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When you pick up something to read – a newspaper or a book or a piece of mail, even – you need to do three main things in order to understand what you are reading: You need to give the piece of text your full attention, read the actual words that are written, and then understand the words and all the ideas that are implied. That’s actually a lot of complex work, and there are lots and lots of things that can go wrong on any given day with any given piece of written material.

So, if you were somewhat distracted when you picked up that piece of text – if you had your mind on a problem at work or home, or just were daydreaming – you might have to start over and reread the words. If you had trouble actually reading the words that were written – if a word such as indict was a word you knew but it wasn’t familiar to you in print and you struggled with reading the odd spelling pattern, you would have to go back over it and try to figure it out, by using the context or trying again to decipher the word. And if, in the end, you just were not familiar with too many of the words in the text – if you just didn’t know their meanings in this context even if you could read the words – then you wouldn’t be able to make sense of what you were reading.

When children are learning to read, they need to build up the skills to do all three of these things – to give the attention that is needed to take in the information, to read the actual words written, and to think about and make sense of what the words mean. That is what reading is all about.

Learn how children develop reading skills, and more about the three specific types of skill, at Abound’s research section.