Reading is the most basic of skills. It provides access to other skills and knowledge, facilitates life-long learning, and opens doors to opportunity. While a large number of adult learners need to improve their reading skills, many instructors in adult education programs do not teach reading explicitly.
What is reading? [Reading is]…a complex system of deriving meaning from print that requires all of the following:
- The skills and knowledge to understand how phonemes, or speech sounds, are connected to print;
- The ability to decode unfamiliar words;
- The ability to read fluently;
- Sufficient background information and vocabulary to foster reading comprehension;
- The development of appropriate active strategies to construct meaning from print; and
- The development and maintenance of a motivation to read.
(Source: Partnership for Reading)
Scientific research has identified five components of reading:
- Alphabetics (Phonemic Awareness) is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words.
- Phonics is the relationships between the letters (graphemes) of written language and the individual sounds (phonemes) of spoken language. Phonics instruction teaches learners to use these relationships to use and write words.
- Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately and quickly. When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. They group words quickly to help them gain meaning from what they read. They read aloud effortlessly and with expression. Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension.
- Vocabulary refers to the words we must know to communicate effectively. Vocabulary is also very important to reading comprehension. Readers cannot understand what they are reading without knowing what most of the words mean. Learning to read more advanced texts means readers must learn the meaning of new words that are not part of their oral 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. Good readers are both purposeful (they have a reason to read) and active (they think to make sense of what they read).