Reading is a complex process. It involves decoding (sound out words), fluency, and comprehension. Decoding results in word recognition and must be automatic and accurate. Comprehension involves the language components of vocabulary knowledge, syntax or grammatical structure, reasoning, and understanding connected text. Fluency results when all other reading processes such as accuracy, rate, and expression (prosody) are in place. A reader brings several skills together in order to understand the meaning a writer is trying to convey.

Children with good reading skills:

  • Manipulate sounds in words
  • Attach sounds to letters
  • Apply letter/sound knowledge to sound out words
  • Have automatic recognition of sight words
  • Have good vocabulary
  • Understand sentence structure and grammar, including how words function in sentences
  • Maintain focus on content while reading
  • Read fluently and accurately at a good rate with appropriate phrasing and expression

Characteristics of a reading disorder include decoding and word recognition problems. Dyslexia is a disorder characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. Children with dyslexia often appear to have poor reading comprehension when, in fact, they just cannot read the words. Some children with good decoding and word recognition skills are at risk for poor reading comprehension if a language disorder is present. Other children who are fascinated with print, read very early, and have poor comprehension (hyperlexia) are at risk for autism spectrum disorder.

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