6 Essential Elements Every Learning-To-Read Book Should Have

Advocates of literacy know that every great primer for learning to read needs to help the beginning reader with five skills that make up basic literacy—sometimes referred to as the pillars of early literacy. Missing even one of these five basic elements can hamper a person's ability to read. That's why it's essential to have a solid foundation in each. But there's another sixth element that is often overlooked. Below are the five basic pillars as well as the oft-forgotten sixth element that every learning-to-read book should include.

1. Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is all about using your ears. It's the ability to identify the different sounds that make up speech and language. It's a skill that can be learned even before a child or beginning adult reader looks at letters. Tongue twisters and poems are great ways for beginning readers to get familiar with language and hone phonemic awareness so that connections can be made to the letters that make these sounds, a skill that is the second element: phonics.  

2. Phonics

As mentioned, phonics is learning how to make connections between the sounds developed through phonemic awareness and the letters on the page. For example, that means making the connection between the sound that's pronounced "aye" and the corresponding letter i as written on the page. A good reading primer will help students make these connections.  

3. Vocabulary

No matter how deeply a person desires to read, one can't learn without a mental library of words to choose from. As a beginning reader develops a vocabulary of written words that the reader can immediately recognize, reading becomes easier and more intuitive. A good reading book helps the reader build this vocabulary through gentle repetition.  

4. Fluency

As a reader's vocabulary and mastery of phonics improves, so does the reader's fluency. Fluency is achieved when the reader has enough mastery of phonics and vocabulary to begin reading for context and understanding rather than simply reading words. Fluency reflects the reader's speed and accuracy and should be carefully cultivated by the primer as the reader progresses through the text.  

5. Comprehension

When phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and fluency are achieved, the reader can then develop the skill of comprehension. Comprehension means understanding and remembering what has been read, grasping the text as a whole and not as a collection of unrelated words.  

6. Storytelling

Finally, the overlooked sixth element that is essential for any text designed to help you learn to read is good storytelling. Getting a beginning reader excited to read is one of the biggest hurdles to learning literacy and the best way to achieve this is through compelling and engaging storytelling.