Elements of an Effective Beginning Reading Program

How to Help Children Establish a Strong Foundation

of Correct Phonologic Processing


This information is targeted for younger children (kindergarten, 1st, 2nd grade) who are learning to read. For information targeted to preschoolers see the article Starting Preschoolers off; Building Essential Pre-Reading Skills.  For information targeted to struggling readers 3rd grade and older see the article Elements of an Effective Reading Remediation Program.


1. Teach All Skills Directly: Always explicitly teach the child exactly what they need to know. Never leave it to chance for a child to discover essential elements on his own. Direct instruction prevents situations where the child does not learn simply because they inadvertently missed essential information or skills. While some students may be able to learn with indirect, analytic, embedded or incidental approaches, many do not. Statistically the majority of children fail to learn to read with indirect and embedded instructional methods. At best, these methods are inefficient.  To maximize effectiveness and efficiency all skills should be directly taught to the child. Direct instruction helps insure the child learns all necessary skills.   


2. Teach In a Systematic Manner: Present information in a deliberate, pre-planned carefully controlled manner. This step-by-step instruction allows the child time to practice and master individual skills before additional information and complexities are taught. Start simple. Introduce new skills and knowledge a bit at a time, adding complexity as the child learns.  The English language is complex. Systematic presentation helps children manage and master the complexities.  A carefully designed program that directly teaches the complete code and progressively builds skills and knowledge in a direct systematic manner prevents the chaos and confusion that is created when you toss the entire complex English language at the child at one time. Systematic presentation helps the student make sense of our complex written language. The purpose of a carefully controlled systematic presentation is to help the child learn. This systematic presentation is especially important for young children.


3.  Always Provide Immediate Correction: Do not allow the child to learn or practice skills incorrectly. Immediate correction is critical to helping the child develop necessary skills. It is a disservice to allow a student to perform a skill incorrectly. It is always easier to learn the correct way than to try and unlearn erroneous habits. If the child can not correct himself, or does not understand then you need to teach them the skill they are lacking. As the teacher, it is your job to ensure the child is learning correctly. Correction is NOT a negative action but rather a positive opportunity to help the student learn correctly.   Always help the child learn correctly!


4. Develop Phonemic Awareness: Directly develop phonemic awareness skills.  Although some children have a definite natural phonological weakness, phonemic awareness (PA) can be taught and learned. The scientific evidence proves that PA instruction has a significant positive effect on both reading and spelling. Directly teach the child how to hear, recognize and manipulate sounds within words.  To maximize effectiveness the program needs to directly link the oral phonemic awareness skills directly to the printed phonemic code (sound to print).


5. Develop and Engrain Proper Tracking: It is essential the child develops and engrains proper directional tracking where they process letters in order from left to right when they read. It is especially important to directly teach and emphasize proper directional tracking from the beginning. If the child does not track left to right they will struggle with reading. Avoid incorrect strategies that lead to reading difficulty by requiring direct work on proper tracking skills.  Physical pointing, with either the finger, is a highly effective way to directly teach this critical skill.  The multisensory benefits of having the child physically move their finger (kinetic motion) develops and engrains this essential subskill.. Be sure the child processes all the letters in a word in order from left to right. Teach this essential skill until proper tracking is automatic.


6.  Teach Smooth Blending: The skill of smoothly blending individual sounds together into words is critical. The child needs to learn how to combine the sounds smoothly without pausing between the sounds. The instructor needs to always demonstrate the correct blending technique of not pausing between the sounds. Choppy/segmented sounding out makes it very difficult for children to push the sounds back together into a word. They might know all the individual sounds but by the time they get to the end of the word with separated choppy sounding out they forget what sounds they just said or add in extra sounds when they try to put it all together. If the child keeps the sounds smoothly ‘hooked’ together, the word doesn’t ‘fall apart’. It is important to directly teach smooth blending and help the child develop this essential skill. See the article Blending Explained for additional information.


