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For the LOVE of reading: A 4-part series with ideas to help develop strong literacy skills (Part 1 of 4)

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Educators, parents and caregivers, literacy experts, and school leaders: This series is for you! Kids Read Now is thrilled to present this series on developing strong literacy skills from guest author Dr. Wendy Strickler, Assistant Professor in Reading Science and Director of Teacher Advancement Programs at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Decades of research show these 2 concepts are key to preventing literacy loss

Although there are some different beliefs about how reading develops, we can all agree that it is a critical life skill. We want our kids to develop as readers who can make meaning from text: enjoying a good book, learning new concepts, and synthesizing information.

The Science of Reading (SOR) is a body of research collected across the world over decades that helps us to understand how reading develops and can help provide tips for parents to foster reading.

One model that helps to explain reading development is called the Simple View of Reading (Gough and Tunmer, 1986). This model looks like this:

Word Recognition (WR) x Language Comprehension (LC) = Reading Comprehension (RC)

This model helps us to understand that there are 2 key components that multiply together to help create proficient readers.

The first component is Word Recognition.

This means being able to crack the code to know that the letters you see on a page represent sounds, and if you can hear those sounds and hear them blended together to make a word, then you can lift that word off the page.

So, in this first part, I need to be able to figure out what the letters are saying.

The second part is Language Comprehension.

So, once I hear the word, I then need my brain to recognize what the word means. Do I know this vocabulary word? If I do, now I’ve lifted the word off the page and I know what it means!! I have the pieces to reading those words proficiently.

As an example, when you, as a good reader, read this sentence…

The canine has four legs.

…your brain first has the letter-sound knowledge and phonics skills to blend the sounds and read each word.

After your brain sees the letters and hears the word “canine” (word recognition), your brain has to recognize this vocabulary word as a more fancy word for dogs (language comprehension). Your brain then puts all the words it lifts and recognizes together to paint a picture (a mental model) of a dog with 4 legs. 

Reading for meaning!

This model helps us understand that there are 2 different parts of reading we can be working on. It also helps us understand that early on, we work on these 2 pieces separately because the vocabulary I’m ready to learn orally/auditorily is going to be bigger than the words I’m ready to read.

In early grades I’m learning to read the word “dog” because I’m learning each sound and letter symbol, but I’m ready to orally learn the word “canine”.

As other examples, our kindergarten and 1st grade kiddos are learning to read words like the 1st word (left column), but hear and learn the meaning of words like the 2nd word (right column):

Emerging readers make meaning verbally and auditorily

So as parents, what can we be doing to help with reading?

First, read with your children every day. Sit together and read to them.

If they are at the point of knowing and sounding out some early words, share the reading and have them read these words. If they are early in reading, read to them. This reading time is special for many reasons, among them, it builds literacy and language skills that kids will take into later reading. So, grab a fun book and start today!

Dr. Wendy Strickler has a Ph.D. and Masters from the University of Cincinnati, with a Curriculum Instruction and Professional Development license from Miami University. She has taught courses at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio and worked in PreK-12 education for about 20 years. She is currently serving as an Assistant Professor in Reading Science & Director of Teacher Advancement Programs. Her career began with teaching preschool for children with developmental disabilities in Montreal, Canada. More about Dr. Wendy Strickler

Here are a few lists of books to consider…

Thousands of elementary-aged students received independent reading books of their own choosing in their mailbox last year! After reading them at home, they voted on their favorite titles. Here are the recommendations of students whose schools partnered with Kids Read Now to improve reading proficiency and foster a love of reading.

What’s up next?

When it comes to developing strong literacy skills, reading isn’t just about words on a page. It’s about unlocking adventures and diving into new worlds! Dive into the Science of Reading (SOR) to uncover the magic behind this.

It all boils down to two things: recognizing the words (like realizing “canine” sounds like ‘kay-nine’) and understanding their meanings (like knowing a canine is our furry, four-legged friend).

Ready to dive deeper?

Stick around for the next three blogs on developing strong literacy skills from guest author Dr. Wendy Strickler’s series. You’ll discover a treasure trove of evidence-based strategies that weave the Science of Reading and the “LOVE of reading” to help you help students develop strong literacy skills — with no shortage of fun along the way!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Science of Reading?

The Science of Reading is an evidence-based approach to teaching reading that draws on an extensive body of research from multiple fields, including cognitive science and linguistics. It emphasizes using the innate processes of oral and auditory language as the link to other cognitive processes involved in reading, like sound-symbol matching, vocabulary knowledge, and applying context for comprehension.

What is the Simple View of Reading?

The Simple View of Reading is a framework that breaks down reading into two key components: Word Recognition and Language Comprehension. It suggests that Reading Comprehension is the product of these two elements working together.

Is the Simple View of Reading the same thing as the Science of Reading?

No, the Simple View of Reading and the Science of Reading are related but not identical. While the Simple View of Reading is a theoretical model that helps us understand reading, the Science of Reading is an evidence-based instructional approach used to teach reading effectively.

What do we mean when we say Word Recognition?

Word recognition refers to a reader’s ability to accurately and quickly identify words in print. It involves decoding, sight word recognition, and understanding of spelling patterns.

What is phonological awareness?

Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate the sounds (phonemes) in spoken language. It includes skills like rhyming, blending sounds, and segmenting words into individual sounds.

What is phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is a subset of phonological awareness. Specifically, it refers to the ability to identify and manipulate individual phonemes, which are the smallest units of sound in language.

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