Think of teaching reading as eating an apple. There are four components:
- The inside of the apple is known as Graphophonemics. It's a big fancy word for letter and word recognition. Before being able to read, a child must know their letters, the sounds those letters make, and the sounds the letters make together (phonics). Teaching this skill begins with activities such as singing the alphabet, learning their name (what letter it begins with and what other words start with that letter), knowing sight words, and looking at words and letters in stories (for example, there are a lot of p words in this story, see if you hear any other words that start with p (sound it out). Readers with this skill are able to ask themselves if a word looks right. For example, with this skill, a reader would not see the word "train" and guess it is "water". They would know "train" begins with the 't' sound, not the 'w' sound.
- Next, we have the shiny red skin of the apple - Semantics. Semantics is the fancy word for meaning - knowing what they are reading. This deals with vocabulary and comprehension. With this skill, children are able to make predictions and connections to the text. When building this skill, it is important to discuss what you are reading and ask questions about the story. Readers with this skill ask themselves if what they are reading makes sense and understand the general idea of the story. They also use context clues and pictures to read words and understand the story.
- Third, we have the core of the apple - Syntax, which is the grammar component of reading. It is the ability to ask and recognize, "Does that make sense?", "Did that sound right?" For example, let's say a child is reading the following sentence: The girl walked down the road. Instead of reading that sentence, they instead read The girl walked down the rain. If a child has the syntax component of reading, they will recognize on their own that the sentence did not make sense. A girl would not walk down the rain. What would make sense in that sentence....hmmmm.....road? They would then re-read the sentence with the word "road", and see that it correctly fits the sentence and makes sense.
- Finally, last but definitely not least, we have the hand that holds the apple - Pragmatics. Pragmatics represent experience. The more experiences a child has, the better they will be able to relate to and understand what they are reading. As adults it's often hard to understand this component, but it is often a component many struggling readers lack. For example, a child that has never seen a lawnmower or heard of them, is probably not going to understand the word "mow" in a story or be able to answer a comprehension question related to this. The more stories a child reads and the more they experience will only help them become better readers.