7. Teach the Complete Phonetic Code: Directly teach the complete phonetic code. An effective reading program directly and systematically teaches all necessary phonograms. The phonograms are the alphabetic letters or groups of letters that symbolize the smallest speech sounds of English.  The alphabet is not sufficient. It is essential to teach the complete code necessary to master our phonemic based written English language.  Although you should start with the simple and most frequently encountered sounds, it is not adequate to stop there. In addition to the basic sounds (alphabet), a well designed direct systematic phonics program teaches the multiple sounds for the vowels (o=/o/, /oa/ and /u/…), other alternative sounds (c=/k/ & /s/, g=/g/ & /j/…) the consonant digraphs (th, ch, sh…) vowel combinations (ee, ea, oi, ai, ou, ow…), r-controlled vowels (ar, or, er, ur, …) and other complexities (ph, wr, kn…)


The child needs to look at the black printed letter(s) and immediately and directly know and process the correct sound Teaching activities should establish this direct accurate print = correct sound efficient processing. The sound knowledge needs to be direct, automatic, and phonetically correct print to sound. Avoid indirect processing as it is inefficient and makes reading harder for the child. Use direct accurate print to sound instruction. Systematically present phonograms to the child and allow the child time to practice so the sound knowledge becomes automatic. An effective program helps the child acquire automatic, direct knowledge of the complete phonemic code, an essential skill for proficient phonologic processing.  


Additional information is found in The Building Blocks of Written English-The Phonemic Code.


8. Use Targeted Multisensory Processes: Multisensory processes refer to utilizing the different senses to aid learning. The general concept is we learn and remember more when we involve multiple senses including visual processes (pictures, ‘seeing’ images), auditory/oral processes (listening and talking), and physical/kinetic processes (motion, hands on, doing). Multisensory instruction applies two or more of these senses to enhance learning.  However, to be effective in developing reading skills these multisensory activities must be carefully targeted. Multi-sensory approaches in themselves will not help a student learn to read unless they directly build the exact skills necessary for proficient reading.  Effective multisensory activities directly teach correct directional tracking, develop phonemic awareness, create a direct and automatic link between print and sound, teach smooth blending, and establish correct proficient phonologic processing.  It is not the multisensory process itself but the application of these multi-sensory processes to the development of specific skills that is key to enhanced learning. 


For instance, neural research clearly identifies the direct link between print and sound is necessary to develop proficient reading pathways. This automatic direct link between printed letter and the correct sound is the required skill activities need to target.  An effective multisensory instructional activity is having the student write the printed letter while saying the sound.  This simple action directly links the motion of forming the printed letter (kinetic), image of the completed letter (visual) to saying and hearing the correct sound (auditory). This targeted application and integration of the multisensory processes is highly effective in helping the student learn the necessary skill.


In contrast, multisensory activities that are not targeted to develop necessary skills (based on the science of proficient reading) have limited benefit. Activities can even be detrimental if they unintentionally create incorrect processing or utilize energy for unnecessary indirect efforts. A jumping jack, dance or hand sign are misguided application of the kinetic process because these motions are unrelated to skills necessary for reading print. These activities may actually develop indirect, inefficient processing. We know auditory and oral processes of saying and hearing sounds are critical to phonologic processing. However, saying sounds incorrectly, practicing sounds without linking them visually to the printed letters, orally chanting words or singing songs will not directly develop necessary skills of converting printed letters to their correct sound, blending these sounds into words and developing phonologic processing pathways.  Similarly, looking at objects or images, color coding, and other such unrelated visual activities are misguided. Teaching a student to visual ‘recognize’ words by their overall appearance (sight word approach) can be detrimental because it undermines the phonologic processing essential for proficient reading. Remember to be effective, multisensory activities must focus on developing necessary skills.


