The basics of beginning reading

Find out if your kindergartner or first grader is on track.

By GreatSchools Staff

What is decoding?

To understand decoding, it helps to think about written language as essentially a code or series of symbols for oral language. To read, a child needs to be able to decode written language, which means being able to recognize and sound out each letter of the alphabet. A child also needs to recognize and be able to pronounce letter blends – letters commonly found grouped together. Frequently found letter blends include "th", "ch", "st", and "qu"; more complicated blends include "ough" and "ought." Your child might be having difficulty with decoding if she regularly struggles with recognizing letter sounds and blend sounds. The result is that she wouldn't be able to easily sound out many words in a text at her grade level. A child with strong decoding skills can recognize familiar words quickly, and easily figure out new words.

Top two decoding skills: recognizing letter sounds and blend sounds

An early reader with good decoding skills can:

What is fluency?

Fluency describes the flow and ease of a child's reading style. Reading fluency has been called the bridge between decoding and comprehension, since decoding skills are necessary to master reading fluency and in turn fluency is essential for reading comprehension. A child with weak decoding skills will read haltingly, and her poor fluency will inhibit reading comprehension. A child with strong fluency skills reads smoothly and naturally, in a voice similar to her speaking voice, with appropriate speed and expression.

An early reader reader with good fluency skills can:

What is comprehension?

Reading comprehension is the ability to understand a text. It is also the goal of reading itself: if you comprehend what you read, then you have mastered the basics of reading. Along with understanding the basic plot line and facts in a text he reads, a child with strong comprehension can also identify key themes, read between the lines, and extrapolate from the text to make connections with his own life experience.

An early reader with good comprehension skills can (with support and prompting):

What is knowledge?

Reading knowledge describes a reader's knowledge base. Unlike comprehension, which is about understanding what is read, knowledge is the developing wealth of information a reader accumulates. Knowledge both informs and is informed by what we read: as we read, we build knowledge, and what we already know enhances and enriches our reading experience. Reading knowledge is often associated with nonfiction texts that increase our understanding of the world around us, but fiction texts can also teach us something new or help us see the world through another's eyes. A child with strong knowledge skills is an active, engaged reader who reads to learn, and can make connections between what she reads and the world around her.

An early reader with good knowledge skills can: