Overview: Word Recognition Skills

After acknowledging the contributions of recent scientific discoveries in reading that have led to new understandings of reading processes and reading instruction, this chapter focuses on word recognition, one of the two essential components in the Simple View of Reading. The next chapter focuses on the other essential component, language comprehension. The Simple View of Reading is a model, or a representation, of how skillful reading comprehension develops. Although the Report of the National Reading Panel (NRP; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2000) concluded that the best reading instruction incorporates explicit instruction in five areas (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension), its purpose was to review hundreds of research studies to let instructors know the most effective evidence-based methods for teaching each. These five areas are featured in the Simple View of Reading in such a way that we can see how the subskills ultimately contribute to two essential components for skillful reading comprehension. Children require many skills and elements to gain word recognition (e.g., phoneme awareness, phonics), and many skills and elements to gain language comprehension (e.g., vocabulary). Ultimately, the ability to read words (word recognition) and understand those words (language comprehension) lead to skillful reading comprehension. Both this chapter and the next chapter present the skills, elements, and components of reading using the framework of the Simple View of Reading, and in this particular chapter, the focus is on elements that contribute to automatic word recognition. An explanation of each element’s importance is provided, along with recommendations of research-based instructional activities for each.

Learning Objectives

After reading this chapter, readers will be able to

  1. identify the underlying elements of word recognition;
  2. identify research-based instructional activities to teach phonological awareness, decoding, and sight recognition of irregular sight words;
  3. discuss how the underlying elements of word recognition lead to successful reading comprehension.