Reading Development

Reading develops in a step-by-step fashion. It begins with Phonemic Awareness, which is the understanding and manipulation of the sounds of the English language (for example, knowing that “dog” has three sounds: ‘d’, ‘o’, ‘g’). The next stage of reading development is Alphabetic Principles (knowing what sound(s) each letter makes). Once a child has a good understanding of sounds and letters, they start to decode unfamiliar words (Decoding refers to the ability to sound out words or non-words) and then recognize familiar words (Word Reading). Reading Fluency is the ability to read passages quickly and accurately, and Reading Comprehension is the ability to understand and remember what has been read. Vocabulary develops naturally as children are exposed to language, and while they are being read to, but can also be explicitly taught if students are falling behind. With the exception of Vocabulary, development of each skill is dependent on the child’s prior skills; for example, a child who does not have a strong understanding of Alphabetic Principles will struggle to decode until earlier skills have fully developed. 

The following graphic shows the typical development path of reading, along with recommended interventions and accommodations if skill development is behind expectation. In general, younger students should begin with direct instruction to remediate underdeveloped skills. Many struggling young readers will successfully develop these skills with early intervention. However, as the demands for reading increase at school in later grades, some students will continue to struggle. These students should begin to use assistive technology to ensure that they are able to learn at the same level as their peers.

Pre-school to Kindergarten

Development of Phonemic Awareness

Recommendation: Direct Instruction 

Kindergarten to Grade 1

Development of Alphabetic Principles

Recommendation: Direct Instruction

Grade 1 to 3

Development of Word Reading and Decoding

Recommendations: Direct Instruction, Learn to Type

Grade 4-6

If previous skills have been developed, from Grade 4 onwards the focus shifts from "learning to read" to "reading to learn"

Recommendations: Direct Instruction, Learn to Type, Assistive Technology

Grade 3+

If previous skills have been developed, Reading Fluency develops naturally through practice

Recommendations: Direct Instruction, Learn to Type, Assistive Technology 

Grade 7+

If previous skills have been developed, Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary continue to develop

Recommendations: Independent Practice,

Assistive Technology