Mixed in with the multisensory instruction, there is often a good deal of discourse about ‘multiple intelligence’ and ‘multiple learning styles’. These terms refer to theories about how individuals have specific strengths and how some children learn better with certain styles.  This theory professes views such as a student with strong ‘visual intelligence’ learns better with visual instructional approaches and a student with strong ‘auditory intelligence’ learns best with oral instructional methods.  It is very important to realize while individuals absolutely do have specific strengths, this does not mean that proficient reading is achieved by many different pathways. The neural science is clear. To read proficiently the student must convert print to sound and develop phonologic processing pathways. An assumption such as strong visual learners would best learn to read using visual processing completely ignores the science of proficient reading.  In fact, this false assumption is most detrimental to the students with the naturally strong ‘visual intelligence’ and weak phonemic awareness as these students are least likely to develop the necessary phonemic processing on their own. Instruction that encourages the use of visual processing actually leads these strong ‘visual’ students further down the incorrect processing pathways.  Reading instruction needs to be designed to develop the specific skills necessary for proficient reading.


An individual’s unique strengths and weaknesses make it even more important to directly develop necessary skills.  It is especially important to specifically teach, emphasize and develop strong phonemic processing skills in students who are naturally weakest in these areas. Left on their own, many students with poor phonemic awareness rely on their natural strengths and fail to develop necessary phonologic processing pathways. It is also important to realize building a student’s skills for proficient reading never negates or somehow minimizes their other natural strengths. For instance, if a student has strong visual skills, developing their phonemic awareness and teaching them to read with phonologic processing skills will not eliminate their strong visual skills. It will simply teach them to apply phonologic processing when reading. Effective reading instruction is not designed to match an individuals existing strengths but rather designed to intentionally develop and build skills and processes necessary for proficient reading.


In summary, multi-sensory activities are effective tools in helping students learn to read. However, these activities must be carefully designed and targeted to directly teach and reinforce the skill/knowledge necessary for proficient reading. While students may naturally have specific learning strengths and weaknesses, proficient reading requires the development of phonologic processing pathways. Effective reading programs use a variety of carefully designed and targeted multi-sensory activities to directly teach and develop the skills necessary for proficient reading.


9. Emphasize Attention to Detail: To read proficiently, the child needs to learn to pay attention to detail. Teach the child to carefully look at all the sounds within a word and stop him immediately if he skips details. This emphasis on attention to detail is important from the very beginning so the child does not develop bad habits that can lead to reading difficulty. Develop careful attention to detail from the beginning. Proper tracking is also intertwined into the attention to detail skill. An effective beginning reading program should be designed to directly teach, develop and reinforce this critical attention to detail that is essential for skilled reading.


10. Develop Phonologic Processing (Use a Direct Systematic Phonics Approach): The student needs to learn to read by using phonologic processing. The most effective way to ensure children convert print to sound and develop the phonologic processing necessary for proficient reading is to teach them with a strong phonics-first direct systematic phonics program. Directly teach the child to convert letters into sounds and blend these sounds into words.  Validated research shows this type of direct-systematic-phonics instruction has significant benefits for children in K through 6th grade and in children having difficulty learning to read. [1]  True phonics based programs teach students printed letters represent specific sounds and how to blend these sounds into words. To maximize effectiveness, you need to teach the student explicitly and directly in a systematic and complete manner. An important note: this absolutely is not a blanket endorsement for all ‘phonics’ programs. Many programs labeled ‘phonics’ use indirect, embedded methods or are in fact just sight word programs with a token addition of a few sounds. Other ‘phonics’ programs are incomplete or rely on indirect approaches.


Effective beginning reading programs need to insure the child develops and uses correct techniques so they establish proficient phonologic neural processing pathways. By design effective programs not only directly develop necessary skills but also prevent the use of improper strategies.  Remember phonologic processing is more than knowing the sounds. Efficient phonologic processing requires integration of direct knowledge of the complete phonemic code, proper directional tracking, smooth blending, and attention to detail into the process of converting print to sound.


Research provides neurobiological proof effective instruction using direct-phonological-based reading programs can develop the neural pathways for proficient reading in both children and adults.  Effective programs that specifically taught letter-sound correspondence not only improved reading skills in struggling readers, but actually changed brain activity form incorrect neural pathways to the “correct” pathway that good readers use. 


