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According to the report by the US National Reading Panel (NRP) in 2000, the skills required for proficient reading are phonological awareness, phonics (sound-symbol correspondence), fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension.[1]

Skills required for proficient reading

According to the National Reading Panel, the ability to read requires proficiency in a number of language domains: phonemic awareness, phonics (sound-symbol correspondence), fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension.[2]

  • Phonemic awareness: The ability to distinguish and manipulate the individual sounds of language. The broader term, phonological awareness, also includes rhymes, syllables, and onsets and rimes.
  • Phonics: Method that stresses the acquisition of letter-sound correspondences and their use in reading and spelling. This helps beginning readers understand how letters are linked to sounds (phonemes), patterns of letter-sound correspondences and spelling in English, and how to apply this knowledge when they read.
  • Fluency: The ability to read orally with speed, accuracy, and vocal expression. The ability to read fluently is one of several critical factors necessary for reading comprehension. If a reader is not fluent, it may be difficult to remember what has been read and to relate the ideas expressed in the text to his or her background knowledge. This accuracy and automaticity of reading serves as a bridge between decoding and comprehension.[3]
  • Vocabulary: A critical aspect of reading comprehension is vocabulary development. When a reader encounters an unfamiliar word in print and decodes it to derive its spoken pronunciation, the reader understands the word if it is in the reader's spoken vocabulary. Otherwise, the reader must derive the meaning of the word using another strategy, such as context.
  • Reading Comprehension :The NRP describes comprehension as a complex cognitive process in which a reader intentionally and interactively engages with the text. Reading comprehension is heavily dependent on skilled word recognition and decoding, oral reading fluency, a well-developed vocabulary and active engagement with the text.

Reading difficulties

Reading difficulties have a common source. Problems processing spoken words hinder a student’s ability to translate written words into speech. Regardless of age, subtle auditory or phonological (speech-sound) processing issues hinder reading.

Reading Problems of Students with Learning Disabilities [4]
Anxiety around reading
  • Reluctant to read
  • Cries or acts out to avoid reading
  • Seems tense when reading
Difficulty recognizing words or letters
  • Inserts an incorrect word, substitutes or skips words
  • Reverses letters or numbers, Ex. 48 for 24
  • Mispronounces words, Ex. "cape" for "cope"
  • Mixes up order of words in sentences, Ex. "I can bikes ride" for "I can ride bikes."
  • Reads very slowly and with little fluency, starts and stops often
Poor vocabulary skills
  • Can't read new vocabulary words
  • Has limited vocabulary
Difficulty with understanding or remembering what was read
  • Can't recall basic facts from from the reading
  • Can't make inferences or identify the main idea


  1. Put reading first. National Institute for Reading. URL accessed on 2007-08-14.
  2. Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. URL accessed on 2007-08-15.
  3. Rasinski, T.. Assessing Reading Fluency. Pacific Resources for Education and Learning. URL accessed on 2007-10-21.
  4. Smith, D.D, & Tyler N., Introduction to Special Education: Making a Difference , [2010], 7th ed.

See also


  • Catts H. W., Gillispie, M., Leonard, L. B., Kail, R. V., Miller, C. A. (2002). The role of speed of processing, rapid naming, and phonological awareness in reading achievement. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 35, 510–525.
  • Clark, Diana Brewseter and Joanna Kellogg Uhry. Dyslexia: Theory and Practice of Remedial Instruction, York Press, 1995.
  • Fletcher-Flinn, C. M., Shankweiler, D., & Frostg, S. J. (2004). Coordination of reading and spelling in early literacy: An examination of the discrepancy hypothesis. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 17, 617–644.
  • Galaburda, A. M., Menard, M. T., & Rosen, G. D., (1994). Evidence for aberrant auditory anatomy in developmental dyslexia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 91, 8010–8013
  • Howlett, B. (2000) Sound reading emerging readers activity program. Ithaca, NY: Sound Reading Solutions, Inc.
  • Howlett, B. (2002). Sound reading responsiveness assessment. Ithaca, NY: Sound Reading Solutions, Inc.
  • McCandliss, B., Beck, I. L., Sandak, R., & Perfetti, C. (2003). Focusing attention on decoding for children with poor reading skills: Design and preliminary tests of the word building intervention. Scientific Studies of Reading, 7, 75–104.
  • National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
  • Shankweiler, D., Lundquist, E., Katz, L., & Stuebing, J. M. (1999). Comprehension and decoding: Patterns of association in children with reading difficulties. Scientific Studies of Reading, 3, 95–112
  • Share, D. L. (1995). Phonological recoding and self-teaching: sine qua non of reading acquisition. Cognition, 55, 151–218.
  • Share, D. L. (1999). Phonological recoding and orthographic learning: A direct test of the self-teaching hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 72 (2), 95–129.
  • Wagner, R., and Torgesen, J. K. (1987). The nature of phonological processing and its causal role in the acquisition of reading skills. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 192–212.
  • Wagner, R. K., Torgesen, J. K., & Rashotte, C. A. (1999). Comprehensive test of phonological processes, Austin, TX: PRO-ED Publishing, Inc.
  • Wolf, M. (1991). Naming speed and reading: The contribution of the cognitive neurosciences. Reading Research Quarterly, 26, 123–247.
  • Wolf, M., & Bowers, P. G. (1999). The double-deficit hypothesis for the developmental dyslexias. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 415–38
  • Wolf, M (2007). Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. Harper

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