Over the last few decades, a lot of research has been conducted on the best way to teach reading. Until recently, there has been little consensus on what the research shows. In 2000, however, a consensus began to take form based on an exhaustive review of research findings conducted by the National Reading Panel (NRP). That year, the NRP identified five essential elements of effective reading instruction, commonly known as the “Five Pillars”: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension.
Reading Horizons recognized the importance of these five elements long before consensus was reached. Our proven effective method has incorporated all five elements since our founding over 30 years ago. We invite you to learn more about teaching reading strategies and the Five Pillars by clicking on the links below.
To learn more about decoding, teaching, and reading strategies, visit the Reading Horizons Reading Strategies Homepage.
Effective reading instruction begins by ensuring that students have mastered phonemic awareness, which is the ability to identify, manipulate, and substitute phonemes—the smallest units of sound. Through phonemic awareness strategies, students first learn individual phonemes, then progress to joining phonemes, and finally build words with phonemes.
Phonemic awareness lays the groundwork for learning to associate individual sounds with written letters—commonly known as phonics.
Reading Horizons provides students of all ages and develop phonemic awareness.
Phonics is an instructional method that associates written letters and letter combinations with the sounds of spoken language. Once letters are linked to sounds, they are no longer meaningless marks; they are the building blocks of words. Phonics strategies help students develop basic skills for decoding the words they read as well as spelling the words they write.
Reading Horizons teaches students sound/letter associations through multi-sensory instruction and highly interactive student participation. A unique marking system is employed to help students analyze the internal structures of words, identify likely and unlikely letter patterns, and prove how the words are spelled and pronounced.
Fluency is the ability to read text accurately and quickly, either silently or orally. Researchers have found that fluent reading at the word level is established after an individual reads a word at least four times using accurate phonologic processing. Fluency is built word by word and is based on repeated, accurate sounding out of the word. Fluency is not established by “memorizing” what words look like but rather by developing correct neural-phonologic models of the word.
To build fluency, our programs teach accurate phonologic processing and then offer repetition and guided practice. The programs’ Lexiled® reading passages give students opportunities to transfer decoding skills to actual text, a practice which builds vocabulary skills as well as fluency.
Vocabulary is an expandable, stored set of words that students know the meanings of and use. Vocabulary has both print and speech forms.
Spoken vocabulary plays an important role in word recognition. Beginning readers use their spoken vocabulary to recognize words that they encounter in print. When students “sound out” a written word, they try to connect that word to a word in their spoken vocabulary. If the word they are reading is not in their spoken vocabulary, that word will interrupt their reading. That new word must be learned, in both form and meaning, before it can be added to their vocabulary.
Reading Horizons incorporates vocabulary development immediately following the introduction of the first letters. As new words are introduced, students simultaneously learn each word’s meanings and usage. Our programs also teach students the most common English words, which should be recognized quickly by sight rather than decoded.
Reading comprehension is the ability to understand, remember, and communicate meaning from what has been read. Comprehension is the purpose and the goal of reading, but comprehension depends on students being able to access the text, which can only happen after they have already mastered certain phonemic awareness and phonics skills.
Reading Horizons provides students with a solid foundation of basic reading skills upon which more advanced reading skills can be built. After helping students develop that foundation, we then help them improve comprehension by modeling strategies that show how to actively engage with a text.
When students can connect with what they’re reading, interact with it, and come away understanding it, they have achieved their goal—and so have we.