Have you ever wondered how we have learnt to read? Well, let us take a small step back and I will attempt a brief explanation. Firstly, did you know that 50% of English words are fully decodable? Another 37% of words are mostly decodable with one irregular grapheme sound connection. When considering other information such as the morphology (which is the study of words, how they are formed and their relationship to other words) and then etymology of words (which is the study of the word origin of words and the way the meanings have changed throughout history), but only 4% of the English vocabulary are truly irregular, meaning, words that cannot be decoded. Well, based on these facts you would think that reading should be a cinch, well we are not off the hook just yet!

The English language is mostly regular and can be sounded out. With skilled readers they can understand this and rely on their letter-sound knowledge to phonically decode unfamiliar words. Skilled readers can also have the ability to remember the words they read through the process of orthographic mapping which is the process of forming letter-sound connections in order to combine and recall the spelling, pronunciation and meaning of words.

As teachers we need to support those as either learning to read or in reading to learn. It is vital then in order to support skilled reading, we must do two things:

1)     Provide effective direct instruction in word decoding

2)     Support orthographic connections between spelling patterns and sounds in the word

With this knowledge we can then pinpoint which skill we need to focus on during a reading lesson. However, it is important to know that to be skilled in reading, students must not only rely on cues to identify unfamiliar words, by they must also rely on sounding out the word. Their phoneme (the smallest unit of sound) and the grapheme (a letter or number of letters) knowledge is what helps them read unfamiliar words.

As parents trying to support your children in the early years in learning to read, and by having some understanding of how skilled readers read will help you support your child to become skilled readers. You will know that I and my staff in the Primary School will often bang on about the importance of reading at home, the modelling of this and then putting in the time to listen to and also read to your child. This is a vital partnership requiring your support and sadly will not be successful for your child if this is not given serious consideration. In other words, the school cannot do this solo!

Over the next few weeks and into the new year our Primary staff will begin investigating and embracing the science of reading. We are working to ensure that our reading instruction is effective and aligns with the reading research. Embracing the science of reading will allow us to truly impact a systematic change with reading instruction. So, folk, watch this space!

Mr Roderick Wood
Associate Principal, Primary School