English Language Learners and the Five Essential Components of Reading Instruction by Beth Antunez discusses how to get children to become literate, frequent readers.  The article defines and outlines key components of learning to read and how to use this knowledge to assist new readers and english language learners become literate.  For the sake of simplicity and brevity, this piece will focus solely on understanding the five components of reading instruction (a future blog will be dedicated to the art of teaching english language learners to read).  

The first of the five components of reading instruction is phonemic awareness which means understanding the basic, smallest parts of speech sounds in a word.  The example the article uses is “shop” which has three basic speech sounds, or phonemes: “sh/o/p”.  The reason that phonemic awareness is so crucial in learning to read is because once these phonemes are understood, a student can then string the sounds together to form words.  What can truly help children to master the concept of phonemes are songs that are rich in rhyme and repetition.  Think back to your school days as an elementary student.  Jump rope rhymes like “Miss Mary Mack” helped you to grasp speech sounds by way of a musical rhyme.  

After phonemic awareness comes phonics, another key component in becoming literacy.  Phonics is defined as, the understanding that there is a predictable relationship between phonemes (the sounds of spoken language) and graphemes (the letters and spellings that represent those sounds in written language).”  The relationship between speech sounds and letters representing the sounds allows children to recognize letters and sight words while decoding words that may be unfamiliar.  This is the exciting start to a child gaining literacy skills and learning to read.  Antunez continues, The goal is to help children understand that there is a systematic and predictable relationship between written letters and spoken sounds (CIERA, 2001).”  

Once a child gains ground in the reading components of phonemic awareness and phonics, he or she can then begin to develop their growing vocabulary.  Vocabulary development involves learning words, their pronunciations, and their meanings.  Learning and memorizing the reading and writing of sight words enables the student to grow their collection of vocabulary words.   It is important that not only can a child sound out the word and read it, but that they also understand the meaning of the words; vocabulary development is closely linked to reading comprehension.  If the child does not understand the word they are sounding out in a storybook, there is no way to determine whether or not the word makes sense in the context of the story. Two Right Feet’s blogs and facebook posts have dedicated several pieces on fun, interactive, and multi-sensory methods of of learning sight words, their definitions, and building a more extensive vocabulary.  

The final two segments of reading instruction are reading fluency which includes oral skills and reading comprehension strategies.  Reading fluency can help a child read with momentum, fluidity, and ease.   Learning to read fluently will turn a frustrated and struggling reader into an avid and frequent reader because they are able to quickly and simultaneously recognize words and associate them with their meanings.  Antunez writes: “Reading fluency is a critical factor necessary for reading comprehension. If children read out loud with speed, accuracy, and proper expression, they are more likely to comprehend and remember the material than if they read with difficulty and in an inefficient way.”  Reading comprehension, the fifth and final component, is a cornerstone and ultimate objective in becoming a literate student.  It is interrelated to the other facets of reading comprehension, promoting the proficiency of each component whether it be: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, and reading fluency.  What is interesting to note is that, “NRP found that reading comprehension is clearly related to vocabulary knowledge and development. The NRP also found that comprehension is an active process that requires an intentional and thoughtful interaction between the reader and the text that can be explicitly taught through text comprehension instruction.”  

One of the greatest gifts you can give a child is the gift of reading.  Former first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy once wrote: “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”  Do not just teach children to read books, but show them how beautiful, enlightening, and empowering reading can truly be.  

To learn more about how to take this knowledge of teaching literacy and applying it to new readers and english language learners visit Beth Antunez’s article English Language Learners and the Five Essential Components of Reading Instruction.