Monthly Archives: March 2016

What is Reading?



If you are an avid reader and you learned to read without a hitch, you may have never thought about what reading is and how it works.  Lucky you.   Unfortunately, this is a  challenge for many of our children.  Murray Evely and Zoe Ganim, authors of ebook, Working with children with learning difficulties suggest that in Australia approximately 16 per cent of children have a learning difficulty, with 3 per cent having a severe ongoing learning difficulty.  Learning difficulties tend to impede the acquisition and use of skills in one or more of the following areas: reading, writing, mathematics or oral language.

These percentages represent  5-6 children in every classroom who may not read by osmosis, and therefore face these learning challenges on a daily basis.  Reading  and writing is the foundation for all subjects and unfortunately, can also sometimes be the only form of assessment offered.  This can make it very difficult for students to express their understanding of subjects other than language and can quickly lead to a very disheartened child.  Not to mention, it makes for a very long day if a child is not equipped with the skills needed to perform to a satisfactory standard.   For parents this can be equally  worrying as they have to watch their children lose their confidence and become frustrated and burdened.

Following is an outline of the reading process to demonstrate the complexity of the task.

What is Reading?

  • Reading is a multifaceted process involving word recognition, comprehension, fluency, and motivation.
  • Reading is making meaning from print and transferring it to new situations.

To read you need to:

  • Have an understanding of the language used;
  • Be able to check that what you have read makes sense;
  • Have a knowledge of sounds and letters


How do children read?

By using:

Phonics – letter sound relationships and decoding (graphophonic knowledge)

  • Picture cues
  • Predicting, self correcting, re-reading and reading on
  • Using their pre existing understanding of the language (syntax)
  • Sight word recognition
  • An extensive vocabulary/experience (semantic knowledge)

A good reader uses three sources of information: syntactic knowledge; semantic knowledge; and Graphophonic knowledge.

Syntactic knowledge

I carried my …………….. when I went to the city.

You know the word must be a noun such as “briefcase”, “bag” or “coat” because of your knowledge of language. People don’t carry “cars” or “buses” or bicycles”.

Semantic Knowledge

Given your knowledge of the previous sentence:

The weather bureau predicted it would rain.   I carried my ………… when I went to the city.

You now have more information and your life experience tells your that the word may be raincoat, umbrella, jacket.

Graphophonic knowledge

Given your prior knowledge, look at the information and given the first letter of the word is “U” you may be able to draw the conclusion that the word is “Umbrella”

The weather bureau predicted it would rain. I carried my u_________ when I went to the city.


You can understand why so many children find this difficult.  Below is an example that I was given at a workshop years ago and I kept it because it was so true.  The author has been lost.

Reasons why the English language is so hard to learn:  

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) We must polish the Polish furniture.
4) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
5) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
6) They were too close to the door to close it.
7) After a number of injections my jaw got number.

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. We take English for granted; but if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend. If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what other language do people: Recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which you fill in a form by filling it out; and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all.

The Apps Learning Centre uses evidence based reading and spelling programs to ensure our students are up-skilled in the art of reading.  As an intervention service we focus heavily on phonics but we are mindful to keep purpose and meaning to our teaching and always link our direct instruction with literature.  As well as a multi-sensory phonics program we teach picture cues, predicting, self correcting, re-reading and reading on, using pre existing understanding of the language, sight word recognition and experience to develop fluency, and solid comprehension.

If you have any further queries about reading or would like a Phonological Literacy Assessment to gauge your child’s literacy levels please do not hesitate to call Mary-Anne Apps on 0412 544 173 or email