11.  Use DECODABLE TEXT for practice: In beginning reading, it is important the child practices reading decodable text. Text is decodable if it contains sounds the child has learned. The use of phonetically decodable text is critical, because it allows the child to apply correct phonologic processing skills. If the child attempts to read text that is NOT decodable (contains sounds they have not yet learned) the child is unable to use correct phonologic processing and often resorts to and adopts incorrect strategies such as word guessing and visual memorization that lead to reading difficulties.  To become a proficient reader, the child MUST develop and practice correct phonologic processing.  With decodable text you are only asking the child to read material he has the skills to read.  Decodable text allows the child to use and develop correct print to sound phonologic processing pathways.


Decodable text contains sounds the child has learned. To determine if text is decodable you need to evaluate the phonetic structure of the vocabulary. A well designed program has the child practice reading words that are decodable based on the sounds the child has learned to date.  For example if the young child has only learned the basic sounds m=/m/, a=/a/, t=/t/, s=/s/, d=/d/, i=/i/, r=/r/, e=/e/,  n=/n, c=/k/, h=/h/,  decodable words would include: rat, net, miss, nest, hit, cat, sit, cast, him, hat, rest, rim. Decidability is based on the phonemic code not the letters. For example with this set of sounds, the child could not decode words such as ‘rain’ (has not yet learned the vowel combination ‘ai’=/ay/; ‘chair’ (not yet learned ‘ch’=/ch/ or the r-controlled vowel combination ‘air’=/air/; ‘hate’ (not yet learned the vowel-consonant-e combination) or teacher (not yet learned ‘ea’=/ee/, ‘ch’=/ch/ or the ‘er’=/er/). While the child will be able to decode these words later as their knowledge of complexities expand, they are not decodable for a child who has only learned a few of the basic sounds.  In addition, young children need to begin with single syllable words. However, you still need to evaluate phonemic code as word length is only part of decidability. Some short words have complex code that is not yet decodable by beginners (for example: owl, art, boy, roar, right, soil, year, …) Also don’t rely on the grade level rating or label printed on the book. Always evaluate the vocabulary. Many very simple children’s picture books with only one or two words per page and numerous books actually labeled “early phonics readers” are full of words like ‘rhinoceros’ and  ‘laugh’ that contain complex code or multisyllable word such as ‘carnival’ and ‘investigations’ that are absolutely not decodable by beginners.


The prudent limits on reading material are temporary restrictions designed to help the child learn. As the child learns more and more sounds, the material that is decodable rapidly expands.  Before long the child is able to pick up and read any appropriate book. Having the child read decodable text is similar to teaching a child to play the piano. A beginner does not play advanced music. The beginner starts with individual notes and simple songs such as Mary had a Little Lamb. As the child acquires skills they are able to advance.


It is also very important to recognize, the use of decodable material never means advanced books are off limits to children but only what the child initially reads to you should be decodable. You absolutely should be reading a wide range of books to your child and as your child’s skills advance the child will be able to read true literature to you.   The use of decodable text in beginning reading does not limit children, but rather effectively helps them build necessary skills and develop phonologic processing pathways so they can access the limitless opportunities of proficient reading. 


More information on decodable text is found in the article Decodable Text Explained.


12.  Ensure Phonologic Processing - Avoid Sight/Whole Word Reading: It is important to avoid teaching a sight word approach where the student learns to “read” by trying to recognize what whole words “look like”. Many students who struggle with reading have adopted this incorrect ‘whole word’ visual word recognition strategy. Beginning reading needs to ensure the child does NOT adopt this detrimental technique of trying to visually recognize the entire word.


