Importance of Reading for Children’s Literacy

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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Historically, religious groups, such as the Puritans, held a high emphasis on reading for spiritual teaching, meaning literacy, at its root, sparked because of religion. This led to more of a focus on literacy in the colonies, incorporating the need to be literate to vote. At first, learning literacy was for men only. Thankfully, the United States has since transitioned and adapted so that all individuals can learn to be literate. The Industrial Revolution made the production of paper much cheaper leading to an increase in the amount of books printed and ultimately increased America’s use of literacy (UTA Online, 2015).

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It is important for educators to emphasize the importance of reading to students and incorporate reading and the elements of literacy in learning. Common Core State Standards do a great job of incorporating literacy in education, they highlight the importance of listening, reading, and speaking.

Literacy is a foundational piece to the success of every child across the board. A child needs to know how to read, write, and talk in order to do math, science, history, and learn. The quality of texts help build a valuable background of knowledge that encompasses specialized vocabulary, and content learning that is vital to student’s future successes (Neuman, 2017). It is important to emphasize each area of the big five because they are all related. Students will not be successful if a teacher only works on phonics and vocab. Each element of the big five builds on each other. Research supports that having a balanced literacy program is the best foundation for building strong readers and writers (Connor, 2018). When students have less exposure and time invested in learning the elements of the big five, it negatively affects their educational experience in the future. Research has identified a drop in the reading scores in students who are transitioning from 3rd to 4th grade- this is more evident in students who come from a lower socio-economic household. Some factors contributing to this could be less exposure to adequate texts that help prepare them from the shift of “learning to read” and “reading to learn”. By fourth grade there is more expectation that students have the capability to read and comprehend text beyond just the general plot (Tankersley, 2003).

Phonemic awareness focuses heavily on student’s ability to hear and articulate sounds in language before they ever begin to read or write. Understanding phonemes, the smallest parts of sound, is foundational for understanding words and their meaning. Students who cannot hear and work with the phonemes of language will struggle with learning how to tie the different sounds into written words. The whole study and purpose of phonemic awareness is to have students be able to recognize and use individual sounds which leads to formulating words and eventually sentences (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2006). Students will be more successful when they have properly been taught phonemic awareness, as it is the first piece in the big five puzzle (Shanahan, 2005). It is foundational.

Home Letter Search

A home letter search is a great activity to send home with kiddos. The teacher can provide a list of words that have different columns asking for kids to find items in their home that have both different and the same beginning letter. Each column can be color coordinated so that students see which words have the same or different letters. Students can complete this activity at home with parents who can sound out and read aloud each of the words and help them understand the corresponding sound to each individual letter.

Tapping the syllables

This activity is great during whole class instruction because each child, or pairs of two, can share an instrument to tap out the syllables of words that the teacher has projected on the board and says. Kids can then, independently, or in groups, tap out the words and work to depict the number of syllables in the given word. Once students believe they have the right amount of syllables the class, as a whole, can tap out the word to check for mastery (Reading Rockets, 2013).

The purpose behind teaching phonics is to show the relationships between letters, when written, and the individual sounds, when used to speak. Phonics is foundation for teaching children how to both read and write. The main focus of teaching phonics is to help children understand and manipulate the alphabetic principle. Or teaching them to understand that there are certain relationships between what is written, read, and spoken (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2006). It is important to provide time to teach and work with phonics in small groups or on an individualized basis because students will learn and acquire the use of phonics at different rates (Shanahan, 2005). What students hear and speak plays a major role in how they write and read, properly teaching phonics will help students be successful in the future.

Word Slider

This is a great activity to help kids see and manipulate how different letters at the beginning make different words. Kids can adjust the starting letter to match the ending which helps them work on sounding out the individual letter and then putting it all together. Segmenting the sounds helps younger kids better understand the sounds and way words work

Odd word out activity

This activity helps children learn phonics by seeing and hearing the differences in words. Utilizing this activity gives kids the ability to work on this independently in the classroom, in small groups, or with the whole class. Students can also take this activity home in the form of a worksheet.

