Reading in the initial grades of elementary school: difficulties, advances, obstacles and perspectives



CHAVES, Patrícia Aparecida Morais Alves [1]

CHAVES, Patrícia Aparecida Morais Alves. Reading in the initial grades of elementary school: difficulties, advances, obstacles and perspectives. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. 04 year, Ed. 11, Vol. 05, pp. 31-46. November 2019. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access link:


This article aims to make a historical retrospective of the practice of reading in the initial grades and analyze how the school institution, teachers and family have currently contributed to the acquisition and development of reading in these grades. The work consists of theoretical analysis based on authors such as Solé (1998), PCN’s of Portuguese Language (1997), Martins (2007), Freire (1993), Maia (2007), Kleiman (1993), Geraldi (1984 and 1996), among others. It is known that reading is one of the main activities of the school institution and needs to be worked with dedication, because the acquisition of it is the basis for cognitive development and for the student’s teaching and learning process. Therefore, it is intended with the elaboration of this article, to stimulate schools, teachers and families in general to reflect together on their role in the formation of readers, and to lead them to question the causes that lead to reading difficulties and consequently propose strategies to overcome them. In short, the methodology used to achieve the objective was bibliographical research. The results obtained show that simple attitudes are often the most important and play a fundamental role in the search for knowledge.

Keywords: Reading, difficulties, advances, initial series.


The article is a bibliographical research on the difficulties of reading in the initial grades of elementary school, of great relevance, because it expands a discussion about the problems present in schools that need to be solved in order to be formed intellectually independent readers nowadays.

The research arose from the need to analyze and verify how reading is performed in schools and society, for this, we sought to answer the following questions: What are the causes of reading difficulties in the initial grades? How have the school institution, teachers and families contributed to the process of acquisition and development of reading in the initial grades of elementary school? What are the advances, obstacles and perspectives in relation to overcoming reading difficulties in these series?

It addresses the responsibilities that schools, teachers and families have together in the formation of readers, in an attempt to reach satisfactory conclusions about the causes of the problems raised with regard to reading difficulties in the initial grades of elementary school.

It is known that reading is one of the main activities of the school institution and needs to be worked with dedication, because the acquisition of it is the basis for cognitive development and for the student’s teaching and learning process. Kleiman (1993 apud Maia, 2007, p.15), says that “a large number of teachers are not readers, and has, however, to teach to read and to enjoy reading”.

The general objective is to make a historical retrospective of the practice of reading in the initial grades in Brazil from the colonial period to the present day, analyzing how the process of learning to read occurs and how it is worked in the school and family context, so that the causes of the difficulties presented in reading are discussed and the importance of helping teachers and family to acquire the reading competence of students, which is the basis of intellectual, cultural, political and historical resourcefulness and which favors the development of critical sense .

The methodology used in the research consists of theoretical analysis based on authors such as Solé (1998), PCN’s of Portuguese Language (1997), Martins (1994), Freire (1993), Maia (2007), Kleiman (1993), Geraldi (1984 and 1996), among others. In short, the methodology used to achieve the objective was bibliographical research.


Until the mid-19th century, few schools existed in Brazil. In the Colonial period, the initial teaching practices were taught on the farms themselves or mills by a literate person, usually the priest or by a master hired for this purpose. Few people could also attend school. During this period, a large portion of the population was excluded from various aspects of social life. Slaves, for example, were forbidden to study and girls, it is understood that it was necessary to offer only a general education that would allow them to perform their domestic tasks well, because women at that time had few rights and were educated only to marry, have children and take care of the house (MAIA, 2007).

Textbooks, in turn, practically did not exist in our schools during this period of history. Various sources, such as novels, chronicles, autobiographies, traveler’s accounts, and others, indicate that teaching and reading practice in schools were based on handwritten texts such as letters, notary documents, the Bible, and even the Constitution of the Empire and the Criminal Code. Reading in this period of our history assumed only the role of instructing people to life in society (BARBOSA, 1994).

Since the Imperial Period, society has become more complex and some initiatives have been taken to expand the offer of schooling for the population. New jobs were emerging, new customs were being incorporated. Education and education have come to be seen as fundamental for the cultural and economic development of the country, that is, a passport to the civilized world (MAIA, 2007).

