Teaching a child to read is a multi-faceted process that can be challenging but oh-so-rewarding for both the child and the parent/teacher! We hope the demystify some of the complexities of teaching a child to read and highlight how our program can come alongside you to support. This is the first in a series of articles that will help you with the knowledge to teach your child to read.
The Five Components of Reading Instruction
The National Reading Panel has identified five major components of reading instruction. They are: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension.
Learning to read starts first and foremost with oral language and being able to hear and manipulate sounds in words. Phonological Awareness, and more specifically phonemic awareness (one is a subset of the other), is our foundation upon which all other word-reading skills are built.
Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice that spoken words can be broken down into individual sounds (phonemes). This auditory awareness allows a child to segment, blend, and manipulate the sounds in spoken words. Phonemic awareness instruction could literally be taught with the lights OFF as it involves the world of sound.
To illustrate the concept of phonemic awareness, use this picture. In this image, the whole word is represented as a mitten. Within that mitten are five fingers, which represent the individual phonemes within the word.
Strong phonemic awareness skills are foundational to all other aspects of learning to read.
Next in our “tower of foundational reading skills” is phonics. Phonics is instruction that teaches how letters linked to sounds form letter-sound correspondences and spelling patterns, which is then used to help a child learn to read and spell.
To go back to our mitten image above, phonemic awareness is recognizing there are individual sounds inside the mitten (word)…phonics represents the fingers with letters assigned.
Phonics is when we match the phoneme (the individual sound in a word) to the grapheme (the written symbol that represents that sound, i.e. letter or letters). Now a child can begin to decode written words and spell.
Through the process of independent decoding, a child will then begin the process of orthographic mapping, which involves storing words in long-term memory for immediate retrieval and the development of a sight vocabulary (any word that can be read immediately and automatically).
Fluency acts as the bridge between decoding and comprehension. Fluent reading is characterized by reading words quickly and accurately but also with proper intonation or prosody. Prosody includes the expression and rhythm with which one reads.
Fluency instruction should not simply involve rereading passages. Fluency is a byproduct of the foundational skills of phonemic awareness and phonics. David Kilpatrick says this of fluency, “The largest factor that determines a child’s fluency appears to be the size of the child’s sight vocabulary. This means that efforts at addressing fluency should be directed toward building the student’s sight vocabulary”, which is done through phonemic awareness and phonics instruction.
Vocabulary involves learning the meaning of words. Vocabulary plays a large role in comprehension as we must understand the meaning of the words we are reading in order to comprehend a text. Vocabulary instruction is best taught through oral read-alouds using high-quality children’s literature with specific instruction in unknown words.
Reading Comprehension is the ability to understand and find meaning in what is being read. When a child has a large sight vocabulary and can automatically recognize the words he is reading, his brain (specifically working memory) is then freed to focus on finding meaning in the text being read. Fully comprehending a text is the ultimate goal in learning to read!
The Simple View of Reading
The Simple View of Reading was first proposed by researchers Gough and Tumner in 1986. The short explanation of the Simple View of Reading is presented in mathematical form:
Decoding x Linguistic Comprehension = Reading Comprehension
Or D x LC = RC
First, let’s define these two terms.
Decoding (also known as word level reading) refers not only to the process of “sounding out” words but ultimately a child’s ability to automatically recognize those words as he/she progresses in their reading journey.
Language Comprehension, sometimes referred to as Linguistic Comprehension, refers to a child’s ability to make sense of language and includes a child’s background knowledge, vocabulary, knowledge of print concepts, and more.
Notice that the mathematical equation involves multiplication, not addition. That is because these components are dependent on each other and if one is extremely low, focusing on just improving the other will not yield results in proficient reading abilities (5×0=0).
Where does Pathways to Reading Homeschool fit in?
Pathways to Reading Homeschool has been designed to be all-inclusive of the 5 components of reading instruction as identified by the National Reading Panel. We place a key emphasis on advanced phonemic awareness and phonics instruction to help children succeed at word-level reading while simultaneously encouraging read-alouds that promote vocabulary and reading comprehension. Not only do we want to equip you to teach your child to read, we also want to help them love reading!
Learn more about our program here.