Learning to read is a complicated process that requires more than just looking at letters on a page. It requires a person to recognize written symbols (letters of the alphabet), associate sounds to symbols, blend sounds to form distinct units (words), organize the units into strands (sentences), and translate the strands into a coherent and meaningful message.
To read successfully, a child must master the following skills:
- Visual Scanning
Recognizing individual letters, letter order, and whole words.
- Sounding Out
Matching distinct sounds to written symbols, and combining those sounds and symbols together to form words.
- Analyzing Sentence Structure
Using rules of grammar, mechanics, and spelling to connect words to form sentences.
- Deriving meaning from text
Relying on prior knowledge and real-life experiences to see and understand the written message.
Learning to read is not an automatic process – it must be taught. Children need practice looking at, listening to, and deriving meaning from words. They need to understand how a message they say aloud can be communicated through symbols on paper.
A balanced literacy program should include the following key components:
- Literacy is viewed comprehensively, as involving both reading and writing.
- Literature is at the heart of the program.
- Skills and strategies are taught both directly and indirectly.
- Reading instruction involves learning word recognition and identification, vocabulary, and comprehension.
- Writing instruction involves learning to express meaningful ideas and use conventional spelling, grammar, and punctuation to express those ideas.
- Students use reading and writing as tools for learning in the content areas.
- The goals of a balanced literacy program should be to develop lifelong readers and writers.