Friday, 14 June 2013

Reading Part 1


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 in based on foundational reading it can be applied to all learners because if a learner has difficulty in any of the below sections their ability to read, write, comprehend and express is affected. This blog (Part 1) focuses on reading and reading development. The following blog (Part 2) focuses on the importance of different types of reading as well as their functions and introduces how to develop reading comprehension.


Reading Aloud

The ability to read aloud consists of fluency, expression and the correct application of punctuation. Fluent and effective reading aloud does not predicate a learner's capability of reading comprehension.

Reading Silently

The ability to read accurately without reading aloud. Reading silently does not determine or demonstrate effective expression, fluency or the correct application of punctuation nor does it show a comprehensive understanding of the text.

Reading Comprehension/Understanding of the Text

This is the ability to read text and interpret meaning from the text. The ability to understand what we have read.

Reading Development

This is where it begins - the learning of letters and sounds, the skill of combining these sounds to make words, building these words to construct sentences and sentences that come together to tell stories. This development starts with Foundation Reading Skills (FRS)

The 6 major categories or steps of FRS:

  1. Print Awareness
  2. Phonemic Awareness
  3. Phonics
  4. Vocabulary
  5. Fluency
  6. Comprehension

(Please kindly note that I am not the sole owner of this information, and this information is sourced from a variety of different educational researchers, institutions and schools. The information from below has been similarly or directly worded from my EduHelpSA facebook (2012) page.)

Print Awareness

Print awareness is the concept of book orientation. The actions of  holding the book the correct way (not upside down), understanding that the writing/words moves from left to right; top to bottom and when appropriate the left page should be read first, and that the pages are turned with the hand on the right side of the book. Once these concepts have been understood and developed the child will start to show a visual understanding of what a word is: that a word has a beginning and an end, the words have spaces between them - a word is a single unit separate and a part from other words physically on the page.

Learning steps: show the different parts of the book, let the child orientate themselves to the book and positioning the book. i.e. the spine, the cover, the title page, right and left page. Books can be opened or positioned incorrectly and allow the child to correct it. When reading hold the child's hand and move their hand in the direction of what you are reading, moving the index finger of the hand over the words as you read them (preferably use their dominant hand - the hand they use the most whether it is left or right), allow the child to turn the pages. Eventually, they should be able to hold the book or position the book and point as you read to them.

Tips for Print Awareness:
  • Print Awareness is everywhere: food packaging, newspapers, books and road/facility signs - when you and your child come into contact with various print awareness objects, discuss them.
  • Remember learning is to be kept short and repeated a little later (delayed repetition). For example: a book - show the front and the back... later that day ask your child to show you the front and the back of the book again! The older your child the more advanced your print awareness can be - for example where is the title?

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to comprehend and understand the sounds and how they are put together to make words that creates the spoken language we use. A phoneme is a single sound that is refers to a specific letter for example the letter “b” is connected /b/ sound (our 26 alphabet sounds). When learning phonemic awareness it is the sound that is the focus and not the symbol of the letter.

Below are learning steps and strategies to develop your child’s phonemic awareness:

    • Phonemic Isolation is the ability to recognise the sound at the beginning, middle and end of a word. Initially start with 3 letter words only. An example is the word “cat” – the first sound is /c/, the middle /a/ and the end /t/. Please remember to stress the word out slowly, “ccccc aaaaa ttttttt”.
    • Phoneme Identity is the skill to identify the same in different words. An example is what sound is the same in the words: “hat”, “hall” and “hit”? The matching sound is /h/.
    • Phoneme categorisation is the opposite of phoneme identity it is the skill to identify the word that does not belong. An example is what word doesn’t belong: “bug”, “bag” and “hat”? The sound that does not match is /h/.
    • Phoneme blending is the ability to combine and blend phonemes to create bigger sounds and eventually words. The child should understand that single or smaller sounds can be put together to make bigger sounds, or words. The ability to sound a word out is different to the ability to blend the sounds together. An example is a child may say “cat” /c/ /a/ /t/ (sounding the word out) whereas blending “cat” /ca/ /t/ - the first two sounds have been combined. This is how a child learns that sounds worked together to form a word. A useful technique is to slowly stress the sounds together without separating them: “ccccccaaaaarrrrr” and then ask the child to say the word.
    • Phoneme segmentation is when a child is able to break a word into its separate sounds. A useful technique is tap out the sounds as the child hears them. An example is when you say the word “ran” and say it slowly “rrrraaannn” and ask the child to tap each sound out, the child should tap 3 times. This also will assist when a child needs to recognise syllables.
    • Phoneme deletion the ability to drop initial letters from a larger word to make a smaller word. An example is the word “rand” if we drop or remove the /r/ sound the word becomes “and”. This is a fairly difficult skills to learn – so be patient with your child.
    • Phoneme addition is the skill to create new words by adding a phoneme. An example is when pronouncing the sound “an” slowly to the child. Then say “If I add “ccc” to the beginning to the word what word does “ccc” and “aaannn” make?” It is suggested that on first attempts of this exercise to help the child combine the sounds. When they progress allow them to combine and sequence the sounds independently.
    • Phoneme substitution is substituting or using another letter in place of the previous word. An example is if I say “rat” and you take away the “r” it gives you? /at/. Then ask your child to add /b/ to /at/ - the new word is “bat”. 

