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The Reading Lingo That All Parents Need To Know

by : Stacee Parker
posted on : 1/23/2014

Parents often wonder what we can do to help our children succeed, build confidence and self-esteem, and better connect with us. Teaching your child to read is a great way to accomplish all of these things.

Face it, most children struggle when learning to read. After all, the English language is a difficult language to learn, especially in its written form. So many words in our language have multiple meanings. Many words that sound exactly the same, like “hear” and “here”, have entirely different meanings.

With Common Core Standards more rigorous than ever, students will be held back in third grade if their reading performance isn’t where it should be. Therefore, pre-K to second grade are very important years for your child to successfully learn to read (and write). This article is designed to show you how you can help your child meet the goal of becoming a successful reader before the conclusion of their third grade year.

When learning to read, the most important areas of instruction are: Phonemic awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Text Comprehension.


Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with individual sounds in spoken words. Before children learn to read printed words, they need to become aware of the sounds of easy, basic words like “Dog”, “Cat”, and “Row”. Using Phonemic Awareness, children can:

  • Recognize words that begin with the same sound
  • Isolate and speak the first or last sound in a word
  • Combine or blend separate sounds in a word
  • Break or segment a word into its separate sounds

Children who have phonemic awareness skills are likely to have an easier time learning to read and spell than children who don’t. Optimally, phonemic awareness instruction should begin by kindergarten and continue through first to second grade. Children with learning disabilities or focus issues may need additional time beyond second grade.


Phonics instruction teaches children the relationship between the letters of written language and the individual sounds of spoken language. It teaches children to use these relationships to read and write words. Phonics instruction teaches children a system for remembering how to read words, whether they contain predictable word patterns or if they are irregularly spelled. Approximately two years of phonics instruction is sufficient for most students, and students should begin in kindergarten to first grade.


Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately and quickly. When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. They group words quickly to help them comprehend what they read. Fluent readers read aloud effortlessly and with expression. Readers who have not yet developed fluency read much more slowly, word by word.

Fluency is essential for reading comprehension. A fluent reader will focus more on text meaning and less on decoding, where a non-fluent reader will focus more on decoding words and very little on text meaning. Students who read and reread passages orally as they receive guidance and/or feedback become better readers. Repeated oral reading substantially improves word recognition, speed and accuracy, as well as fluency.

Parents can help their children read more fluently, as well as become better readers, by doing the following:

  • Have your child read to you or an adult: Your child reads to you while you give encouragement and feedback.
  • Take turns reading with your child: You read a page while your child follows along with their finger and then your child reads a page. Another option is you read a page and then your child re-reads the same page (this has been shown to help with comprehension, voice, and word recognition.)
  • Read together with your child: You read a sentence or paragraph first while your child follows along with their finger, then you read it together at the same time (this is also great for comprehension, voice, and word recognition.)


Vocabulary plays an important role in learning to read and in reading comprehension. Many readers have trouble understanding what they are reading, especially when they don’t know what some of the words mean. As students learn to read more advanced texts, they must learn the meaning of new words which aren’t part of their every-day vocabulary. Indirect vocabulary learning happens when students hear and see similar sounding words used in different contexts.

Parents can help by:

  • Using higher level vocabulary with your child.
  • Encouraging your child to use higher level vocabulary.
  • Having regular conversations with your child and ask for detailed words and explanations. Ask specific questions like “What is your favorite animal and why?”
  • If your child is reading, encourage them to write unknown words on sticky notes and then look them up together in the dictionary.


Comprehension is the ability to determine meaning from text. It is a complex, interactive process where readers attempt to construct meaning based on the information they receive from the text, combined with their own prior knowledge.

Here are six strategies that can improve text comprehension:

  1. Monitoring comprehension: Students monitor their own comprehension by knowing when they do or don’t understand what they are reading.
  2. Graphic and semantic organizers: Graphic organizers (e.g., maps, webs, charts, graphs) can help readers focus on main concepts and how they are related to other concepts. Graphic organizers help students write summaries of text.
  3. Answering questions: Answering questions allows us to focus our attention on what we have learned. It supports comprehension by providing us with a purpose and helps us relate what we already know to new content. Questioning helps us think actively as we read and it encourages us to monitor comprehension.
  4. Generating questions: When students ask their own questions while reading the text, it helps to improve their active processing of the text.
  5. Recognizing story structure: Story structure refers to the way the content and events of a story are organized in a plot. Story maps are useful for illustrating story structure.
  6. Summarizing: A summary relates the important concepts in the text. When students summarize, they determine what is important, how to condense information, and how to state the meaning in their own words.

Evidence suggests that children who read daily for enjoyment not only perform better in reading and writing tests than those who don’t, but they also develop a much broader vocabulary with increased knowledge and better understanding.

Reading is a great way for families to spend time together at their local book store, library, or simply in their home. It is a great way to bond with your children and it helps establish a lifelong parent-child teaching relationship. Reading inspires imagination, creativity, and knowledge. By doing so, it helps create smarter, more focused children.

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