The Secret to Becoming a Proficient Reader

Written by Cheryl Anthony, MS Ed.,  Dyslexia Consultant

December 2022

Do you want to support your child or students’ reading growth?  Provide them with decodable readers! Parents and teachers who want to support young readers (K-3rd grade) or struggling readers who are receiving target reading instruction need to provide them with more reading practice – but not just random reading practice.

What kind of practice do students need to grow their reading skills?  Students need to practice the recently taught letter patterns.  They need to practice previously taught letter patterns too.  Students who are learning to read need repeated exposure to these patterns before they can become instantly recognized (orthographically mapped).  We cannot expect children to become proficient readers without this practice.

proficient reader

Most often in classroom or home-school settings, children do not get enough reading practice time with the letter to sound patterns that have been introduced to them during reading instructional time.  All children need enough practice to automatically recognize previously taught patterns, and especially children who struggle with reading. Reading research has indicated that students who struggle with reading may need 10-20 exposures to the same patterns to lock the symbol-to-sound pattern into memory where it can be automatically retrieved.

In the past, the approach in most classrooms or instructional settings has been to read patterned books, where the student is seeing the same word repeatedly.  In essence, readers often memorized the story and parents and teachers called this reading.  The ability to recall word for word, is often explained as  word calling.  It is not the same as reading effortlessly. 

Actual reading is the ability to decode or sound out letters to sound patterns, whether the reader has seen the word before or not.  Reading is the ability to figure out the sounds the letters in printed words should make.  This skill comes about through direct instruction, with recognition of the letters and the sounds they make and provision of practice with those patterns in different words.

Decodable books provide the targeted practice with specific letter to sound patterns. Letter to sound patterns should be practiced in a variety of single-syllable words for beginning readers, followed by two-syllable words once students have been taught to divide and read two-syllable words. Proficiency, 95-98 percent accuracy, is the goal!

Reading IS Fun! Books inform teachers and parents of the letter-to-sound patterns children will be practicing on page two of each of their decodable books.  All RIF Books and the letter-to-sound patterns can be found on the Program Alignment Page (embed website link).  

Have your children had enough practice with the reading patterns they are encountering to recognize and read them automatically?  If not, provide them with the practice they need today!