Fundamentals of Reading – Importance, Foundational Skills, Components and Strategies

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“My son has passed 7th grade but still struggles to read.” What should I do? I am sure this concern will resonate with many parents out there. Gadgets taking over books have created this situation, largely speaking. Kids remain attracted to gadgets and think that scrolling up and down the screen is a newfound way of gaining knowledge. The other cause is more of inherent nature and is the result of learning difficulties. So, the need is to push the idea of developing and assessing the reading skills at a very early age.

How to drive young kids to read and enhance their reading skills? If you are one of those asking this, this is the post for you. Here, we intend to acquaint you with:

  1. Why talking about reading skills is essential
  2. Foundational skills required for effective reading
  3. Essential Reading Components
  4. Fundamental reading strategies

So, let’s begin!

Why talking about reading skills is essential?

Difficulty to read and write is the idea the world has identified as a genuine problem. Almost 10-15% of American Adults have lived with this difficulty, abandoned their education in the middle, and thought themselves to be good for nothing, despite having amazing IQ levels. Yes, we are referring to Dyslexia, which is nothing but the outcome of a differently wired brain that does not recognize the words the way it does in normal people. Hence, talking about reading skills is essential to ensure:

kid reading
  • if the child needs an alternative to conventional learning to overcome reading-related issues
  • that the child gets individualized support needed for learning reading
  • that child develops age-appropriate reading fluency, which is essential for attaining academic endeavors

Hence, it is essential to explore this aspect of basic skill-building in a child. A good discussion, at the right time, and comprising of all possibilities can do great service to a child’s academic future. So, let’s explore the reading’s foundational skills first; you can find if these are present or absent in the child by taking hints from the cues provided.

Foundational skills required for effective reading

What exactly is reading from an everyday utility point of view? Well, it is the ability to comprehend instructions, sift through texts strategically, sound out correct words, and read with prosody, so that correct meaning can be derived, and develop precise understanding from the words read. Right? Taking a cue from this detailed definition of reading, one can establish foundational skills for effective reading as below. These are recommended as fundamentals of reading by the Institute of Educational Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

  • Academic language skill development: Before moving any child to a formal education level, they should be acquainted with academic language skills. These skills comprise:
    • developing understanding of narrative language: How efficiently children can understand something read to them? or can they explain what is narrated to them?
    • vocabulary language development: How children grasp the words and their meanings? Do they have correct knowledge of word-meaning association?
    • inferential language development: Can children draw correct inferences from the stories, chapters or any paragraph?
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All these are considered essential for academic language development and form the base of eligibility for opting for any study course. It is the highest stage of the reading development procedure.

  • Reading connected texts: A little less complex or, say contributing towards academic language, can read connected texts. Children can develop a logical reading ability when they attain accuracy in reading, build comprehension abilities, and achieve accuracy and fluency. They apply implied meaning derived from texts to read the material exactly the way one should read it. It means, if the text contains a warning, the child should be able to comprehend and express that urgency in the statement.
  • Decoding and analyzing: Moving downward to basic from reading connected text is the foundational skill of decoding and analyzing. In this foundational skill-set, the children should recognize the parts of the words and blend them to make complete forms and correspond them to correct meanings.
  • Sound segmentation: Now, this is the most basic foundational skill. Children should be able to decode the sounds, comprehend them and relate them with the letters. That is how the word-formation will take place and acquaints readers with the basic unit of reading called letter-sound.

All these foundational skills point at the basic components that comprise reading activity on the whole. Researchers have also done a lot of scientific work in this regard. They have research-backed findings, which they have categorized as essential components or fundamental skills of reading. Let’s brush up on our knowledge of those essential components.

Essential reading components

The fundamentals of reading largely comprise sounding out the words, in a correct sequence and tone, and in a way that expresses the readers’ comprehension of the message given in the written text, speech, passage, or story. All these abilities are segregated into research-backed reading components, owing to the contribution they make to developing effective reading skills in a child.

