Reading comprises several processes, including decoding, fluency, and comprehension.
They are vital to the learning and development of all students.
Phonological awareness involves recognizing the sounds of words. Generally, words are divided into both sounds and syllables, represented as graphemes (the smallest meaning unit in a writing system).
With proper phonological awareness, a child is able to pay attention to the sounds of speech, and understand how these sounds translate into print, where there is a one-to-one correspondence to the sound and grapheme. As a child learns phonics and sight words (print patterns which do not follow rules and must be memorized), they build the foundation for literacy.
Once a child learns to read basic phonics, sight words, word families, syllable constructions, and morphology (stems, root words, suffixes etc.), learning more complex phonics patterns and additional sight words are the next steps in “cracking the code.” Understanding and practicing the relationship between letter and sound is key to decoding words. As reading fluency grows, the child’s understanding of the unit of sounds in a language also grows (graphemes, morphemes, and phonemes). The child begins reading automatically, freeing mental energy for reading comprehension and the next stages of learning.
Reading is a complex process, involving interconnected elements. Each is important to the development of strong skills. The last–understanding the whole concept of a text, book or newspaper– is best achieved when the child understands language, has developed phonological recognition, has prior knowledge of the language, understands the relationship between sounds and letters, and has developed a good vocabulary. Reading comprehension is also tied to cognitive processes: Making inferences and connections, understanding character motivations, and problem-solving.