Common Core Standards: Reading and Understanding Literature in K-5 - dummies

Common Core Standards: Reading and Understanding Literature in K-5

By Jared Myracle

The Common Core Standards for literature give a clear picture of skills and concepts that are essential to the development of your child’s reading abilities on a year-to-year basis. These standards are used when your child reads fictional literature, which according to the Common Core Standards constitutes a majority of her reading material until Grade 4.

At that point, the standards indicate that students should be reading 50 percent fictional literature and 50 percent informational texts (or literary nonfiction).

Be sure to consult the resources available in Appendixes A and B of the English language arts standards. The standards for reading literature align directly with the anchor standards for reading and also use the same subheadings:

  • Key ideas and details

  • Craft and structure

  • Integration of knowledge and ideas

  • Range of reading and level of text complexity

Because these subheadings are repeated in each grade, you can easily compare the demands of the standards in your child’s current grade with future grades and with the college- and career-ready skills described in the anchor standards.


In kindergarten, students answer questions — with support — about specific details from a text that has been read to them, along with being able to retell aspects of the story and identify characters. They also practice naming the author and illustrator and understanding the job of each. Students pay attention to illustrations and practice describing how illustrations or pictures are related to the story.

After reading more than one story, students are expected to describe how stories are similar or different based on the events that take place in the lives of the characters. A major emphasis is placed on participating in group reading and listening activities.

Grade 1

Students continue to focus on detailed information gained from a text while also showing that they understand the main ideas conveyed in what they read. They are asked to consider more detail in their understanding of characters and significant happenings in stories.

Students explore characteristics relating to the structure of written materials by pointing out words that evoke certain sensory responses, distinguishing the differences among texts, and recognizing the person whose voice is active within a text. They continue to use pictures and illustrations to find out more about what they’re reading.

Grade 2

Students begin to interact with texts by asking questions such as who, what, when, where, why, and how in order to analyze what they are reading. They are able to remember stories that they read and identify the main ideas, along with providing details on the actions of characters within the story.

When reading a story, students recognize the structure of a plot and know that the beginning starts the story and the ending provides a conclusion. Within a story, students understand that characters have different perspectives and can represent them by using alternate voices. In their reading, students examine more than one version of a story written by a different author or from another culture.

Grade 3

In Grade 3, students use specific textual evidence to gain information pertaining to what they’ve read and can explain how a main idea is communicated within a story. When reading, students can identify how characters affect the unfolding of events. Use of vocabulary grows more complex as students encounter words with literal and nonliteral meanings, causing them to draw upon their skills of inference to discern accurate meaning.

Students learn to refer to specific parts of texts, such as a chapter in a book or a scene in a play. As they become more adept at reading to gather insights, students show that they can separate their own selves from the text and recognize that their point of view is different from that of the characters in the story.

Students analyze in increased detail the contribution of illustrations to the meaning of texts. The ability to determine the central ideas of a work of literature expands, and students are asked to analyze the messages conveyed by the same author in multiple books, such as books in a series.

Grade 4

In Grade 4, students infer information, summarize, and make use of details to develop a greater understanding of aspects of literature such as characters and events. They continue to use context clues to determine the meanings of words and allusions to other works of literature, such as Greek mythology.

Students dive into the structure of poems and distinguish specific aspects such as verse and meter; they also identify components of plays and other dramatic texts, including the characters and technical descriptions such as stage directions.

Students distinguish between writings in first and third person. First person refers to writing in which the narrator uses pronouns like I and me. In essence, the narrator speaks from her perspective. Third person is used when characters in a text are referred to as he, she, him, her, and so on. Third person is a more formal style of writing that describes it from an outside point of view.

Grade 5

In Grade 5, students use quotes from their reading to support statements made regarding the meaning of a text. They also identify the theme presented in a work of literature and examine the reactions of characters to difficult situations within the plot of a story. Students are asked to analyze multiple characters and their connections and relationships.

Students identify and understand figurative language, which describes something by comparing it to something else. This includes distinguishing between similes, which use the words like or as, and metaphors.

  • Simile: The students ran down the hallway as fast as racehorses.

  • Metaphor: The students agreed that math class lasted a lifetime.

When reading, students identify how the point of view can influence the meaning of a text and continue to examine the impact of illustrations on perceptions of writing. They also investigate how a specific theme is addressed in multiple pieces of literature.