5 Essential Components of Reading InstructionWhen your child first learns to read, it may seem like magic, but there’s actually a science to the process of reading acquisition. Knowing about the fundamentals of reading instruction can help you support your child as he or she begins the journey to becoming a reading superstar!

The National Reading Panel, convened by Congress to assess approaches used in the teaching of reading, published a report in 2001 with their conclusions related to reading acquisition. Their research and findings remain the foundation on which most literacy programs are based today. In its final report, the Panel highlighted five main areas essential to the development of reading skills. These areas are:

  • Phonemic Awareness: The ability to recognize and manipulate sounds within words
  • Phonics: Understanding the relationship between written letters/words and their sounds
  • Vocabulary: Identifying and comprehending words through reading, writing, and oral expression
  • Fluency: The ability to read orally at a rapid pace, with accuracy and appropriate phrasing
  • Comprehension: Arriving at meaning through reading

Since the publication of the panel’s findings, public and private schools across the country have integrated these essential elements of reading instruction into their elementary curricula. Even so, there are many things you can do at home to reinforce these skills and support your child’s reading acquisition. Consider the following:

Phonemic Awareness:

  • Play rhyming games with your child. For instance, take turns thinking of words that rhyme with “cat.”
  • Allow your child to experiment with changing the beginnings of words. For example, using magnetic or wooden letters, let your child change the first letter of the word “rug” to make as many other words as she can such as “hug, “bug,” etc.
  • Clap out the syllables in words.


  • Make up songs about the different letter sounds.
  • Ask your child to locate things in the house that begin with certain sounds/letters.


  • Talk to your child using the same vocabulary you would with an adult. Take the time to explain the meanings of words she doesn’t recognize.
  • Introduce your child to educational television programming like PBS Kids’ Word Girl.
  • Invite your child to read vocabulary-rich children’s books such as those in the Fancy Nancy series.


  • Choose decodable books featuring simple words your child can blend as well as sight words that she’s memorized. Then, practice, practice, practice! Reading a book all by herself will be incentive enough for her to keeping putting in the effort to learn more sounds and words!
  • Keep reading to your child, just as you did before she began to read on her own. She’ll pick up on the expression and intonation in your reading and eventually integrate it into her own.


  • Purchase some books with accompanying audio and let your child read along with the CD or MP3.
  • Read to your child every day, and keep enforcing that stories are fun, even though learning to read them can be hard sometimes! This will give your child the incentive to read and understand books on her own!

Keep reinforcing these fundamental skills through fun activities, and instead of getting discouraged, your child’s excitement about reading independently will continue to grow! To help you along the way, we’ll be posting a series of articles in the coming weeks devoted to each individual skill, so stay tuned!