Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Five Essential Components of Reading Instruction

Extensive research shows that there are five essential components for reading instruction.  And when I say "extensive research," I'm not asking you to just take my word for it.  For two years the fourteen members of the National Reading Panel met to discuss their findings of the research they examined, and they prepared two reports and a video based on their conclusions.  The International Reading Association also uses scientifically-based research to determine standards for reading professionals.

From these sources (and others), five areas emerge as essential to building a comprehensive and effective reading program:
  1. Phonemic Awareness -  the ability to hear, identify, segment, and manipulate phonemes
  2. Phonics - the ability to use phonemic awareness in relation to the alphabetic principal to understand that letters represent sounds
  3. Fluency - the ability to automatically recognize words and read them with proper pace and prosody
  4. Vocabulary - the set of words a person is familiar with and able to use accurately
  5. Comprehension - the ability to gain meaning from texts

While it is agreed upon that these five aspects of reading are necessary in developing strong readers how they are implemented, to what degree, and how they should be assessed (particularly with regard to comprehension) often spark debate.  It would be wonderful if there was a specific, step-by-step process for including these components into a reading program that would instantly produce quality readers in all schools.  Unfortunately, a guide like that does not exist.  But it should not deter us. 

By using scientifically-based reading research schools, teachers, and parents can help children succeed and produce strong readers.  It just takes a little thinking and some effort to find what those students need and to develop a curriculum and interventions that will continue to build their strengths while addressing their weaknesses.  It may seem daunting at first, but with research as a guide, it is more than feasible. 

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