Reading is a complex, purposeful, social, and cognitive process in which readers simultaneously use their knowledge of spoken and written language, their knowledge of the topic of the text, and their knowledge of their culture to construct meaning. Reading is not a technical skill acquired once and for all in the primary grades, but rather a craft that develops, richens, and changes over a lifetime. A reader’s competence continues to grow through engagement with various types of text and wide reading for various purposes
NCTE’s Commission on Reading, May 2004
The essential components of a comprehensive reading program
The National Reading Panel (NRP) was convened by Congress to assess the effectiveness of different approaches used to teach children to read. In 2000, the NRP issued their findings in “The Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read”. The NRP reviewed more than 100,000 studies regarding what researchers have discovered about how to successfully teach children to read. The panel found five components that are essential to a comprehensive reading program.
- Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words.
- Phonics instruction teaches children the relationships between the letters of written language and the individual sounds of spoken language.
- Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with proper expression.
- Vocabulary refers to the words we must know to communicate effectively (oral and reading vocabulary).
- Comprehension is the reason for reading. If readers can read the words but do not understand what they are reading, they are not really reading.
A comprehensive reading program with the essential components of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension addresses the critical literacy needs of all children and provides interventions for children at risk.