Questions on skills needed to read proficiently and questions about the importance of  teaching foundational reading skills.

Q: What skills does my child need to acquire to learn to read proficiently? Do you have a list of the skills students need to develop to become skilled readers? What does my child need to learn in order to be able to read? What skills are essential to proficient reading? My child knows his sounds, why can’t he read?

A: Reading is a complex learned skill requiring the mastery, integration and application of many different fundamental subskills and knowledge. It involved both 1) establishing a foundation of phonologic processing of print and 2) developing higher level or advanced skills.  See “Overview and Visual Representation of Processes Required for Proficient Reading”.  

Correct phonologic processing of print is the essential foundation for proficient reading.  Students need to convert print to sound so they can tap into the brains phonologic processors designed for effortlessly processing spoken sound. See How Reading Works for additional information. To do this efficiently the student must recognize the sound structure of language (phonemic awareness), directly and automatically know the phonemic code including the complexities (knowledge of the complete code). They must process print from left to right (tracking), smoothly combine the individual sounds together (blending), and pay close attention to all the letters in the words (attention to detail). Learning the individual components in isolation is not sufficient. The student must not only master these individual skills but also integrate and automatically apply these skills when they read. In addition, as with all learned skills, practice with correct phonologic processing is essential to developing proficiency.  See the article Foundational Skills Necessary for Proficient Phonologic Processing.  

After the foundational skills are established,it is equally important for the student  to develop higher level skills including handling multisyllable words, building fluency, expanding vocabulary and developing comprehension skills and strategies. The article Advanced Skills Necessary for Skilled Reading contains additional information and details.   

A student who lacks some of the foundational skills will struggle with reading. This is why a student who ‘knows his sounds’ (has knowledge of the phonemic code) may still not be able to read. For example, if this student is not able to blend sounds, is not tracking properly, or has not practiced integrating and applying the skills, he will struggle with reading. Reading requires much more than the acquisition of a single skill such as code knowledge.  

Q: Why does your program teach each and every little step? Do I really need to actually teach my child to follow from left to right when she reads?

Right Track Reading Lessons teaches each and every little step because reading is an artificial complex learned skill! Review the article Skills Necessary for Proficient Reading: Explanation of Foundational Skills to Develop Phonologic Processing and Higher Level Skills to Advance to Proficient Reading  While some students may ‘pick-up” or ‘get’ these skills on their own, many do not. Many students develop serious reading problems when they accidentally miss essential subskills. While the detailed and complete instruction may be overkill for some children, detailed instruction insures your child does not miss acquiring an essential subskill.  The importance of the initial critical subskills can not be overlooked. It is not coincidence that many older students who struggle are missing basic essential skills.

Yes, it is important to directly teach a child to read from left to right. Correct tracking is one of the essential sub-skills for proficient reading. To read proficiently, the student must process print left to right. Direct instruction in tracking insures the child or student acquires this vital skill. For more information see the article Directional Tracking Explained: Why Directional Tracking is Important to Reading Development .   

While all elements are explicitly and directly taught in the program, you obviously may adapt the program to your child. The advantage of one-on-one instruction is you can monitor and adjust instruction to meet the individual’s needs. If the child needs extra work you provide it. If the child has mastered a skill you can and should move on. For example, if your child blends sounds without problem, then it is not necessary to spend extra time teaching this skill. Don’t skip teaching a skill, but once your child masters it then you don’t need to spend extra time directly working on the skill in isolation anymore. However, make sure the student has actually mastered and continues to apply the skill correctly.

When remediating an older student who struggles with reading, it is particularly important to directly teach each skill. These struggling readers have previously missed acquiring the essential skills and are unlikely to ‘pick up’ necessary skills without the direct systematic instruction.

In summary,  Right Track Reading Lessons’s includes direct instruction of  ‘every little step’ to help insure the student learns all the skills necessary for proficient reading.  For additional information, read reason #2, #3 and #4 of the FAQ on why Right Track Reading Programs are so effective.

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These questions were answered by Miscese Gagen a mother with a passion for teaching children to read proficiently by using effective methods. She is also a successful reading tutor and author of the reading instructional programs Right Track Reading Lessons and Back on the Right Track Reading Lessons. The purpose of this article is to empower parents and teachers with information on teaching children how to read. We CAN improve reading proficiency, one student at a time!  More information is located at ~  Copyright 2004-2013 Miscese R. Gagen