Reading is not an innate skill that develops naturally. Written language symbols were invented by humans. Therefore, the brain has to learn to adapt and connect visual, auditory, and other sensory areas of the brain to make sense of written language. In a 2001 meta-analysis of reading research, The National Reading Panel established that there are five components of reading.
Phonemic Awareness- The ability to hear and manipulate individual sounds in words. This is a critical foundational skill that lays the foundation for phonics instruction to "stick."
Phonics- The ability to match spoken sounds with written letter symbols and patterns.
Vocabulary- The ability to understand what words mean.
Fluency- I like to think of fluency as having two components.
- The first component is how a student reads with expression, rhythm, and phrasing. Do they pay attention to punctuation or the mood of the text and reflect that in their voice?
- The second component of fluency is automaticity. This means how quickly and easily we can do something without much additional brain power. This part of fluency actually weaves through the other components illustrated here with the yellow arrows. Students must achieve automaticity in these other skills in order to become skilled, independent readers.
These four components: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and fluency are like pieces to a puzzle. When they fit together they allow the fifth component, comprehension, to occur.
Reading Comprehension: The ability to make meaning and understand printed language. Essentially, comprehension is the whole purpose of reading.