In Brazil, the printing of books began in 1808, with the implementation of the Imprensa Régia. However, even at school, reading moments were still rare and did not arouse pleasure in the reader. There were still few places for reading at that time, there were few libraries and bookstores and as a consequence, few were also readers.

The moments intended for reading at school until then did not arouse pleasure in the reader, on the contrary, they were seen as moments of boredom, torture and annoyance, serving only to instruct and transmit rules and models of behaviors.

Literature then has a fundamental role in the formation of readers, awakening the pleasure and taste for reading. And, although little widespread at school in that period and difficult to access, literature ends up showing the reader another universe full of joy and adventures, where one could travel through places never seen before and talk to people who had never been found face to face. This was fascinating and eventually aroused the attention of some people who later became great readers and successful writers (BARBOSA, 1994).

From the second half of the 19th century, textbooks specifically for the initial grades of schooling began to appear in Brazil. Although, initially, many of these books were manufactured in Europe, their emergence was of paramount importance for education, as they were considered innovative and served as drivers for the emergence of publishers and writers in brazil (MAIA, 2007).

In 1868, Abílio César Borges, a school owner who was against corporal punishment adopted in most schools in the country, began publishing a series of books intended for the initial grades of schooling. His books received much praise for intellectual criticism of the time and were considered innovative, replacing the crude booklets or handwritten materials. They had an encyclopedic character and brought contents from various areas of knowledge, were more instructive than moral. Borges’ books were reissued several times and served as a basis for educating generations of Brazilians. However, despite being considered innovative they still could not awaken in the students the eagerness and pleasure for reading.  This pleasure, which was only reached by the reader when he came into contact with literary works outside the school according to the account of Graciliano Ramos – one of the greatest writers of Portuguese language – in his autobiography (BARBOSA, 1994).

Still in the nineteenth century, other series of books were published, among them, the highlight that of Felisberto de Carvalho. His books, like Borges’, also brought contents from various areas of knowledge, but the focus was to offer the child, in addition to instruction, moral teachings (MAIA, 2007).

Although this was not the intention of the school at that time, in some cases, the reading of Felisberto’s books even provoked pleasure. In these books there were some illustrations with colors and the lessons were always accompanied by exercises. These books were very important to boost Brazilian education and were widely used in our schools until the middle of our century (BARBOSA, 1994).

Already at the end of the last century and beginning of this, there was the expansion of schooling. In 1899, the Republican government was installed, which adopted education reforms as one of its goals. New educational methods and theories began to be disseminated during this period and several reforms began to be proposed. However, despite the significant changes that occurred in the school context at that time, many schools remained similar to those of previous generations. Physical punishments such as the spanking remained present in the school environment, the buildings continued to be unsuitable for a school, because they had poorly lit rooms, precarious furniture and poorly paid teachers. The schools of this period grouped the students by level of instruction and not by grade as it currently occurs. Teachers did not teach classes like today, they “took” the lesson while the other students remained obediently in their portfolios reading the lesson of the day (MAIA, 2007).

From then on, the first major publishers also appeared in the country. The authors began to publish their books right here in Brazil, born then to Brazilian literature. Foreign books continued to be imported because they were still an important aid. Newspapers also began to systematically publish stories through serials, enabling the gradual increase of the reading public.

At the beginning of the 20th century, two authors stood out. Olavo Bilac and Manuel Bonfim published the reading book: Through Brazil, which at the same time held the reader’s attention served as a subsidy for the teacher in his teaching action, because he had material to develop the various subjects necessary for the instruction of children. In 1921, another book appears that would mark the history of the reading books: Narizinho Arrebitado by Monteiro Lobato. This book differed from all the didactic literature produced at that time in Brazil and brought to the school an aspect hitherto ignored: the pleasure of reading. Monteiro Lobato’s book became one of the greatest successes of Brazilian children’s literature (BARBOSA, 1994).

The reforms that occurred in teaching between the 1920s and 1950s allowed the expansion of public schools, giving access to education to a large majority of the population, since at that time more than 80% of the population was illiterate.

Between the 1950s and 1970s other educational methods emerged and teaching began to be centered on the student and his needs. Public education was expanding more and more and significantly increasing the number of people entering school. During this period, access to reading media increased considerably in large cities. The number of bookstores has grown and popular and street libraries have also been created (MAIA, 2007).

