Reading Skills

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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How does one define reading skills, and from where do they originate? Most of us learned to read so long ago that, unless we have young children ourselves, we're likely unfamiliar with the ways in which we make meaning out of printed text. If you think back to your own childhood, you may well remember your earliest teachers and even some of the books you read. Chances are, however, you don't remember how you were taught your reading skills.

One of the keys to understanding reading is seeing the language as a system of discrete units that can be broken down and studied. Rarely do we learn whole words right off the bat, for without an understanding of letters and their corresponding sounds, those new words are useless to us. Thus, we start at the level of the phoneme or individual sound, the smallest building block of our written and spoken language.

Progressing to More Advanced Reading Skills

It's not enough to know the sounds on their own. We must also understand how sounds blend together. Take the word "thought," as an example. Without the requisite blending skills, we'd have no way of knowing just how the "th" sound in this particular case is used, let alone the more challenging "ought." We are thus taught to acknowledge patterns not only in the writing of these curious combinations, but in their pronunciation as well.

With this base of reading skills, we can progress to other syntactical rules (those that govern the way letters and words are ordered). Again, it is patterns that tip us off to proper use. We aren't told, for example, that prepositions precede indirect objects, for such a statement would have little meaning for a youngster (indeed, it's meaningless to most adults as well). Rather, we start to acknowledge that we are speaking to the teacher or that we are returning from the store.

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