A ‘whole word’ approach to reading fails because there are too many words and words are too similar to learn by overall visual appearance.  Initially, a simple short list can be successfully “read” by whole word strategies and guessing. For example, a short list of visually different words like …a, the, cat, ball, house, green. This whole word identification “instant reading” may be exciting at first but can encourage the child to develop incorrect reading strategies where they think “reading” equates to simply looking at what the word looks like, recognizing a few letters, and then “word guessing”. Some children, especially those with strong visual memory skills, are very good at this in the beginning. However, as vocabulary expands visually similar words are encountered. The student who has adopted a whole word reading strategy is certain to fail. Not only are there absolutely too many words but words are too visually similar. A child starts school with something like a 24,000 word speaking and listening vocabulary. His vocabulary is up above 40,000 by 3rd grade. It is impossible to learn such an extensive vocabulary visually as whole words. Remember, only 26 letters make up all those words. To read proficiently, the student must look at each and every letter in order and process it phonologically. The neural imaging studies confirm this. The linguistic fact is our written language is NOT made up of whole word “pictures” but sounds that blend together to form spoken words. In linguistic history, written alphabets replaced pictographs precisely because there were too many words to represent by pictures.  We have a phonetic alphabet and must approach it as such in order to succeed at reading.


The problem is apparent when you observe students who have been instructed in whole word methods and adopted ‘whole word’ visual reading strategies. Their reading errors clearly show how they mistakenly look at appearance or physical structure of the word, look only at a few letters or at part of the word, mix up the order of the letters, or simply make wild guesses. These students say “very” for the word every, “made” for dim, “doctor” for describe, “sleep” for speed, “smell” for small, “volume” for value, “have” for van, “poured” for sprout, “mile” for lime and “soft” for often.  They wildly guess un-common learned words like “chimp” for chart and “prehistoric” for plenty. Frequently, the ‘wild guesses’ are words they specifically have tried to visually memorize. They look at very simple phonetic words like “rod” and “fat” and say, “I don’t know the word”. They cannot read very simple phonetic words even when they quickly recognize a word like ‘elephant’. All of these are actual examples I have observed. In closer evaluation, these students often have poor phonemic awareness, do not know many necessary sounds, do not track letters in order left to right, do not look at all the letters, and have poor segmenting and blending skills. Sadly, they never learned HOW to read and instead adopted a strategy of trying to memorize the entire look of the word - a strategy guaranteed to fail. The brain imaging research on dyslexia confirms and explains why whole word approaches fail. Proficient reading is dependant on phonological analysis. While some words are not completely phonetic and are read partly by “sight”, visual recognition sight word/ whole word reading should not be taught as a reading strategy.


13.  Teach Phonetically Accurate Representations of Print - Avoid teaching “word families” and “blended consonants” as unique units: Use phonetically accurate representations of print. Avoid teaching with inaccurate representations of print such as word families (at, ig, it, am & the hundreds of other possibilities) and blended consonant clusters (bl, cr, fl, sc, sl, bl & the other 60+ possible beginning and ending blended consonant sounds) as unique letter/sound units.  There is no need to do this. All it does is unnecessarily add hundreds of additional combinations for the student to learn. Teach the necessary single sounds and blending skills and the student can then read all possible combinations. For example by knowing 6 sounds (a e m n d t) and developing blending skills the student can sound out 10 different common combinations (am, an, ad, at, and, em, en, ed, et, end). At best, the teaching of blended consonant and word family units is an inefficient and indirect way to teach the necessary blending skill. However, the serious concern is these incorrect representations actually create reading difficulties in some students.


Problems arise when children adopt a strategy of trying to memorize the cluster groups as a visual unit instead of processing each sound. Not only is the sheer number of combinations overwhelming but the visual similarities between the clusters make visual “what it looks like” strategies very difficult for a child to master (such as bl, pl, lb, ld). In addition, if students hop around within words looking for familiar clusters and word families, they often confuse the left to right tracking and sounding out skills that are absolutely necessary. They inappropriately pull out word family combinations from words. They pull out ‘it’ from wait, ‘in’ from coin, and ‘ag’ from page. These blended consonant clusters and word family units encourage some students to not look at all the letters. By overlooking the necessary attention to detail, students who learn with consonant clusters frequently insert blended sounds when they are not present. They read camp as ‘clamp’, tack as ‘track’, fake as ‘flake’, tide as ‘tride’, set as ‘sent’. Because they learned the cluster as a ‘hunk’ they actually ‘see’ the cluster when it is not there. These difficulties are all actual errors made by students who were taught word family and consonant cluster techniques. 


