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There Are Four Foundational Reading Skills. Why Are We Only Talking About Phonics?

There Are Four Foundational Reading Skills. Why Are We Only Talking About Phonics?

Table of Contents

There is a common misconception that foundational skills only mean “phonics.”

Many educators have the information that k- grade 5 learners need to learn the foundational reading skills per the common core standards. Foundational reading skills comprise print concepts, phonics and word recognition, phonological awareness, and fluency.

Unfortunately, most learners receive primarily ineffective and incomplete foundational skills: Children should get practical and quality foundational reading skills to build capacity for advanced, lengthy, informational texts.

There Are Four Foundational Reading Skills. Why Are We Only Talking About Phonics?
Foundational reading skills go beyond phonics awareness.

We should not only focus on Phonics

One of the significant parts of formal education is learning how to read. While some readers are early readers or acquire basic literacy skills at preschool, others require more support to begin their reading journey. We should choose the best teaching approach to help children build their reading skills regardless of their ability or level.

Reading at the Basic Level

 Reading at a basic level involves decoding. It involves understanding how symbols such as letters and letter combinations form words we recognize and understand. When a child comes across a familiar phrase in a text, they decode it, recognize or name it, and finally apply meaning to it.

Children can effectively learn reading and build comprehension by applying the four foundational reading skills below.

The Four Foundational Reading Skills:

Foundational reading skills prepare learners for reading success as they learn more advanced skills. The four primary reading foundational skills include the following:

Print concepts: 

Before a child can read, they must learn how phrases and words appear in written form. For instance, they should understand that words and sentences can only be formed if we read left to right and top to bottom.

Phonological awareness:

This is a foundational skill where children learn and understand sounds, spoken words, and syllables.

Phonics and word recognition:

This is a foundational reading skill where children learn the relationship between sounds and letters to create spoken words. Learning to recognize words fast and accurately enables children to understand the meaning of their reading. 


Every child should learn to read varying texts to become more expressive, accurate, and fluent. Fluency enables them to identify a broader range of new words and understand more texts over time. Gaining fluency also makes reading an enjoyable task.

Literacy Skills that Every Child Should Possess:

 For a child to read effectively, they must understand the relationship between letters and sounds. Before teachers and parents consider teaching kids to read, they should ensure they know the language you expect them to read. They should be familiar with the sounds of the language you expect them to read and differentiate them in words. This is called phonemic awareness.

 Young readers need to recognize book features, such as the link between pictures meaning, and identify a book’s title, front cover, back cover, author, and so on for better comprehension. They should also be able to listen to a story and follow narratives, notice print in their environment, and have good oral language competence.

How to impact literacy skills of k-2 learners:

We should adopt a systematic approach when inserting literacy into young learners. The relationship between sounds and letters should be taught explicitly to children for an adequate understanding. Children with another first language, rather than English, should understand that their mother tongue and English language may have varying graphophonemic systems. At this point, it becomes essential to teach phonics.  

On the other hand, knowledge of the alphabet and phonemic awareness can help kids understand phonics in a more accessible manner. Phonics teaching allows children to understand that letters represent varying sounds of the language.

How phonics work in building literacy skills:

Phonics awareness helps children to learn how to read and write letters by sounding out the individual sounds in a word and blending in varying sounds to form words before attaching meaning to them.

Phonics also plays a significant role in helping low-achieving students and students with learning disabilities to read. Phonics awareness further helps students in international schools and mainstream education in nations where students learn English as a foreign language.

Why Should Children Learn Phonics?

Phonics provides learners with the basics to help them quickly read simple words. After they have understood the relationship between sounds and letters, they can use the knowledge to read unfamiliar words.

Phonics reading makes it easy for kids to crack reading code and give them more understanding more written texts. Phonics also helps children whose first language is not English to learn the pronunciation of English words differently from their mother tongue.

 The earlier you introduce your child to phonics awareness, the easier it will be for them to understand the sounds of the language and notice the difference between their language and the English language.

Beyond Phonics:

Reading goes beyond identifying words. It also involves making connections between parts of texts and sentences and using word context and knowledge to make inferences. It makes it possible for kids to understand what they read.

Vocabulary: This is a significant part of the reading exercise that helps readers understand the meaning of the text. Building your kids’ vocabulary helps improve their reading skills and comprehension. Learning vocabulary is especially important to children for whom English is a second language.

Spelling:  Spelling should go hand in hand with phonics awareness. Children who learn to read through phonics can use the same knowledge to spell correctly.

Writing:  Learning to write is a skill that we cannot underestimate. It helps children to express themselves in a new way. You can help your child to write simple letters and words early through a phonics program.

Advancing Reading Skills:

Children can advance their reading skills with regular practice and more opportunities to apply what they have learned in their foundational reading skills. Regular phonics practice makes it possible to recognize words automatically while skipping the decoding stage.

You can advance your child’s reading skills in the following ways:

  • Provide more rereading opportunities, including flashcards, individual reading, and teacher-led reading.
  • Use phonics programs with decodable readers as early as possible to promote reading and give them a sense of accomplishment.
  • Work closely with your child’s teacher and allow them to pick their favorite books to practice reading.

So, is Phonics the only practical reading skill?

While phonics plays a significant part in the reading programs at the foundation level, it is not the only way of learning reading. Phonics awareness helps children develop essential strategies and knowledge to become independent readers. However, you must integrate it with the other foundational reading skills for better performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I help my child build their reading skills?

1. Encourage them to read out aloud and reread a story they love.
2. Read out loud for your child and encourage them to do the same for you.
3. Encourage them to use facial expressions and proper reading pace.
4. Teach them to create new words using letter magnets.
5. Use word flashcards and other informal learning approaches to improve their vocabulary.
6. Read a book together, and listen to audiobooks.
7. Encourage your child to read different materials, such as comic books, and newspapers, among other reading materials.

Is it so crucial to read out loud for my child?

Reading out loud is vital since it improves your child’s comprehension and develops their vocabulary. It makes reading fun while building your child’s cognition. It improves their attention span and offers a safe place to express emotions. Significantly, reading out loud can promote bonding between you and your child.

My child cannot reread a word that he previously sounded out. Why is that the case?

Your child may focus too much on decoding, making it hard for them to comprehend and remember the whole sentence. It could also indicate that you are giving them books beyond their comprehension. Try out more straightforward books and slowly advance to complex ones.

Our Parting Shot:

We believe at Kids on the Yard that every parent has the power to be the most engaging and effective teacher to their child. We help you to build your child’s reading skills and foster their joy in reading.

We’re here for your child at any stage, whether they are just learning how to read and struggling with necessary skills or your child is a keen reader and you want to continue to build their skills.

With our intensive reading tutoring, equip your child with skills to read and get back on track, all while developing their confidence and self-esteem with their reading. These skills are building blocks for achievements in the classroom, during homework time, and far beyond.

It only takes a moment to find out more details by meeting one of our Educational

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