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Considerations when planning the instruction of early reading

Early literacy programs should build on students’ prior knowledge, culture and language experiences in their home and community. Instruction can offer students choice at times and encourage a sense of agency in learning to read. Effective instruction further motivates and engages students in reading and development of self-efficacy. For young students in particular, self-efficacy is the largest motivator. When children are good at something, they are motivated to do it. Instruction that develops students’ word reading competence increases their motivation to read. In addition to this direct instruction to gain efficiency in foundational word reading skills, students should recognize themselves in early reading experiences, in the literacy environment in the classroom, and in their broader physical surroundings while also having the opportunity to enjoy reading about diverse cultures and communities.

Starting with a belief that all students are capable of learning to read, educators should approach reading instruction with the intent to systematically teach foundational reading skills within a purposeful and meaningful context. Educators should use evidence-based resources that map out a scope and sequence of skills and associated phonological and strategy-based instruction to guide their planning and instruction of early reading. Educators should also recognize that students have various learning needs. To promote growth, the focus of activities in early reading programs should be adapted as students progress with their reading skills.

Differentiation can be particularly important for some students, including English-language learners and multilingual learners. While these students are learning the language of instruction and developing vocabulary, they should also be encouraged to develop and/or maintain proficiency in their first and other languages as well. For most students, language skills (including phonological and phonics knowledge, and conceptual knowledge) are somewhat transferable from one language to another. Phonics and proficient writing skills in a first language are most likely to transfer between other alphabetic languages.

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