It is simpler, more effective and prevents potential reading problems to teach students the necessary sounds and develop phonemic awareness and blending skills so they are able to combine any letters. Students often do need direct practice the blended consonants sounds as individual sounds within these consonant clusters are more difficult to distinguish. For example, many children hear the first sound of ‘grip’ as /gr/ instead of /g/. These students need to develop phonemic awareness to distinguish the separate sounds. Always teach the blended consonants as processing and blending of the individual sounds NOT by learning cluster units. For example, teach flap as blending /f/ /l/ /a/ /p/ NOT /fl/ /a/ /p/. Same with the common “word families”; teach the blending of sounds /s/ /a/ /t/ NOT /s/ /at/.


Word families and blended consonant clusters are an inaccurate representation of our language. From the very beginning, we need to teach students to carefully process at all the letters in order by sound. Shortcuts that bypass this process can unintentionally create reading difficulties in some students. This careful attention to phonetic accuracy is important skill to develop from the beginning. 


14.   Guided Oral Reading is Essential:

Guided reading is reading out loud to an adult, or other proficient reader, with feedback.  This is NOT independent silent reading. The key part is ‘guided’. Correction and instruction helps the student learn and improve skills. The validated research shows guided out loud reading has significant beneficial impact on word recognition, fluency and comprehension across a range of grade levels.[2]  Guided reading benefits both good and struggling readers. In contrast, silent independent reading may not actually improve reading skills for beginning readers. Numerous studies show the best readers read the most and poor readers read the least. However, these studies are all correlational. It may be the good readers simply spend more time reading. Although it sounds like a good idea to have students read more alone, there is no research evidence showing independent silent reading actually improves reading skills. If a poor reader sits flipping pages and struggling with the reading and making errors, their skills will not improve, no matter how much time they spend. In contrast, guided oral reading instruction helps the student improve skills. This is NOT saying students should not read to themselves, or there are no benefits for children looking at books, or students do not need to read more. Rather, it says to improve skills, particularly in learning stages, students need to read out loud with feedback. At more advanced levels, silent reading does improve the higher skills of fluency, comprehension and vocabulary.


Guided reading has a significant beneficial impact on developing reading skills and should be a part of reading instructional programs. Guided reading also is the ideal time to help students develop higher level skills in comprehension.  Specific instructions for conducting guided reading are found in the article How to Conduct Guided Reading. 


15.  Practice reading: Read! Read! Read! Daily reading is critical. Students should read a minimum of 20-30 minutes every day. Of course, the more reading is better!   In learning stages the majority of this reading time should be guided reading (out loud with feedback). As the student’s skills develop, their reading will shift to independent silent reading. Practicing correct reading skills is essential.


In general the student should read level appropriate material. Obviously, ‘appropriate’ is a relative term and the student’s reading level will change and advance as the student gets older and as their skills advance. The appropriateness of material also varies depending if they are reading alone or reading outloud with feedback. Multiple formal methods and systems for evaluating and rating ‘reading level’ exist. Most are based on readability factors such as vocabulary, number of multisyllable words, sentence length and structure, grammar, and complexity of story plot. A few rating systems consider suitability of the content.  Many of these systems provide numerical ratings to evaluate and compare books. These technical methods attempt to provide objective information on the actual ‘reading level’ of a particular book.  The reading level then needs to be considered relative to the individuals’ skills to determine what is ‘appropriate’ for the student. In addition to the formal methods, you can simply listen to your student read and then adjust material to fit. The following simple rule of thumb can be used to help you determine if a book is the appropriate reading level for a particular student at a certain time and situation:

Independent level:  This is material the student can read with few errors. If the student is making only a few errors on a page the material is at the independent level. This ‘easy’ or independent level is ideal for silent reading.

