What is Reading?

Many of us do not remember not being able to read; it has become second nature.  But there are two key things successful readers must be able to do. 

the reader must be able to figure out the words on the page (we call this “decoding.”

Decoding is a process that begins with knowing what the letters of the alphabet are and what sounds they make both alone and when put together with other letters.  Another part of being able to successfully decode words is knowledge of “sight words.” 

Sight words are words that appear so often in written language that in order to be able to read, a student must know those words “on sight.” (A listing of sight words by grade level appears at the back of this handbook).  If a student has to stop to try to sound out or decode sight words, their reading will be very choppy and they will have difficulty with comprehension.

This brings us to the second thing readers must be able to do - they must be able to figure out the meaning of what they are reading.  To comprehend what they have decoded.   Comprehension goes beyond simply making the sounds.  If you are unable to speak French, you may be able to sound out a passage in French, but you will have no idea of its meaning.  The same is true of children learning to read in English! 

Knowledge of vocabulary (the meaning of words), some background knowledge about the subject and the ability to identify characters, setting, and the plot of the story as well as knowing the meaning of punctuation all allow students to understand and make meaning from the words on the page.



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