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Curriculum For Emergent Readers

Consistent and sequential reading instruction significantly enhances a student’s ability to grasp the key components involved in this skill. Although the best way to teach the fundamental process of reading has been debated, several essential factors have been identified.

Phonemic awareness and phonics-based curriculum provide the student with essential decoding tools. This stage of pre-reading is achieved through progressive exercises whereby the student recognizes letters and their corresponding sounds and then blends those sounds to create words. While this type of instruction is unarguably at the core of the reading process, there is another component that generates a high level of fluency and comprehension.

Memorizing sight words has been shown to increase a student’s ability to read the text and understand the meaning. By definition, sight words are words that are used frequently. Books for beginner readers are created with a limited number and type of words, many of which are sight words. When a student memorizes these words, there is no need to decode them; they are automatically read and understood.

Since fluency and comprehension are linked, the single act of memorizing sight words lays a solid foundation for the emergent reader. The student’s confidence level is also increased when these sight words are quickly recognized and assimilated into the passage. The memorization process can be easily achieved through fun games and other activities, adding an additional dimension of enjoyment to the learning process.

Developing a student’s vocabulary is another important factor. This is often accomplished in the early stage by the use of phonics and the recognition of sight words. When the student’s vocabulary is increased through word study, word features are internalized, eliminating the need to be constantly alert to the rules of pronunciation and the definitions of these words. Since the goal of reading is to comprehend the words, and not just pronounce or recognize them, word study is essential to bring the reading process to the next level.

As the student is led through the stages of reading instruction, the educator needs to evaluate these key areas. Phonemic awareness, phonics, recognition of sight words, and vocabulary development are all integrated, yet they can be individually taught and reinforced. Studies have shown that a curriculum that offers the emerging reader lively and meaningful text produces a high level of interest. This allows the student to connect the words with ideas and situations that go beyond the classroom and touch upon their lives.

While fluency and comprehension are typically obtained at a later stage in the reading process, educators should have those objectives in mind during all phases of this process. As early phonics instruction is offered alongside the memorization of sight words, the student significantly increases the number and type of words that can be read. This, in turn, adds to the fluency of reading, which positively affects comprehension.

In a similar manner, word study not only improves fluency and comprehension but favorably affects spelling and writing. Although these skills are further developed in later grades, educators can pave the way for success in these skills at the early stages of reading through an emphasis on these core components.

The ability to read well while thoroughly comprehending the text is the ultimate goal of any reading program. When these key principles are put into practice, students gain a higher mastery of reading that contributes to overall academic success.

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