Supporting Colorado’s Young Readers
In Colorado, we have state law that is focused on ensuring our students are able to read proficiently by the time they leave third grade. The Reading to Ensure Academic Development Act (READ Act), which unanimously passed the Colorado legislature in 2012, was created with the most essential academic benchmark in mind: early literacy.
The READ Act focuses on K-3 literacy development by assessing students on their literacy skills and developing individual intervention plans for students who are behind.
Five Essential Domains of Literacy
1. Phonemic Awareness:
“Phonemic awareness” may sound technical, but it’s simply being able to hear, recognize, and differentiate between sounds. It might seem strange that hearing is part of reading, but without the ability to hear the difference between sounds, it’s very difficult to be a strong reader. As an example, let’s think about the different sounds between /b/ and /d/. “The large dog was hungry” is totally different than “The large bog was hungry.”
Phonics is the relationship between sounds and letters. Basically, it’s how we know that the sound /f/ is written “F” or “f” or how “cat” begins with the letter “C”. In English, phonics can be very tricky! For example, the sound /ch/ is one sound, but it’s written with two letters “C” and “H”, which can be confusing to students. Being taught the explicit connections between sounds and letters is a key way that students learn to read.
Vocabulary is a knowledge of words—in order to read words, it is critical to know what they are. Vocabulary knowledge can also include knowing that there are different words that mean the same thing like, “happy and cheerful” and knowing that there are words that have the opposite meaning like, “up and down” “in and out.”
You don’t have to be a speed reader in order to be successful, but imagine if you were only able to read a single word every minute. You would probably have a difficult time remembering what you read at the start of a paragraph or even understanding a single sentence.
5. Reading Comprehension:
Reading comprehension is understanding what you are reading. If you have the other building blocks of literacy, comprehension is the last piece of the reading puzzle. As students become strong readers and improve their reading comprehension, they can think deeply and answer questions about what they have read. For example, a student with strong reading comprehension can describe what happened in a book or story and understand the “main idea.”