      EduHelp Tips for Phonemic Awareness:
        • Using dough to build pictures to relate to the single phonic sounds /b/ can be "ball" this exercise is great as it address four types of learning: movement (building the ball with dough), touch (feeling the dough as we say the sound), hearing (saying/repeating the sound after the parent has said the sound) and visual seeing the "ball" as we say the sound.
        • Using taste is also beneficial an example is tasting a piece of apple for the /a/ sound.
        • Walking the letters out as we say them - use rope to shape the letters on the floor for your child to walk on as the say the letter. This is wonderful for movement learners.


          Phonics is different from phonemic awareness because it teaches your child that there is a connection between the sounds/ phonemic awareness and graphemes. Graphemes are the letters and spellings that symbolise the written form of the spoken word.

          When we learn phonics we are taught that the letters and the relationship between the sounds and the symbols of letters: the sound and the name idea. At a later stage I intend doing an article on phonics and spelling rules.

          Phonics and Books: Using books based on patterns and rhyming is a very good starting point, asking your child if they can identify the patterns or rhymes. This develops your child’s understanding between what is spoken and what is written, it also helps define phonetic relationships. Remember when reading to point at the words - ask where does the word start and end,
          ask your children to spell the word out aloud using the previous foundational reading skills we have discussed. Please read the books on a repetitive basis, but also be aware that child who having learning challenges are quick to memorise the books, so cover pictures, ask them to identify words, matching words and words that have similar sounds.

          Parents and children are noted for having difficulty in selecting reading readiness appropriate books, when visiting your library or selecting books to buy the general rule is the book should be easy enough for your child to read, but also have a few challenges on the page: for example new words that your child may have to sound out, or longer sentences, or slightly smaller print. Please make sure that the experience is not stressful, reading must be easy and fun – it is not suggest to select books by grade level, but rather on the level that is best suited to your child.


          Vocabulary plays a valuable role in reading and should not be ignored. Good vocabulary is applicable to early learners, intermediate and high school. The value of developing your child’s vocabulary continuously CAN NOT be underestimated. Vocabulary is the ability to refer to the words that we must recognise and understand in order to communicate effectively (comprehend and express). Vocabulary includes: listening vocabulary, speaking vocabulary, reading vocabulary and writing vocabulary. Vocabulary is learnt.
          Tips to develop vocabulary:
          1. there are child friendly dictionaries - appropriate to your child's age. When purchasing a dictionary look at the print, the style (does it have pictures for younger children) and what words can be found in the dictionary?
          2. Vocabulary is learnt without awareness (through reading, listening to audio books, conversations with adults and peers) or with awareness and direction (with specific instruction and taught strategies).

          Exercises to try:

          • Learn new words every week: spelling, meaning and pictures to relate to the new word.
          • Always ask your child about words, explore their understanding and application of words (for example – What does 'design' mean? How do use 'design' in a sentence?)
          • Using sound, sight, touch, smell and movement techniques to incorporate holistic learning



          Fluency is a child’s ability to read accurately, fluidly and effectively. Fluency is pivotal to indicating word recognition and expression. Fluent readers do not have to concentrate and focus on decoding words this skill allows them to start focussing on understanding the text.

          Three tips:
          • start showing your child how punctuation works whilst you are reading together, indicate when to pause and when to be more expressive. Explain long pauses, such as full stops, question marks and exclamation marks; and short pauses: commas, semi-colons and dashes. Describe and explain how to be expressive and how to interpret what they are reading so that they use the correct expressive voice
          • Ask your child to read aloud, then read aloud yourself asking them to follow you in the text as you read and once you have finished ask your child to read the text again. You can repeat this exercise. Suggestion: use smaller sections of texts that are appropriate for your child’s reading skills; you may even wish to use easier materials and move forward from there – building your child’s confidence in their reading skills as you progress.
          • Invest in an audio CD and book story so that your child can follow the text in the book as it is played from the CD. They may also read out aloud in conjunction with the CD.



          Comprehension is the ability and skill to understand and interpret a text and creating meaning from it. This is the final step in foundation reading skills.

          To comprehend a text your child will need experiential background (prior knowledge) that will add to the comprehension and develop understanding. Skills such as remembering facts, sequencing, and main ideas are fundamental to developing comprehension skills.

          There are several types of comprehension questions - below provides a basic foundational outline:

          Textually explicit comprehension questions are when questions are aimed at the literal understanding of the written text; these questions are information that is direct and targeted towards the main idea – they are direct conclusions. Examples: Who took the cake? Where did the girl hide the cake? What day was her birthday?

          Scripturally clear comprehension questions require background knowledge (being able to apply and evaluate the question). Examples: What happened at the beginning of the story? If you went to the beach where would you find shells?

          These questions become more advanced as your child progresses. Children learn comprehension strategies so that can easily derive meaning for the text (these strategies are taught).


          This blog covers the basics of reading and gives a foundational starting point to developing your child's reading skills. I intend discussing the importance of different types of reading in Part 2 and also writing a blog on Comprehension. I look forward to your feedback and suggestions. Comments, questions and advice are always welcome.