5 Pillars of Reading

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It’s important to understand reading fundamentals when you’re asking yourself why your kid can’t read. Unlike popular belief, reading is not just saying the words on a given page. It’s actually much more than that. There are 5 Pillars of Reading that teachers must focus on in order to help struggling students become readers.

5 Pillars of Reading

The 5 essential components of reading are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Each literacy component is equally important in reading and should be explicitly taught.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the first step to master when teaching children how to read. You will know a student has mastered this when they can hear, identify, and manipulate sounds without looking at the actual letters or words. Since phonemic awareness activities are orally done, you can focus on phonemic awareness activities that include rhyming, blending sounds (phonemes) to form words, deleting or adding sounds to create new words, substituting sounds to form new words, recognizing when spoken words begin or end with the same sound, segmenting words into sounds, isolating sounds, and segmenting or blending syllables. There’s so much that can be done before print is ever introduced to young readers.


The difference between phonemic awareness and phonics is that phonics includes written symbols. Once your child or student has a grasp on manipulating and identifying sounds, it’s time to introduce text into their reading journey. As you explicitly teach phonics, your students will understand the basics of decoding simple words and spelling patterns. The more sound-spelling lessons being taught, accompanied with guided opportunities for hands on practice, the stronger your child will become with their phonics reading capabilities. The quicker they get with decoding, the more fluent they will become as well! 🙂 Need resources for phonics instruction in your classroom? Here are two great products to try out. Click here for CVC Resources and Assessments or phonics passages.


Fluency is the ability to “read like you talk”. This means you can read accurately, smoothly, and with expression. A fluent reader should not have to stop and decode words. Fluency is vital in reading because it is the bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Reading fluently allows students to focus on what the words are saying instead of figuring out what the words are. Being a fluent reader does not come natural for all kids. Sometimes this takes a lot of practice. How can you help build fluency? As a teacher, you can model proper fluency with prosidy in your lessons, read alouds, and small groups. Students can reread texts again and again to build their fluency too. Books on tape are another wonderful resource that could be used. If you have spent a lot of time focusing on fluency intervention and your child is still not making appropriate improvements in their reading, I suggest reviewing phonemic awareness and phonics skills again to ensure that they are truly mastered.


Vocabulary can be broken down into two categories: oral vocabulary and reading vocabulary. Oral vocabulary are words we hear when listening or speaking. Reading vocabulary are written words that are read in text. Beginning readers rely heavily on vocabulary that they’ve heard in order to figure out tricky words within their books. If they are reading unfamiliar words, it becomes difficult for the reader to comprehend the text as well. In order to help your students, read aloud to them frequently and introduce new words to them often, in order to build on their vocabulary.


I’ve always told my young readers at first you learn to read, then you read to learn. This quote is so true because the ultimate goal as a reader is to comprehend the text. In order to be solid on this skill, students must be able to read, understand, process, analyze, and recall what was just read. Not only does comprehension matter in the academic world, but it transfers over to our personal and professional lives as well. These skills are what keep our kids being life long readers because they are able to truly enjoy books and follow along with their favorite stories. This helps you find the key details and the main idea of emails in the workforce and summarize these for upcoming meetings. Comprehension is long term, and it is a vital part of reading.

Reading Activities

Do you need some tried and true resources to use with your students or child at home? These are two of my favorite products that I’ve used year after year. Happy teaching!

Head on over to my store for these Phonics Passages and Phonics Resources and Assessments.


At Home Reading Resource Guide for Parents

Most parents will willingly read with their child at home if they had the resources available to them. This parent guide is an informative way to teach your parents about the 5 pillars of reading. I like to leave this out for each parent during Meet the Teacher in the beginning of the year and during mid year conferences.
This is so helpful because it teaches parents all about different areas in reading and why they’re important.
It also comes with three free at home reading activities for each category! These are the perfect resources for reading at home and would make a great addition to any classroom.

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