Steps in Learning to Read

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Learning to read is a multifaceted process. This lesson will explore the steps necessary to learn how to read and will end with a short quiz to test what you have learned.

Personal Reading History

What was the first book you read? If you are like most people, you probably have no idea because small milestones along the way contributed to your ability to read an entire book on your own. Being read to kick starts the process of reading.

We begin the process of learning to read within the first few months of life. Nursery rhymes and lullabies that are repeated become familiar and anticipated and are often paired with images in simple books. Late in our first year of life we begin to connect the sounds and images with some meaning and may be able to predict events and visually follow along in simple stories or books.

These early steps lay the foundation for our personal reading history. Most of these things occur before we receive any formal education. By the time we reach preschool and Kindergarten, everything seems geared toward learning to read.

Letter Recognition is Important in Learning to Read

Letter Recognition

A, B, C, D, E, F, G…. we all know the familiar tune that we used to learn our ABCs. Letter recognition is a very important step in learning to read. In other words, kids learn the alphabet song and begin to identify the corresponding letters on the page.

Think back on your earliest classroom. Most are adorned with giant letters of the alphabet. Usually, next to each letter is an image that exemplifies the letter. For example, A is for Apple, B is for Bat, and etc. These help students make the association between the name of the letter, what it looks like, and how it sounds, all early steps toward reading.

Another big step in mastering letter recognition is learning the letters in one's own name. This is another way of giving meaning to the letters. It also helps to demonstrate how letters can be combined to form a word in a way that is personally meaningful to students.

Making Associations Between the Way a Letter Looks and How It Sounds is an Early Step Toward Reading
letter a

Sound It Out

A big part of learning to read is understanding the sounds made by each letter. As students become familiar with the unique sounds of letters, they can pair letters together to create words. Phonemes are the sounds made in words when letters are combines in specific ways. This begins the process of sounding out words to understand meaning.

Sounding it out is a term to represent phonics, or the practice of using letter sounds to form words. Sounding out words is a very helpful step in learning to read. This helps readers jump from a basic understanding of the alphabet to the ability to read and understand words. Eventually, this can progress to a knowledge of sight words.

Sight Words

One's name is often the first sight word learned. The term sight word represents the idea that students recognize the word instantly just by how it looks. For example, with their own names, they have learned that the unique combination of letters belongs to them. Sight words are recognized as a whole rather than the individual letters.

Most of the first words learned by students are sight words. The beauty of sight words is that they surround us all the time and not just in books. Sight words can be found on street signs as with a STOP sign and labels that are present in every day activities such as PUSH or PULL on a door. This helps to advance the process of learning to read because it helps early readers figure out what the other words mean.

The Order of Events

Once students have mastered sight words, they probably understand the basic rules for written language. This includes things like reading from left to right. Basic grammar and punctuation is usually understood at this point as well, such as stopping at a period.

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