Instructional level: The learning level material is where the student reads with some errors and skill building. If the student is making 4 or more errors per page the material is considered instructional level and should be read to an adult as guided reading material. This instructional or learning level is ideal for guided reading so you can help the student develop skills.

Frustration level: This is where the material is ‘too hard’. The student makes frequent errors in every paragraph. The reading level is really too advanced for the student. It is best to avoid frustration level material by finding another book. If frustration level material must be read, it is should be read as guided reading with assistance.

When a student learns to read proficiently, they should be able to read all grade level material. In other words, a 2nd grader may have difficulty reading their teenage brother’s history book but should not struggle with classroom material. If grade level material is consistently not ‘appropriate’ for your child, chances are they are lacking necessary decoding skills and need direct instruction in developing the necessary phonologic processing skills.


16.    Share the joy of reading: And as always, share the joy of reading. Reading is wonderful. Students have a natural excitement about reading that can be tapped into. Teaching students to read using a direct systematic phonics program does not preclude enjoyment and excitement with reading. In fact, it is the ability to read well that removes roadblocks and provides the route to reading enjoyment. The often quoted observation ‘good readers’ like to read and ‘poor readers’ do not enjoy reading is absolutely true. However, this is a correlational, not a cause and effect, relationship.  This tendency to spend time and enjoy what we are good at is simply human nature. It is difficult to ‘enjoy’ an activity you don’t do very well, make frequent frustrating errors and can only accomplish with difficulty and work. When students learn how to read they are able to become ‘engaged’ and ‘excited’ about reading. This is particularly evident in students who have struggled with reading. Once these students learn how to read there is often a complete 180° change in their attitude toward reading.


An effective reading program intentionally develops necessary proficient reader skills. Structured reading lessons teach your student how to read. However, the lessons alone will not ensure your child achieves a love of reading. Parents and teachers absolutely need to encourage and promote a love of reading. Expose students to a wide variety of literature. Help them discover the amazing wealth of information contained in books. Encourage students to read. Go to the library frequently and search for books that engage the student. Check out numerous books on military aircraft. Help your daughter unpack the box of well worn favorite horse stories that her aunt sent her.  Give your child a flashlight so she can re-read all the Little House books under the covers after lights out. Read all the RedWall books with him so you can discuss the details of how the brave mouse warrior and his woodland friends defeat the evil horde of vermin.  Read the newspaper sports page at breakfast. Follow the latest space shuttle mission on the NASA internet site. Help her find research information. Read a nightly Bible verse. Read the same favorite book over and over. Enjoy books!  However, do not skip the important step of carefully teaching students how to read. Help your student become a ‘good reader’ so they are able to enjoy reading. Skilled reading is a key that unlocks the doors to limitless knowledge, enjoyment and adventures. You can give your child this key by getting them on the right track to reading proficiency!


Beyond Beginning Skills:  As children’s skills develop, reading instruction needs to directly teach higher level reading skills. The child needs to develop fluency, learn how to handle multisyllable words, expand vocabulary knowledge and develop reading comprehension skills.  See the article Advanced Skills Necessary for Proficient Reading for additional detail on these essential skills.  These advanced skills are all enhanced by direct instruction. Effective reading programs should directly teach these important higher level skills in order to help the child advance from beginner abilities to proficient or skilled reading. 


Additional information, articles and resources on teaching children to read proficiently can be found on the Free Reading Information page of the Right Track Reading website.



This article was written 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 www.righttrackreading.com   ~ Copyright 2007 Miscese R. Gagen

[1] National Reading Panel’s “Teaching Children to Read” Summary Report www.nationalreadingpanel.org/publications/summary.htm

[2] National Reading Panel’s “Teaching Children to Read” Summary Report www.nationalreadingpanel.org/publications/summary.html