As children learn, they should also have many opportunities to read, both inside and outside the classroom. Start with picture books that have just a few words. Then move on to chapter books, novels, and young adult volumes. At each stage, provide a balance between what they can do and what is just beyond their reach. This method of explicit instruction and practice helps teach the rules of our writing system to the developing brain.

The goal of this level of instruction is to give every child the opportunity to sound out words. This gives children the opportunity to learn the puzzle piece rules of phoneme combinations. Children also start to accumulate an ever-growing vocabulary of words they can recognize at first sight. A foundation in phonological awareness gives children the tools to decode almost any word that comes their way. With practice, children will build a “sight word vocabulary,” or words that are automatically recognized by the visual word form area.