Effective Reading Instruction: The Nuts and Bolts

by | Jan 5, 2018


How do you help students become great readers at an early age? To begin with, instill a love of reading with your children. More importantly, though, there is so much more that goes into reading education. There are countless numbers of research findings, professional studies, and data that have been applied to the science of the best teaching programs. Ultimately, the National Reading Panel identified five components of comprehensive literacy instruction:

  • Phonemic awareness (PA)—an awareness of and the ability to manipulate the individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words;
  • Phonics (P)—the study and use of sound/spelling correspondences and syllable patterns to help students read written words;
  • Fluency (F)—reading text with sufficient speed, accuracy, and expression to support comprehension;
  • Vocabulary (V)—the body of words and their meanings that students must understand to comprehend text; (the Literacy How reading model includes Morphology with Vocabulary); and
  • Text comprehension (TC)—the ability to make meaning requiring specific skills and strategies, vocabulary, background knowledge, and verbal reasoning skills.

Beyond these essential components, there are a few additional components that should be considered to ensure students are proficient and advanced readers. What we know now after the recent National Reading Panel findings is that oral language (OL), spelling (S), syntax (SYN), and written expression (WE) are also very important skills. Because being literate involves more than simply reading. The reciprocity of spoken and written languages are skills that go hand in hand to produce literate students who can read, write and express themselves.

Early oral language development provides the foundation for both aspects of reading—word reading AND comprehension. Oral language is at the heart of both listening and reading comprehension. Additionally, oral language serves as a predictor for both (Dickinson, Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2010).

Aligning spelling and phonics instruction reinforces the reciprocal nature of sounding out words (decoding) and spelling words (encoding). Instruction that coordinates decoding and encoding maximizes students’ ability to read and spell words with little thought, eventually processing many words automatically.

Syntax (the way words are arranged to create meaningful phrases and sentences) is important for students to master in order for them to derive meaning from text, to actually understand what they read. The sentence-level of language is a building block between individual words and text.

Research provides evidence that writing about a text boosts students’ comprehension of what they read.


Fluent, or automatic, performance in both discrete (e.g., word recognition) and complex (e.g., comprehension, composition) literacy skills is essential to be a proficient reader and writer.


The National Reading Panel (NRP) defines fluency as the ability to read orally with sufficient accuracy and speed. In addition, appropriate expression and identified fluency are included in that definition, as part of the five essential components of reading instruction.

Fluency is influenced by the development of rapid rates of processing in all the components of reading, including the higher-order processes of comprehension such as inferring and integrating information. A lack of rapid processing in any one of these areas can interfere with text comprehension.

Now that you know about the five essential components of reading instruction, how can you apply them to help you as a teacher or parent? If you would like assistance or facilitation in analyzing any recent testing results or data, my inbox is always open, you can contact us here or even schedule a time to chat.