Children are taught about stories, words, letters, and sounds in many different programs in their first years of literacy instruction. In this book Marie Clay argues that underlying the progress of successful children there is another level of competencies being learned. Successful readers show a gradual control over how readers or writers can work with print even though they learn in very different programs. This inner strategic control is what failing readers do not seem to build.
Successful readers begin very early to learn myriad of things which support their independent processing of texts. They do this learning in interaction with parents and teachers, but they gradually come to control ways of working on print which free them to learn independently from literacy encounters.
This concept helps us to understand how teachers can bring different children by different routes to similar outcomes. It allows for different children to start literacy learning in different ways. It is widely accepted that preschool children construct a control over oral language that enables them to produce sentences which they have never heard before, and extend their own language systems through conversation. When our observations of readers and writers show that they have developed effective strategies for monitoring their own ways of working on texts, we can be confident that this control will, at a later stage, allow them to work independently as silent readers of unseen texts.
The concept that only the child can construct this inner control develops Clay's earlier description of the complex behaviors which support literacy learning.