According to the National Reading Panel Report by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000 edition, the researchers have identified five scientifically proven components of reading. These essential components of reading form the part of ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ too. Also, in the PROGRAMME FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ASSESSMENT (PISA) 2021, linguistic comprehension, reading fluency, and reading comprehension formed the important parameters of assessing reading skills in children. The test did comprise checking the learners’ efficiency on all fundamentals of reading mentioned below:

a. Phonemic awareness: B is a letter but /b/ is the voice of the letter B. This knowledge, when put in technical terms, is called phonemic awareness. Phonics is part of this basic capability of understanding the sound of a letter. Some researchers suggest that it is the most important aspect to internalize especially when the language is built on the alphabets and not signs. (Wagner, et al, 1994). It includes phonemic awareness concepts, according to Treiman (1991), such as:

kids learning phonemic awareness
  • Onsets-rimes: In the word band, b= /b/ is onset, ‘and’ is rime.
  • Phoneme isolation: Identifying the first letter’s sound in the word. Such as the first letter sound in the map is /m/.
  • Phoneme blending: Blend three phonemes together, such as, blend /m/ /a/ /t/ to make the word mat.
  • Deleting phonemes: It includes deleting phonemes from the word to make new words. Children can learn hidden words concept too, by practicing deletion of phonemes. example: Spill can be written as ‘Pill’ after removing ‘S’.
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b. Phonics: Phonemic awareness is required for auditory learning. But, in the next level, children need to move to associate sounds with the letters they will read. Having correct letter-sound association capabilities emerged from phonics intelligence, which is an outcome of grasping certain rules. These rules bring consistency in the way the spellings are formed. Uses of phonics as a fundamental component of reading are:

  • visualizing correct spelling of the word
  • establishing letter-sound relationships to form words
  • understanding exceptions to word-formation rules, ‘c’ used in ice, pick, crunch, etc. sound differently.

c. Vocabulary: It means a collection of words required to communicate clearly. Hence, it is both the need and the outcome of the development of reading ability. When you isolate phonemes, you form new words; it was one of the basic examples illustrated in the above section. Hence, vocabulary in reading means knowing the words at sight. Its role in reading is:

  • helps recognize the words easily
  • improves comprehension
  • promotes reading to learn to move to learn to read

d. Comprehension: Comprehension means to construct meaning from what we read. It involves amalgamating what we know with what is provided in the text and reflecting upon it till an understanding is developed. (As stated by Block & Pressley, 2002), comprehension involves:

  • getting clarity on the meaning
  • summarizing thoughts
  • inference drawing
  • even predicting possibilities.

Hence, its main outcomes that help build strong fundamentals of reading are:

  • enriches understanding
  • brings consciousness in thoughts and actions
  • inculcates interest in exploring more and gaining deeper knowledge

A collective result of all these fundamentals is our final fundamental of reading, which is fluency.

e. Fluency: Researchers have changed the meaning of fluency from time to time. At first, it simply meant reading speedily while understanding what is written in a snap, or effortlessly. This efficiency arose from the ability to recognize words.

According to (Schreiber, 1991, and Therrien, 2004), as described in the study “A SYNTHESIS OF RESEARCH ON READING FLUENCY DEVELOPMENT: STUDY OF EIGHT META-ANALYSES“, reading fluency is reading with speed, accuracy, and prosody, without laying extra stress on basic reading skills like phonics or phonemics. It is as good as reading ‘at sight’.

kid reading book

Further, the meaning of fluency was enriched by including the ability to group words and make sentences that were easier to comprehend by the reader.

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Thus, the overall idea was to attain an understanding that brought written material closer to natural speech. This means fluent people could read as if words that were written were like a dialogue between two people (here writer and reader).

Important aspects of reading that amount to fluency are:

  • ability to recognize words effortlessly
  • building ability to recognize and learn the use of unfamiliar words
  • reading speed with the correct manifestation of punctuation marks
  • better focus on the inherent message of the written text

Thus, a fluent reader will be the one who knows what he is reading and what it has added to the understanding. He will also be the one who can establish a connection with the listener if he is reading to explain something to the latter. Such a level of fluency requires practice and dedicated reading hours, and of course, some sound strategies of learning to read. Let’s explore what those strategies are.

Fundamental reading strategies

The Ontario Ministry of Education, in their Think Literacy program, has introduced basic strategies to be used to develop reading fluency. These strategies are divided into three phases:

  • Before reading: Apply what you know already, predict mentally the probable meaning based on prior knowledge, preview the text to get a rough sense by quickly skimming through the text.
  • During reading: Monitor thoughts to ensure that they are aligned with the written, use this concentration to ponder and reflect mentally on what is written.
  • After reading: Reflect upon the ideas mentioned in the text, relate those to find how readers’ knowledge or experience has enriched, move to the process of clarifying any doubts, and finally, evaluate the understanding critically.

Wrapping up,

Knowledge of reading fundamentals is essential for grooming young brains into academically proficient individuals. They can question, reason, and understand things, and express themselves too, clearly, when they have grasped the fundamentals of how to read. These fundamentals of reading act as a lighting guide for teachers and homeschoolers, allowing them to set the benchmarks and evaluate the progress of reading beginners against those.


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