This provided link is to Phonics Bloom. This website has this exact game, just the online version. It has many more games kids can play that will meet them right where they are at:

Oral reading fluency is when a student can smoothly and accurately read written text (Shanahan, 2005). A great way for students to learn and become fluent readers is repetition and having teachers and parents model fluency. This can be done in read aloud’s during class, partner reading time, independent reading time, and by having parents read to their children before bed. Fluency is not just an oral skill, it is important for students to be able to silently read to themselves with fluency as well. When students read fluently they are able to connect word recognition and comprehension (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2006). Fluency helps students put the first two pieces of the big five puzzle together.

Books on tape

Having students listen to books and follow along with their finger is a great way to have students work on fluency. Modeling is a huge part of how students learn. Having them listen to a person read fluently, with expression, will help them acquire and master fluency. The more practice the better!

Follow along finger

Using a finger or any object to follow along with the text will help students with fluency while reading. This strategy really helps students stay on track and not get lost, or distracted, while reading.

Vocab encompasses reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary is everywhere and is a crucial component of the big five for students to understand. There are two different vocabularies students need to learn that are equally important: oral vocab and reading vocab. An oral vocabulary refers to words that individuals use to speak or what they understand when they hear people talk. The reading vocabulary encompasses the words that students know and understand when they read. An important part of teaching vocabulary is truly teaching the meaning of each word and not just working on word recognition (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2006). Vocabulary is unique in the sense that it directly affects how students communicate, thus making it an important component to spend time teaching.

Word wall

Establishing a word wall inside the classroom is a great way to increase student exposure to new vocabulary. A great way to introduce this is to add every student’s name to the word wall within the first week and brainstorm common words that the students think they will need to use frequently throughout the year. Teachers can continue to add and expand the word wall throughout the year. This is also a great tool to help students with spelling. They can always reference the word wall for proper spelling.

What’s the word: This is a game involving 2 teams. The teacher provides the definition of a word and the student who knows the word buzzes in first and can gain points for their team this way when they match the correct word to the definition. This game is great for any age and can be adjusted to meet the students level. This game can be incorporated across multiple content levels providing the teacher the ability to teach more standards than just ones centering around reading and literacy. This game can be used for any new words that are introduced throughout the school year.

True reading comprehension only happens when students have a solid understating of all other areas of the big five. Mastering reading comprehension is the main reason people read. A big part of comprehension is having the ability to re-tell what has been read, at a more in depth level (Read Naturally, Inc, 2018). True reading comprehension comes when a student is able to truly grasp and articulate what has been read or what they read to themselves. Teaching reading comprehension is a process and it builds. Teaching students to comprehend what they have read does not just happen overnight. It is important to teach students not just skills for reading comprehension but a mindset. Reading comprehension involves critical thinking and a conscious thought process of what students are reading (Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2006).

Roll and Retell: This is a fun and engaging way to help your students understand and begin to master comprehension and retelling the “what” they read throughout a story. Each student or group of students will have a dice and the printed-out paper that shows the question they will have to answer that corresponds to the number they roll. This is a great way to gauge what students know if a teacher chooses to do this as a whole class activity.

Story Maps

A story map is a great way to check for student’s reading comprehension. This can be given as an activity or a formative/summative assessment. This is an activity that can be completed at both school and home. The teacher can decide, based on age and ability, whether they complete this in full sentences or with illustrations. The teacher can also decide how in depth the story map goes. If a standard is centered around one part of comprehension, the story map can be tailored to fit the standard.

Listening and speaking transitions into reading and writing. Literacy begins at birth. Every word spoken to a baby or child influences and leads to a student’s acquisition of literacy (Reading Rockets, 2013). The temporal lobe of the brain is responsible for phonological awareness and breaking down/depicting sounds which plays directly into phonemic awareness, the first component of the big five. The frontal lobe, also referred to as Broca’s area is directly related to speech production and language comprehension. This part of the brain influences how students learn and is directly related to the mastery of the big five concepts. The occipital-temporal area, is also situated in the back of the brain. This area is responsible for integrating, or connecting, all information related to words and sound. It ultimately helps students recognize words instantly. (Tankersley, 2003). Each component of the big five plays a foundational role in student’s successes in and outside the classroom. It is vital that they are taught each piece of the puzzle, in the correct order, because each component builds and plays off the next.  

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Importance of Reading for Children's Literacy. (2021, Mar 27). Retrieved from