The Literacy How Reading Model

The goal of the Literacy How reading model is to provide a schema conveying all domains of literacy required for a child to become literate.

The National Reading Panel identified five components of comprehensive literacy instruction:

  • Phonemic awareness (PA)—an awareness of and the ability to manipulate the individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words;
  • Phonics (P)—the study and use of sound/spelling correspondences and syllable patterns to help students read written words;
  • Fluency (F)—reading text with sufficient speed, accuracy and expression to support comprehension;
  • Vocabulary (V)—the body of words and their meanings that students must understand to comprehend text; (the Literacy How reading model includes Morphology with Vocabulary); and
  • Text comprehension (TC)—the ability to make meaning requiring specific skills and strategies, vocabulary, background knowledge and verbal reasoning skills.

Beyond these essential components, the Literacy How model includes several additional components including oral language (OL), spelling (S), syntax (SYN), and written expression (WE). Why these additions? Because being literate involves more than reading. The inclusion of these additional components also grew out of our experience with the reciprocity of spoken and written language.

At the core of our model is oral language, because a child’s oral language skills provide the foundation for both aspects of reading—word reading and comprehension; oral language is at the heart of both listening and reading comprehension. Additionally, oral language serves as a predictor for both (Dickinson, Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2010).

Spelling appears in the phonics section of the model because of the reciprocal nature of sounding out words (decoding) and spelling words (encoding). Instruction that coordinates decoding and spelling maximizes students’ ability to read and spell words automatically.

Syntax, the way words are arranged to create meaningful phrases and sentences, is included because of its importance in deriving meaning from text. This component – that is, the sentence level of language – is strategically positioned as a building block between individual words and text, and is new to our reading wheel model.

Our model also adds written expression due to the reciprocal relationship between written expression and text comprehension. Research provides evidence that writing about a text boosts students’ comprehension of what they read.


Finally, the Literacy How model expands the concept of fluency to encompass all aspects of literacy development. Fluent, or automatic, performance in both discrete (e.g., word recognition) and complex (e.g., comprehension, composition) literacy skills is essential to be a proficient reader and writer. Learn more about fluency here.

Download the Literacy How Reading Wheel with component definitions.