What Reading Skills Do Children Need?

A reader combines four reading skills.



A reader with good reading comprehension has a purpose for reading, monitors for understanding while reading, and checks for understanding after reading.

When you read with a child you can talk about thinking you do while reading. I personally struggled with this until I was twenty-five years old. I didn't naturally think before, during, or after reading. I read the words on the page and thought that was enough. I did not enjoy reading or do well in school until by some miracle I figured out how to think while reading in college.

I love the book 7 Keys to Reading Comprehension. This book clearly explains how to help a child do the right kind of thinking. It will give you ways to model thinking and ask the right questions.


Vocabulary knowledge is an important part of reading. It is built through experiences, conversations, and reading. New vocabulary words can be learned while reading by using word parts, attending to context clues, or using a dictionary.

Readers need to understand most of the words being read to understand their reading.


A reader with strong fluency skills quickly recognizes words, reads like a person speaks, and focuses on meaning.

It is normal for an early reader to sound choppy and take longer to read. It takes patience to listen to a beginning reader. Fluency comes with practice and combining reading skills. Telling a reader to read faster will not make a reader fluent.

Improve fluency by making sure sounding out has been taught and is happening. Then have plenty of books at your child's reading level that are enjoyable to read. Encourage your child to read out loud. I like to tell a child that their is a movie playing in my head when I listen to your reading. The movie gets fuzzy when something is read correctly. I ask them to please rewind the movie and play it again. If small errors are made and I can still understand the story, I don't stop a reader. Encourage your child to have a movie and make sure to get them to reread a sentence when the meaning gets fuzzy.


Decoding involves reading words by using sounds, phonics, and knowledge of phonics rules and exceptions.

Decoding words takes a lot of effort and time in the beginning stages of reading. Smooth reading will not happen until decoding becomes automatic. It takes time and practice for a child to decode words quickly. Your child will stumble over words when learning to decode. Think of the beginning stages of reading as a child learning to walk.

A good online reading program can teach decoding skills.

Teach Letter Sounds and Letter Combinations

After a child knows the alphabet and letter sounds, there are still a few letter combinations you can teach. I suggest you start by teaching a few letter combinations at a time. These letter combinations can be taught while you read books to your child. Stop and point out a few letters and letter combinations. Break the word apart by individual sounds with your voice.

Phonics Pathways and Reading Pathways are good books to teach letter combinations. You can also check out Reading Bear. Reading Bear is a free online program that gives practice with letter sounds and letter combinations.


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