When a child takes their first steps on their learning to read journey, there are five core areas of literacy that they will need to develop in order to achieve reading success:
Every word is made up of a combination of individual units of sound, called phonemes. For instance, the word cat is made up of three individual sounds; c/a/t. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate these individual units of sound. It is the most fundamental skill children need to acquire when learning to read. Word games, language play, rhymes and simply reading are all very effective ways to develop phonemic awareness.
Building directly from phonemic awareness, phonics is a method of instruction that introduces children to the link between letters and sounds, known as the alphabetic principle. One of the major difficulties children can have when learning to read is understanding the alphabetic principle. Failure to grasp that written spellings represent the sounds of spoken words makes it difficult to recognise printed words. There are countless phonics activities available either online or in books that can help children develop this critical skill, although these activities should always be complemented with regular reading.
Every child approaches reading with different levels of ability. The larger a child’s speaking and listening vocabulary, the more words they will be able to easily map to their reading and writing vocabularies. Reading a wide variety of books is one of the best ways for a child to expand their vocabulary. Some of the most fundamental words that a child will learn when starting to read are sight words – words like ‘is’, ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘it’, etc. that can often be spelled irregularly and therefore need to be learned ‘at sight.’ The first 100 sight words make up more than fifty per cent of most early texts, therefore they are very important for a child to develop early on in their reading journey.
Fluency enables readers to quickly span the gap between recognising a word and understanding its meaning. It’s where the magic of reading takes place. Because fluent readers don’t have to concentrate on decoding words, they can focus more on interpreting the meaning conveyed by words and sentences. Fluency is something that comes as a child develops their phonemic awareness, phonics skills and vocabulary. Regular reading practise is essential to developing fluency. Reading regularly to your child can also provide them with a vocal model to help them understand what fluent reading sounds like.
Reading for meaning is the ultimate goal of learning to read. Comprehension is a skill that will not only affect a child’s future reading ability but also their academic ability throughout school and beyond. Asking your child questions or encouraging them to ask questions about a book they are reading is a great way to both monitor how much they understand and improve their comprehension.
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