Reading / Grammar


Young boy in libraryWe help children enter high school able to read challenging works of literature, history, theology or the sciences, to analyze and evaluate what they read, then to speak or write (a research paper or 5-paragraph essay) with facility, coherence, and attention to structure, vocabulary, and grammar. (To learn more about our writing program in particular, review the Excellence in Writing tab under “Curriculum”).

Early Childhood ReadingRowland Reading Foundation
A large body of evidence confirms that systematic, explicit phonics is the most critical component of beginning reading instruction. The non-profit Rowland Reading Foundation with considerable research and peer reviewed independent studies convinced us that their signature Superkids!™ reading program fits our phonics-based reading mission.

Superkids logo

Click Superkids! logo to learn more.

Using the Superkids!™ program, our teachers teach children the process of phonetic decoding as a beginning reader’s first strategy for identifying a word. What Superkids!™ calls “Memory Words”(and other programs call “sight words,” “high frequency words,” or “Dolch words”) are deliberately kept to a minimum in K4 and K5 while students acquire the decoding habit to actually read words. By the end of first grade at Prince of Peace, students can read, write, and spell all 220 Memory Words not just with memory, but with acquired phonetic decoding skills. At each early elementary grade, these skills are reinforced and practiced in “Daily Routines” in the classroom. Children also can practice skills at home with their parents using online games and stories.

Reading sight words automatically before the end of first grade is important for strong young readers. Research shows that 80% of students who are behind in reading by the end of first grade will continue to lag behind other children even in fourth grade. “Skill deficits are almost always what prevent children from blooming as readers.” We won’t let that happen at Prince of Peace where we track student progress and assure parents – with the help of the Superkids!™ reading program – of successful transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” by the end of second grade.

Click the YouTube video below for a 1-minute overview of our Superkids!™ K4 to 2nd grade reading program:


3rd Grade Reading for Independent Comprehension
By December of second grade, students move from “learning to read” to “reading to learn,” where independence and personal skill growth are encouraged. By third grade, a child’s reading vocabulary (where new and unfamiliar words are being learned) begins to Young girl readingsurpass the simpler early childhood vocabulary. A more serious attention to the academic study of science, history, grammar, works of literature and so on makes third grade a turning point in a child’s academic education. Attention to study skills and test preparation by our teachers (and with them the child’s family) becomes critical for the successful navigation of the third grade year. Research
suggests that preparation for opportunities that demand “high stakes outcomes” is rooted in a focus on reading comprehension and reading fluency by third grade.

4th to 8th Reading for Learning and Excellence
Beginning in fourth grade, students read chapter books, short stories, novels, American poetry, and even some Charles Dickens and Shakespeare. Our selections cover various genres and include both classic and modern stories drawn from award-winning and time-honored selections of great literature. Links:

Novels & Stories
Children who in third grade adopt the habit of reading novels and stories on their own will develop – almost without realizing it – the reading and language comprehension skills to become life-long readers and to respond to the challenges of an honors high school college prep curriculum. Children who don’t read independently or who never cultivate an interest in reading chapter books and novels will struggle with language and comprehension skills throughout their years of study.
Independent Reading
To encourage independent reading, we use Renaissance Learning’s assessment program called Accelerated Reader (AR). How Accelerated Reader logoit works: students check out abook each week from the POPCS library (which now has more than 8,000 cataloged volumes), and when they’ve finished reading, they take a computer generated assessment to assess comprehension. Our POPCS Library/Media Specialist collaborating with teachers reviews student achievement and tracks student progress as children grow in reading ability outside the context of the classroom. Students set quarterly reading goals as teachers help them choose books that are both interesting and challenging.
Graph of Prince of Peace Catholic School Reading scores

Click the graph to enlarge in a new tab.

Data Reveals Reading Growth and Achievement

We couldn’t be more pleased with our results in Reading Comprehension school-wide. Prince of Peace Catholic School children (measured as whole classes) achieve class averages consistently above the 85th percentile point nationally as reported on recent (Fall 2013) Iowa Reading Tests – a standard published by the US Department of Education. Educators are attentive to this number that identifies schools achieving at a “National Blue Ribbon Award” level.  See the graph to the left.