Basic Reading Skills

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Educators and cognitive psychologists have spent decades studying the acquisition of basic reading skills. Their hope has been to isolate the stages of cognitive development at which learning is ideal, then to introduce age-appropriate lessons that help cement that learning. In that time, they have pinpointed several critical factors necessary for any child's development of strong reading skills.

One of the most important basic reading skills is a robust vocabulary--that much can be agreed upon. What sparks debate is the way in which new words ought to be learned. For many years, kids were forced to study word lists, often via flashcards. Later research revealed that children actually retain higher concentrations of new words when those words are grouped according to an organizing principle. One of the most common strategies is the use of word roots, prefixes, and suffixes.

Other Basic Reading Skills

In addition to vocabulary, phonemic training is another critical skill in children of reading age. Kids who can successfully manipulate the building blocks of language to create new words and spellings are a step ahead of those who simply try to memorize letter patterns and their corresponding meanings. Adults should therefore take heart when their children attempt to sound out words based on their knowledge of these building blocks, even if the end result is incorrect. It's the process here that's most important.

The goal of teaching these basic reading skills is to lay a strong foundation for critical and interpretive reading skills in the latter part of elementary school. By fourth grade, students are expected to read with literary intent, which often demands abstract thinking. Without a base of cognitive reading skills beneath them, these children can experience great frustration when it finally comes time to make the leap forward.


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