Learning Resources for Children


How We Read

Skilled reading for children

“Reading is the fundamental skill upon which all formal education depends”. And yet, learning to read is an incredibly complex and multifaceted skill. The act of reading is far from “natural”, therefore many children stumble and battle with reading. Reading difficulties can have far reaching consequences.

To understand how we read, and how we can improve reading in our children, we need to understand the “nuts and bolts” of how we read. While our brains are wired to learn language, and as a baby and young child being surrounded by others using language to communicate and express their needs, we acquire the language relatively easily. The same cannot be said for reading. By submersing a child into a world rich in literature will not necessarily assist them in learning to read.

Reading is a multifaceted skill that needs to be gradually acquired. Reading takes years of practice to perfect.

Hollis Scarborough likened the different skills that go into reading to a piece of rope. Each skill is a strand that makes up the rope. When all the stands are well developed, the rope is strong. But if one strand is underdeveloped, the rope is compromised.

Scarborough breaks the Reading Rope Metaphor into two strands – Language Comprehension, and Word Recognition. At the top are multiple Language Comprehension strands – background knowledge, vocabulary, grammar, semantics, verbal reasoning and knowledge about literacy itself, for example how a book is organised and the difference between fiction and non-fiction, formal and informal writing, and a letter and an advertisement.

At the bottom are some Word Recognition strands – awareness of the sound structure of words, the idea that letters of the alphabet represent sounds, knowledge of which letters/patterns correspond to which sounds, and recognition of familiar words.

These twist together to form the two main strands of the rope. Each strand of the rope is important to developing skilled reading ability. Each element should be included in the daily instruction provided to beginner readers.

With practice, weaving the main lower, Word Recognition strand becomes more and more automatic, until it is done effortlessly and unconsciously. These skills, once entrenched in the reader require less active input from the teacher, and more time can be spent on the language comprehension component.

The other language components of reading, vocabulary and comprehension, continue to develop across our lifetimes. For children in the very early stages of learning to read, oral language experiences and exposure to books are the keys to growing knowledge of words and the meaning-making process of reading.


Alst, J. V. (2012, May 22). Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness and Phonics. Retrieved from Make, Take and Teach: http://blog.maketaketeach.com/phonological-awareness- phonemic-awareness- and-phonics/

Amercian Federartion of Teachers. (2004, March). Teaching Reading is Rocket Science. Retrieved from Amercian Federation of Teachers: https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/reading_rocketscience_2004.pdf

Reed, D. K. (2016, November 29). Comprehension Skills Are Important for Readers of All Ages. Retrieved from Iowa Reading Research Center: https://iowareadingresearch.org/blog/comprehension-skills- are-important- for-readers- of- all-ages

Scarborough, H. (2001). Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory and practice. In S. B. Dickinson, Handbook of early literacy research Vol. 1 (pp. pp. 97-110). New York: Guilford Press.

The Reading Rope. (2013, April). Retrieved from Spelfabet: https://www.spelfabet.com.au/2013/04/the-reading- rope/



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