Helpful Reading Terminology

Source: National Institute for Literacy's A Child Becomes a Reader (

  • alphabetic knowledge - Knowing the names and shapes of the letters of the alphabet
  • alphabetic principle- The understanding that written letters represent sounds, for example, the word big has three sounds and three letters
  • big books- Oversized books that allow for the sharing of print and illustrations with a group of children
  • blending- Putting together individual sounds to make spoken words
  • comprehension-The ability to understand and gain meaning from what has been read
  • decodable books- Books that are made up of words that contain only the letter-sound relationships that the children are learning, along with a few words that are taught as sight words
  • decode- The ability to recognize and read words by translating the letters into speech sounds to determine the word's pronunciation and meaning
  • developmental spelling-The use of letter-sound relationship information to attempt to write words
  • emergent literacy-The view that literacy learning begins at birth and is encouraged through participation with adults in meaningful reading and writing activities
  • environmental print- Print that is part of everyday life, such as signs, billboards, labels, and business logos
  • experimental writing- Efforts by young children to experiment with writing by creating pretend and real letters and by organizing scribbles and marks on paper
  • explicit instruction- Direct, structured, systematic teaching of a task
  • fluency- The ability to read text accurately and quickly with expression
  • graphic organizers- Diagrams that visually represent the organization and relationships of ideas in a text
  • informational text - Text that conveys information - this may include books, magazines, websites, directions, etc.

invented spelling- The use of letter-sound relationship information to attempt to write words

  • irregular words- Frequently used words that don't follow the letter-sound relationship rules that children are learning
  • leveled books- Books that have been assigned a particular level (usually a number or letter, such as Level 1 or Level B) intended to indicate how difficult the book is for children to read
  • literacy- Includes all the activities involved in speaking, listening, reading, writing, and appreciating both spoken and written language
  • phonemes- The smallest parts of spoken language that combine to form words - For example, the word hit is made up of three phonemes (/h/ /i/ /t/) and differs by one phoneme from the words pit, hip, hot.
  • phonemic awareness- The ability to hear and identify the individual sounds in spoken words
  • phonics- The relationship between the sounds of spoken words and the individual letters or groups of letters that represent those sounds in written words
  • phonological awareness- The understanding that spoken language is made up of individual and separate sounds - Phonological awareness activities can involve work with rhymes, words, sentences, syllables, and phonemes.
  • predictable books- Books that have repeated words or sentences, rhymes, or other patterns
  • prefix- A word part such as re-, un-, pre- that is added to the beginning of a root word to form a new word with a new meaning
  • pretend reading- Children's attempts to "read" a book before they have learned to read - Usually children pretend read a familiar book that they have practically memorized.
  • print awareness- Knowing about print and books and how they are used
  • root word- A word or word part to which a prefix or suffix is added
  • segmentation- Taking spoken words apart sound by sound
  • sight words- Words that a reader recognizes without having to sound them out - Some sight words are "irregular," or have letter-sound relationships that are uncommon. Some examples of sight words are you, are, have, and said.
  • suffix- A word part such as -ness, -able, or -er that is added to the end of a root word to form a new word with a new meaning
  • syllable- A word part that contains a vowel or, in spoken language, a vowel sound (e-vent, news-pa-per, pret-ty)
  • vocabulary- The words we must know in order to communicate effectively - Oral vocabulary refers to words that we use in speaking or recognize in listening. Reading vocabulary refers to words we recognize or use in print.
  • word walls- Word-study and vocabulary words that are posted on the classroom wall so all children can easily see them - Usually, word walls are arranged alphabetically, with words starting with a certain letter listed under that letter for easy location.
  • word recognition- The ability to identify printed words and to translate them into their corresponding sounds quickly and accurately so as to figure out their meanings
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