Tim Rasinski is a renowned professor of literacy education whose research on reading fluency and word study has made him a literacy hero to many. Below, he shares his thoughts on the importance of  foundational literacy skills. 

To become proficient in reading, one needs to master certain key competencies. Among those competencies are word recognition (phonics), spelling, sight word reading, and reading fluency.

In a recent study, in which I was part of the research team, we examined the performance of over 1,000 third grade students on assessments of each of these competencies and attempted to determine the extent to which they contribute to overall reading proficiency (as measured by a state reading achievement test).

We found that students who were proficient in word recognition, spelling, sight words reading, and fluency were 7 times more likely to also be proficient on the reading achievement assessment.

This study, as well many that have preceded it, suggest strongly that the foundational reading competencies need to be a non-negotiable part of any effective reading program, at least through grade 3, and probably beyond.

The fact that nationwide, only 37% of fourth grade students read at a level identified as proficient or advanced suggests that many students continue to be insufficiently prepared in the foundational skills or competencies (2017 NAEP Reading Report Card).

More emphasis needs to be placed on foundational reading. While I am not advocating any particular form of instruction, I do believe that teachers, school administrators, and educational policymakers need to examine (and re-examine) the extent to which foundational reading competencies are an essential and active part of the school reading curriculum in the primary grades. 

Supplemental literacy programs, like VocabularySpellingCity, provide educational activities that target foundational skills, like phonics and sight word recognition. 

VocabularySpellingCity phonics game Sort it Out: Vowels allows students to identify short and long vowel sounds.

Any structure built to last needs to rest on a solid foundation. This is certainly true of reading.

Paige, D. D., Smith, G. S., Rasinski, T. V., Rupley, W. H., Magpuri-Lavell, T., & Nichols, W. D. (2018).  A path analytic model linking foundational skills to Grade 3 state reading achievement. The Journal of Educational Research, DOI: 10.1080/00220671.2018.1445609

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Tim Rasinski is a professor of literacy education at Kent State University. His research on reading has been cited by the National Reading Panel and has been published in journals such as Reading Research QuarterlyThe Reading Teacher, Reading Psychology, and the Journal of Educational ResearchRead more about Rasinski here, or connect with him on Twitter @timrasinski1

For more from Tim Rasinski, continue to follow us for his exclusive VocabularySpellingCity blog series and be sure to watch a video recording of his webinar “Automaticity (Fluency) in Word Learning Improves Comprehension”

Rasinski’s research on word fluency is cited in the report, “Applying Best Practices For Effective Vocabulary Instruction,” written by VocabularySpellingCity in partnership with McREL International.

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