From the 1970s on, many other reading books emerged. At school, books began to have a shorter time of use due to the need to update the contents that become increasingly complex as research on pedagogical knowledge advances.

In the same decade, children’s literature becomes part of the reading activities at school, providing moments of pleasure to the act of reading and attracting more and more new readers. The new books – literary and didactic – give the reader freedom of choice and increasingly subsidize pedagogical action by bringing with them more instructions to teachers (BARBOSA, 1994).

It is observed, then, that for a long time reading was used in school only as a support for grammar classes and as something that could only be acquired by memorization and was not worked in order to form intellectually autonomous, conscious and critical readers of the reality in front of them. Students from pre-1970s were not free to choose the books they would really like to read (MAIA, 2007).

Fortunately, over the years, many changes have occurred, expanded to reading opportunities and new features were invented to facilitate the act of reading. Other reading sources such as newspapers, magazines, labels, and others were incorporated into classrooms. The technological revolution has also been changing and revolutionizing teaching in primary schools. With the new features available, other modifications also emerge: the way the child learns to read and write


For a long time it was imagined that the child would only learn to read if he was inserted in school. Because of this, the literacy booklets and other didactic means were created with systematic rules of the step by step that should be followed to literacy a child. Today we know that this is not necessarily true, because it is known that the learning process transcends school spaces and that there are no recipes ready to insert a child into the world of reading.

“Reading does not mean the endless repetition of school activities, the decoding of letters or symbols” (BRASIL, PCN’s, 1997, p. 57). Reading is an extremely rich and complex activity that involves not only phonetic or semantic knowledge, but also cultural and ideological knowledge. It can be a process of discovery, a challenging task or even playful. It is an interaction activity that obeys socially determined objectives and needs where one can understand and interpret the world around it in all its forms.

Geraldi (1996, p. 28) also understands reading as a social practice and states that:

Learning to read is thus expanding the possibilities of dialogue with people we will never meet face-to-face and, by interacting with them, we will be able to understand, criticize and evaluate their ways of understanding the world, things, people and their relationships. This is reading.

For Solé (1998, p. 22) “reading is a process of interaction between reader and text, where one tries to satisfy (obtain relevant information for) the objectives that guide reading”.

The child learns to read long before he or she even enters school. This learning process takes place in the interaction with the family or even outside it, in the environments it attends.

We learn to read in the simplest forms of life. Since we were little, when we can interpret or describe the images, drawings or figures that appear in a book, magazine, newspaper, board, board, television, computer or landscape around us, we are reading. It is a different reading based on the knowledge we have about something and where we build a repertoire of texts that are used by society.

Martins (1994, p. 27) by broadening the notion of reading states that “reading should be considered a process of apprehension of symbols expressed through any language, therefore, the act of reading refers both to something written and to other types of expression of human doing”

Reading should not be understood only as the decoding of symbols or letters, but as a process of understanding that occurs through the interaction between the child and the environment where he lives, that is, we must understand that reading is the way the child interprets or understands a set of information.

According to the PCN’s:

It is necessary to overcome some conceptions about the initial learning of reading. The main one is that reading is simply decoding, converting letters into sounds, and understanding is a natural consequence of this action. Because of this mistaken conception the school has been producing a large number of “readers” capable of decoding any text, but with enormous difficulties to understand what they try to read. (BRASIL, 1997 p. 55).

To assist in the learning process of reading it is necessary to understand the stages of the child’s development and offer him, from an early age, an environment rich in books, educational games and other materials that will awaken the taste for reading, the desire to investigate, describe and understand what is around him.

Freire (2005 apud Maia 2007, p. 27) tells us that: “learning to read the world, understanding its context, is not a mechanical manipulation of words, but a dynamic relationship that links language and reality”.

At home or at school, when we tell or read a story to a child and show them the pictures in the text, they are literacy, regardless of age. And, after coming into contact again with that story, even if they can not read yet, the child will be able to do his own rereading alone, using words that are proper to his daily life, but without losing the true essence of the story.

Also according to Freire (1984 apud Maia 2007, p. 27) “the act of reading is not exhausted in the pure decoding of the written word, but is anticipated and lengthened in the intelligence of the world”.

