In this piece, we are going to explore the skills we probably never knew we unlock when we read. Reading is an astoundingly complex cognitive process. While we often think of reading as one singular act, our brains are engaging in a number of tasks simultaneously each time we sit down with a book. There are several strands that are woven together to create strong readers in children.
Reading is like a rope (devised by US psychologist Dr Hollis Scarboroughmade). Let’s begin by picturing a child reading a book silently to herself. She is just sitting there fairly motionless and staring at a book. Occasionally, she turns to the next page. Sometimes she laughs quietly to herself for no apparent reason. We do not start panicking or fearing the worst because we know that inside her head, she is exploring a story and listening to the author tell a tale through a voice only she can hear. The silent, motionless act of reading belies the activity happening inside the reader’s head. The symbols on the page are being converted into a meaningful message that the reader understands-a message constructed by an author that she has probably never met. In the reader’s head, the author’s tale is unfolding word for word as the author wrote it, but the reader scarcely moves a muscle.
As the reader sits motionless, she is simultaneously DECODING AND COMPREHENDING the message contained within the text. Decoding is the ability to apply your knowledge of letter-sound relationships, including knowledge of letter patterns, to correctly pronounce words. Understanding this relationship gives children the ability to recognize familiar words and helps in the comprehension of the text
PHONICS is the connection between sounds and letter symbols. It is also the combination of this sounds-symbols connection to create words. Without Phonics words are simply a bunch of squiggles and lines on a page
Closely related (they are practically twins) to phonics is PHONEMIC AWARENESS. They both involve the connection between the sounds and words. While Phonics is the connection between sounds and letters, phonemic awareness is the understanding that words are created from phonemes (small unit of sound in language).
In order to read words, we must first know them. Imagine how frustrating and futile it would be to read this article if all the words were unfamiliar to you. As children become stronger, more advance readers they not only learn to connect their oral vocabularies (the words we know when they are spoken) to their reading vocabularies (the words we know when they are used in print) they also strengthen each of these areas by adding new words to their repertoires. VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT is an ongoing process that continues throughout one’s ‘’reading life’’
FLUENCY is a reader’s ability to read with speed, accuracy and expression. Thus, it requires him to combine and use multiple reading skills at the same time. While fluency is often measured through oral readings, good readers also exhibit skills when they read silently.
Although, these elements can be regarded independently but, when not combined the purpose for which they were formed becomes defeated. These are the strands that are woven together to create a wonderful reading experience for children. Neither one is more or less essential than the other. They complement each other perfectly.