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Tuesday, 04 September 2018 14:37

Reading, Part One

An introduction to reading

Reading without a doubt plays a central role in our education, communication and development. Poor reading skills can set a child back detrimentally in school. Although this blog post is based on foundational reading the principles can be applied to all learners. If a learner has difficulty with any of the steps of learning to read, their ability to read, write, comprehend and express is negatively affected, and therefore going back to the missing step can help strengthen their reading skills.


The first areas to look at are ways of reading and reading development.


The different ways of reading

Reading Aloud: The ability to read aloud consists of articulation, pronunciation, fluency, reading speed, expression and the correct application of punctuation. Fluently and accurately reading aloud does not predicate a learner's reading comprehension.


Reading Silently: The ability to read accurately without reading aloud. Reading silently does not determine or demonstrate the effective skills which are components of proficiency in reading aloud. Reading silently also does not show a comprehensive understanding of the text.


Reading Comprehension/Understanding of the Text: The ability to read text and gather meaning from the text. The ability to understand what one has read. At EduHelp, we refer to this as ‘reading with meaning’.


Reading Development

Reading begins with learning words and understanding oral language. This is followed by understanding the functions of books, learning letters and sounds, acquiring the skill of combining these sounds to make words, then building these words to construct sentences and ending up with sentences that come together to tell stories. Foundation Reading Skills (FRS) are universally considered to either have 5 elements or 6 steps to achieving success in reading. These categories vary slightly but generally the focus and ideas are the same. EduHelp has added two initial categories, namely Oral Awareness and Book Awareness. Oral Awareness is the child’s language skills prior to reading, specifically focusing on receptive and expressive oral skills. Book Awareness looks at the understanding the individual parts of a book.


EduHelp’s 8 major categories or steps of FRS:

1. Oral Awareness

2. Book Awareness

3. Print Awareness

4. Phonemic Awareness

5. Phonics

6. Vocabulary

7. Fluency

8. Comprehension



Food for thought!

Research shows that children who have not mastered reading by the end of grade 3 are predicated to find school and further education challenging. Grade 3 mastery of reading is central to a productive and successful grade 4 year, where children are exposed to a broader selection of texts and content. As they progress through school, proficient readers will have learned to comprehend and analyse information and their expressive skills will grow due to their increased vocabulary (O’Brien, 2008).


Vocabulary is developed through reading but it starts with the exposure to oral words. Researchers concur that the foundation of reading begins with the oral language children experience in their first three years of life. Therefore, learning to read is a multi-layered subject which starts before a child attends school (Hart & Risley, 1995).


One of the most important skills a child learns from oral language is how to listen (not hear but listen) and then how to respond vocally. Essentially, children need to learn to read, listen, comprehend, write, and speak to use language competently in a diverse range of contexts. For example, the different subjects at school enhance their literary skills as well as develop abilities and concepts required for college as well as improving career readiness in multiple disciplines, and enable children to use these skills in their social, personal and eventually in their professional lives.


Reading is by no means simple and to teach reading requires very specific skills. There are a variety of methods that educators can adopt to teach children the skills to read, and this is complicated further by having to cater to the individual learning methods of each child. For children to read effectively means that they must have the ability to decode the script on the page and translate this into meaningful and informative concepts. Many languages have their own set of written symbols and English has an extensive orthography (written language system) in comparison to other alphabetic languages. It starts with 26 letters which create 250 graphemes, which in turn represent 44 phonemes.


This complicated process has created the perception that in order for a child to read proficiently they need to read extensive amounts of literature, but EduHelp believes in the quality of reading not the quantity of reading.