Teaching a child to read involves much more than simply recognizing words on a page. Proper literacy instruction is comprised of five essential and individual learning components which collectively contribute to the ability to read: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. When choosing elementary reading programs online, take time to carefully research the content to ensure that each of these five integral elements are addressed:
Phonemes are the sounds that are combined to make up words. The study of phonemes is often a child’s first step in the process of learning to read. The ability to identify and manipulate these sounds is known as phonemic awareness. Online reading programs for elementary schools can be an excellent resource for teaching and reinforcing phoneme sounds and building phonemic awareness.
Where phonemic awareness is focused solely on the sounds making up a word, phonics involves the combination of those sounds with letters. Phonics is the connection between sounds and letters, and it is the study of how sound and letter combinations create words. At this stage in the learning process, a student is able to identify sounds and recognize letters of the alphabet. This is when students begin to “see” sound combinations and then “sound out” words. The best elementary reading programs for schools use a variety of phonics exercises that incorporate both aural and visual elements. This makes online phonics programs highly effective with young learners.
When choosing online reading software, educators should opt for a program that provides a variety of tasks and exercises to help students improve their vocabulary. A young student’s vocabulary is strengthened when they are able to connect the words they know by sound with the words they can read on a page. Vocabulary is learned through explicit instruction (being told or shown the pronunciation and meaning of a word) and by context clues (other words in a sentence used as ‘hints’ to help identify the meaning of an unknown word). Online reading programs for elementary schools, including the Essential Skills Vocabulary Builder programs, are valuable tools in helping students to develop a strong vocabulary.
To read with fluency is to read with expression and accuracy, and at a speed that enables comprehension. Most readers will naturally become more fluent with practice. This skill can be developed and enhanced through vocalization and exercises such as choral reading and activities that invite students to “echo” the teacher.
This is the final stage in the learning process, and can only be reached when a student has mastered each of the previous foundational skills. Comprehension is the ability to understand the words on the page. Once words have been decoded, are understood and can be read fluently, a student is considered able to comprehend a story and read successfully. Essential Skills offers online reading comprehension programs to help students develop the skills necessary to become strong readers.