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The Reading Process: The Five Essential Components 


FOCUS: To increase understanding of a reading instructional process that is grounded in scientifically-based reading research about “what works” in teaching reading.

No other skill learned by children is more important than learning to read, often described as "the gateway to all other achievement". Although many children arrive at the kindergarten classroom ready to read, some do not. There are many reasons why children are at-risk for reading failure, including poverty, a literacy-poor environment, learning disabilities, or English as a second language.

Because of the greater challenges of teaching at-risk students, teachers need effective teaching techniques and curriculum that have a proven track record of success. The reports from the National Reading Panel (2000) and the National Early Literacy Panel (2009) have helped teachers translate research into practice. Both panels included researchers, practitioners, professors, parents and others. The panels spent time identifying studies of reading instruction that met the highest standards of research and used these studies to determine the most effective methods of teaching reading to the greatest numbers of students, including those most at risk.

These panels identified five key skill areas that should comprise a reading curriculum for all students, including those at-risk. These areas are phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension. While there are other areas as well, such as oral language and motivation, which are important and which support reading achievement, the five key skill areas are the ones that panelists determined had sufficient, high quality research to conclude that they were necessary and essential to the reading process. The five areas are essential to include in any program or approach to teaching reading.

In order to read increasingly more complex text, children must first recognize the sounds of the language and then use those sounds, mapped to letters, to decode and read words. From there, children advance to more difficult word study and, along the way, with practice and instructional support, develop fluent reading of text which, in turn, helps support comprehension. Beginning in pre-school, effective teachers are helping children build vocabulary and develop critical comprehension strategies, first orally and, then, through print.