The Reading Excellence Act also makes a significant contribution to the ongoing debate about balanced components of reading programs by defining reading and identifying major components of early reading instruction. Reading is defined as “a complex system of deriving meaning from print” that requires all of the following:
- Phonemic awareness: the ability to hear the indi-
- vidual speech sounds, or phonemes, in spoken
- Word recognition strategies including phonics;
- Fluency: the ability to read connected text with
- appropriate speed, accuracy, and expression;
- Sufficient background knowledge and
- vocabulary to foster reading comprehension;
- Comprehension strategies to construct meaning
- from print; and
- Motivation to read.
This definition asserts the ultimate purpose of reading as comprehension. However, it also declares loudly that fluent reading requires a complex system of well-integrated skills and abilities. During the early literacy period, children begin to develop the skills they will need to become fluent readers. In
addition, while the Reading Excellence Act does not explicitly address the development of oral and written language skills, many researchers and educators alike argue that a balanced early literacy program thoroughly integrates reading, writing, and speaking and listening skills, strategies, and practice opportunities.
In 2000, the National Reading Panel disseminated information about the most effective approaches to teaching children to read in the Report of the
National Reading Panel. On the basis of its review of scientific studies of reading, the panel concluded that strong evidence exists for including phonemic and phonological awareness, systematic phonics, guided oral reading to promote fluency, and direct instruction in vocabulary and a range of comprehension strategies in a balanced early reading program.
Although the National Reading Panel’s report focused on specified dimensions of reading for which a significant body of scientifically based research exists, early literacy researchers also recognize that a balanced early literacy program includes activities to promote motivation to read as well as oral and written language development.
Drawing upon a wider range of early reading and language arts research conducted during the past 30 years, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young.