in their lives. A parent from The Bump said, “The hashtag is not a put-down of anyone else’s joy. The more joy the better! #BlackBoyJoy was created to show positive images of happy Black boys to reinforce confidence, release some of the emotional baggage and reaffirm the existence of and right for Black boys to be happy. #BlackBoyJoy helps to debunk the stereotypes that some people hold and the media sometimes portrays about who Black boys and men are—a menacing threat.”

Below is a small booklist that was inspired by Derrick Barnes’ book, I Am Good Everything. You can find more books about Black Joy Here from The Brown Bookshelf.

1. I am Every Good thing by Derrick Barnes
Experiences that celebrate the joy and love that black boys bring. A book demonstrating the strength, the humanity, and the experiences of who he is. 

2. Black Boy Joy,Edited by Kwame Alexander
Celebrated authors provide experiences of Black boys. 


3. Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs
A young boy deals with name-calling because of his chocolate skin color. In the end, he learns to accept the way that he looks.

4. Crown an Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes
Celebrates the experiences of what it means to get a “Fresh Cut” in the barbershop. Barnes’ rhythmic language keeps the story flowing, and makes the reader understand what it truly means to get a haircut at a Black barbershop. Barnes even builds your imagination about the different characters in the shop and what they can be. This story opens the reader into another world and celebrates #Brownboyjoy.

Listen to the story here

5. A Place Inside of Me By Zetta Elliott
A poem that narrates a young person’s emotions and experiences on what occurs in the real world. He feels hope, anger, sorry, joy, and much more. But through the challenges that he faces as a black man, he is proud of who he is.

6. Be Boy Buzz By bell hooks
bell hooks share the different things that boys can do. The simplicity in the illustrations demonstrates the different actions that boys do. She uses jazzy language.

7. Brown Boy Joy by Thomishia Booker
A book for pre-k-kindergarten readers. Brown Boy Joy celebrates a young boy’s life, provides positive affirmations, and about what it means from the lived experience.

8. A Boy Like You, by Frank Murphy
A story celebrating the emotions and experiences. The book tells the reader that he can be or do anything in life.

9. Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration By Samara Cole Doyon
A poem where a little girl sees the different shades of brown in tree branches, honey, sandcastles, and more. These different shades remind her about the brown skin that she is in.

10. Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison
A nonfiction book celebrating bold and courageous leaders, athletes, scientists, and musician. Ms. Vashti Harrison illustrates the characters similarly but their clothes and background represent their differences.

11. Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
A little girl who attends an American school does not feel comfortable when others have to say her name. Her name is Kora-Jalimuso (KO-rah-DJAA-lee MOO-so). Her mother tells her the beauty of her name. Her mother shows her how her name fits into the rhymes and beats in a song. Kora-Jalimuso returns to school and sings her name making all of the children laugh and sing along. 


 12. A Girl Like Me By Angela Johnson
A story and collage celebrating the aspirations these girls proclaim. View their experiences, joy, and ideas of standing up and shining.

13. The Night Is Yours by Abdul-Razak Zachariah
Join Amani on an evening where she plays hide-and-seek with her friends. The moon keeps her company which shines bright at night. Amani’s name means wishes, and on this night she has the luck of winning hide-and-seek. A story about the joys of being a child, celebrating the shades of brown in the night sky, and the goodness that a child has.