Literacy Development in General

The National Reading Panel has described the five basic levels/ components of literacy development:
  • Phonemic Awareness – Playing with sounds, words, rhymes (Remember “pat-a-cake” and “eensy-teensy spider?”)
  • Phonics – Putting the sounds and letters together (Usually approximately kindergarten and first grade)
  • Fluency – Reading more automatically and with expression and phrasing (Second through fourth grade plus)
  • Vocabulary – Learned from context and learned most efficiently through extensive reading (Can be addressed throughout literacy development)
  • Comprehension – “The essence of reading” (Durkin, 1993) (Can be addressed throughout literacy development)
The International Reading Association suggests that five additional areas be addressed in reading instruction: classroom organization, differentiated instruction, intensive tutoring, motivations and engagement, writing, and oral language.

There are several key concepts to remember as your children grow as readers:
The purpose of reading is to make meaning, and meaning is socially constructed. Never underestimate the value of reading to and with your child!
Just as children don’t learn to walk or talk at exactly the same age (Remember when you worried that Susie’s daughter was walking before little Johnny?), children don’t learn to read at exactly the same age.  Be patient.
Current research indicates that one of the most valuable pieces in becoming a strong reader is significant background knowledge.  A child who’s been to a science museum, a farm, a city, a baseball game, a zoo has a picture in his head, a vocabulary that supports, and an understanding of concepts that enable him to read – and understand – text related to those topics more successfully. 
Learning to read is a continuum.  A child doesn’t read without mistakes from the outset.  The mistakes s/he makes are called “miscues,” errors that reflect the child’s thinking.  Readers use three cueing systems to read words:  meaning (What word would you expect to hear?), sentence structure (Does it sound like real language?), and the letters/sounds of the word itself.  Allow room for – and be patient with – error!
Reading is like driving a car.  Sometimes (the freeway, for instance) you go fast.  Sometimes (in a residential neighborhood, for instance) you go more slowly.  Your driving goal is to drive the appropriate speed, fast enough to get there but not so fast that you lose control.  In reading, meaning is the ultimate goal; you read fast enough to make text manageable but recognize the times you need to slow down to understand or savor the text.