What Are the Stages of Reading Development?

Reading development can be broken down into two major Phoenix karaoke: Learning to read and reading to learn. Learning to read involves mastering the sound structure of spoken language, understanding the alphabetic principle, decoding words, and becoming fluent. Once readers begin to become fluent the cognitive demands of reading shift from trying to decipher sound-symbol relationships and decoding words to comprehension, understanding another or multiple points of view about a topic, and gaining knowledge.

The stages of reading development progress on a continuum throughout a lifetime of reading. Positive early exposure to print and word play sets the stage for initial reading success. This often translates into more frequent reading and readers who are able to integrate new learning with their own knowledge.

Learning to Read

1. Pre-Reading

Reading development actually begins before children are aware of printed letters and words. Prior to learning about the alphabet, children have to be successful with their oral language skills. These oral language skills begin with exposure to nursery rhymes that help children develop and ear for the sounds of words. Once children get their ear for word sounds they begin to focus on the components that make them similar or different. This is called rhyme and alliteration. Rhyme and alliteration provide the foundation for the development of phonological awareness.

At this point, pre-readers’ understanding of how word sounds and patterns allows them to focus on smaller units of speech sounds. These units are called phonemes. Phonemes are speech sounds that are approximately equal to a letter or a combination of letters but not as big as a syllable. When children become proficient with phonemic awareness they are able to blend letter sounds, segment phonemes in words, and manipulate phonemes to make new or nonsense words. Being comfortable with sounds produced in isolation, being able to break words down into their small, meaningless components that are phonemes, and being able to manipulate the sound structure of words are all necessary pre-reading skills.

Pre-readers also need to be proficient with letter naming. Children who are able to rapidly and accurately identify letters find it easier to learn letter sounds and word spellings than children who are not as familiar or accurate. This is because knowing the names of letters allows children to learn their sounds quicker. That is, it hastens the pre-reader’s ability to understand the alphabetic principle which is simply the understanding that letters and words are made up of corresponding sounds. This understanding provides pre-readers the key for them to “unlock the code” and begin reading.

During this stage of reading development pre-readers gain mastery over the sound structure of spoken language, pretend to read, retell stories from picture books, enjoy having stories read to them, and recite the alphabet. The pre-reading stage typically lasts until the end of pre-school to the middle of kindergarten.

2. Emergent Readers

Emergent readers are able to begin learning how to connect sounds to printed letters and words. They soon realize that letters represent sounds and notice that combinations of letters produce different sounds. Parents and teachers often notice the beginnings of this stage when children use invented spelling. This occurs when emergent readers write words the way they sound, which is a typical part of this developmental stage as these beginning readers are over-generalizing their new skills because they have only a rudimentary understanding of the reading rules. Emergent readers often memorize the visual, i.e., orthographic, components of words or whole words and develop a “sight” vocabulary. Therefore, this stage is characterized by increased sound-symbol correspondence, increased visual memorization of high frequency “sight” words, and invented spellings.

Children in the emergent reader stage read high frequency words as well as phonetically regular words, continue to enjoy having stories read to them, enjoy stories that are predictable and relevant to them, need to be exposed to new vocabulary to increase their comprehension, and are usually able to sound out one syllable and sometimes two-syllable words. The emergent reader stage usually lasts until the end of kindergarten or the middle of first grade.

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