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Learning to read is an exciting time for children and their families. While thrilled by their children's emerging literacy skills, many parents are surprised to learn that learning to read and strong reading comprehension are not necessarily easily acquired skills.  Learning to be a successful reader is a process that is not fully understood. Questions that researchers even today are working on include:

What is the relationship between reading comprehension and spelling?

When a child has poor reading comprehension, shouldn't you focus on building reading comprehension skills?

The answer to the second question is "maybe".  The reason is that poor reading comprehension can be due to a number of diverse causes. If a student does not exhibit adequate reading comprehension, any of a number of issues could be the weak link that interferes with the overall process going smoothly.

In The Importance of Automaticity and Fluency For Efficient Reading Comprehension, Pamela E. Hook and Sandra D. Jones analyze the the reading process as organized along two separate but highly interrelated areas - word identification and comprehension. Their article maintains that even the slightest glitch in word comprehension and fluency can create a cognitive overhead that significantly reduces reading comprehension.  The article then outlines the link between phonemic awareness, phonics and orthographic reading. So strong automaticity, built in large part through spelling practice, is required for adequate reading comprehension.

The Reading Skills Pyramid based on the What Works? research, illustrates how a successful reader is the culmination of building skills in five major areas: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and fluency. The Reading Skills Pyramid visually depicts the patterns of concept acquisition that children follow in becoming successful readers up through third grade. We recommend a high level of parent involvement in this process by providing high-quality educational materials, establishing a pattern of daily reading, creating a language-rich environment, and discussing your child's progress with teachers and following up on their recommendations. While most children follow the same sequence of acquiring literacy skills, they do so at their own pace. All children are different - if you have questions or concerns about your child's progress in reading, contact his or her teacher.

Reading Skills Pyramid
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