Reading develops in living with one’s own world. An individual learns to read when he relates what he reads with his knowledge of the world, that is, with the experiences he brings in his “baggage”. Thus, each person will have a particular reading of the same text, depending on their previous knowledge. This anticipated knowledge of something is fundamental for the construction of meanings about the lido.


Reading is one of the main activities of the school institution and needs to be worked with dedication, because the acquisition of it is the basis for the cognitive development of the student and for the success of the teaching and learning process.

One of the school’s priorities is to provide students with the learning of reading and writing, valuing them equally, as both are interconnected. Therefore, it should provide all instruments and conditions for the child to have a positive contact with the books, making available reading materials from various sources. However, in most schools these materials are shelved in lockers, being used only sporadically. Barbosa (1994, p. 141) states that “the school must organize itself according to a new concept of reading, which supposes the adoption of a new learning process”.

According to Solé (1998, p. 32), “one of the many challenges facing the school is to make students learn to read correctly” […] . The function of the school is not only to teach to read mechanically, but to teach to read critically, to interpret the different types of reading, to avoid the reproduction of social inequalities, knowing them and seeking to overcome them through the acquisition of reading and writing, and thus making society more egalitarian.

Teaching to read is no easy task. On the contrary, it is a complex activity that requires a lot of effort, patience and determination from both parties involved in this process. And since, in most cases, the child comes from home without any previous contact with the world of reading, it is the school that bears this immense responsibility. Silva (1987 apud Maia 2007, p. 28), one of the pioneers in the use of the terminology “pedagogy of reading”, states: “Reading is, ultimately, not only a bridge to awareness, but also a way of existing in which the individual understands and interprets the expression recorded by writing and begins to be understood in the world”.

It is not enough to know how to decipher the written codes. To be a good reader it is necessary to solve simple tasks of everyday school, such as interpreting texts, knowing the meaning of a word or understanding the meaning of a sentence. For this, it is necessary to grasp the message transmitted by the set of words that form sentences and texts.

Silva (1986 apud Maia 2007, p. 28), uses strong words such as “awareness, freedom, citizenship, and transformation” and conceives reading as “an instrument for the reconstruction process of Brazilian society”, while denouncing the lack of a right-to-read policy: “in Brazilian society, constituted of classes with antagonistic intentions, reading presents itself as a matter of privilege and not of the right of the entire population”.

Unfortunately, the school was and continues to be exclusionary, today a little more masked, but remains exclusionary when it privileges the higher social classes over the poorest.


Reading is a continuous process that depends on several methodologies and strategies, which must be in accordance with the age or cognitive stage of the student. The child should be exposed from an early age to a literacy environment filled with books and written or typed materials, electronic media and others, whether at home or at school.

There are many reading gestures that can influence children such as the simple practice of reading a text or a story aloud with a child. Many are also the types of texts that circulate in educational institutions and social groups.

To stimulate the process of reading development, the school must first of all provide a welcoming, harmonious and rich environment in books of different textual genres, educational games and other resources such as electronic media that usually hold the student’s attention.

The PCN´s (1997, p. 36) record that: “Good readers are not formed offering impoverished materials, just when children are initiated into the world of writing”. People learn to enjoy reading when somehow the quality of their lives improves with reading.

The correct choice of the material to be used in the classrooms will be of paramount importance and decisive to attract the attention of children, especially in the initial series. However, it is also worth mentioning that it is of fundamental importance that teachers have mastery of the resource used in their work to enable the construction and development of skills in students.

Literary texts, comic books, newspapers, texts in electronic media, games and educational games are the basis for involving students and making the class a moment of learning and relaxation. The school needs to make itself available for materials like these and teachers should dare in their creativity during classes.

According to the PCN´s :

To learn to read, therefore, it is necessary to interact with the diversity of texts, witness the use that readers make of them and participate in acts of reading in fact; it is necessary to negotiate the knowledge that already has and what is presented by the text, what is behind and before the eyes, receiving encouragement and help from experienced readers. (BRASIL, 1997, p. 56).

The PCN´s (BRASIL, 1998, p. 149) also confirm that: “the student’s involvement in the learning process should enable the student to find meaning and functionality in what constitutes the focus of studies in each classroom situation”.

It is essential to understand that to train readers, it is necessary for the school to create a stimulating environment, with favorable conditions for the development of reading practice, where the student is sensitized by the need to read, creating a pleasant space in which the reader wants to remain and be able to enjoy what is best, thus making it a vehicle that facilitates learning in which he will give autonomy before his knowledge.

According to the PCN´s (1998, p. 58), for reading difficulties to be overcome and students to feel stimulated, the school must:

Have a good library, a class […] collection with books and other reading materials; organize free reading moments in which the teacher also reads. So that students not accustomed to participating in reading acts and who do not know the value it has, they can see their teacher involved with reading feel seduced and are awakened by the desire to read as well.

The school needs to offer conditions for students to build their own learning in reading, in addition to conquering the student in a pleasurable way, so that he develops the habit of reading, providing attention not only to successful students, but also to those with reading difficulties, allowing all students the chance to become good readers.


To encourage children and make reading a pleasurable practice, we can follow some simple ways that will help a lot in the acquisition of knowledge and that can be practiced both at school by teachers and at home by parents and family members involved in the child’s learning process. According to Cramer; Castle (2001), They are:

Read aloud daily to the child, regardless of their age, because gradually she becomes familiar with reading and getting used to seeing and touching the books.

Initially use illustrated books without texts or with few words, they can help in the development of visual perception, imagination and reading of images.  Help the child by pointing the colors and saying the name of things.  Simple books can teach the child that there are spaces between words and that writing goes from left to right which will later help him in the development of reading.

Tell stories to the children encouraging them to ask questions, to talk about the story they just heard, to try to guess what will happen to the characters according to the unfolding of the plot. Get him to relate the facts or things in history to his day-to-day life.

Try to develop in partnership with parents and school programs to encourage the development of reading. Seek partnerships in the community and develop reading programs for volunteers, parents and children, thus, one can develop in a pleasurable way the reading of both parties.

The illustrated dictionary (children’s) is a stimulating tool, because it holds the attention of children and develops the habit of reading playing. Provoke them to discover the meaning of words.

Expose writing materials such as crayons, collection, pencils with erasers, pens, papers and others within reach of children so that they feel confident and free to express themselves.

Watch and encourage you to watch educational programs on TV, video or computer. These fun programs teach you interesting things like school content or things that can be used in people’s everyday lives.

Keep the Habit of visiting a library or bookstore frequently, take the child to these environments from a young age, start with weekly visits and then expand the attendance of these visits. Encourage you to choose the books that suit you best by borrowing or buying them.

Reading often, attitudes will serve as an example for children at home or at school.

With simple attitudes much can be done to help in the intellectual and educational development of children. This curiosity will determine the future of children as readers. It is important to remember that the taste for reading should begin before literacy, at home, when the child is fascinated by the content of the books that parents read to them and improved at school throughout their school life.


In this work, analyses are made about the history of reading teaching in our schools, seeking to reflect on the ways that the school teaches and the ways the child learns to read. It is perceived that there are many factors that lead to reading difficulties and the importance that schools, teachers and families have together in the acquisition of reading skills. It was observed that previously at the beginning of the colonization of Brazil many were the obstacles in the teaching of reading, because, not all people had access to school, there were no efficient teaching methods, there were no attractive books for reading within reach of all and it was not the desire of the dominant social classes that the less favored portions of the population became intellectually independent people.

However, it was also observed that over the years there have been significant advances in the school context, since the needs have arisen and the school has expanded, with this people have become more demanding, new studies have emerged and teaching methods have evolved, the number of reading books available to all, among others, has increased.

However, it is perceived that much remains to be done in the teaching of reading in schools. As perspectives for the future, it is expected that schools, teachers and families will work together, acquiring and perfecting each day the healthy habits of reading, whether at home or at school, so that future generations do not suffer so much from the reading difficulties that currently plague our schools.

Therefore, this research work served to realize that it is necessary to reflect on the past of teaching in the initial grades to have a clear sense of the causes of the problems existing in schools in the present.


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[1] Specialization in Learning and Authorship in Early Childhood Education and Elementary School at the State University of Maranhão – UEMA; Specialization in Human Rights Education at the Federal University of Maranhão – UFMA; Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the Federal University of Maranhão – UFMA and Degree in Pedagogy at the Federal University of Tocantins – UFT.

Submitted: August, 2019.

Approved: November, 2019.


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