Literacy Strategies for Students with Disabilities

Language Comprehension: Literacy Knowledge

Reading glasses sitting on a book.
Effective instruction is based on scientifically-based research. An overview of the research for teaching literacy knowledge is included in this section.  
  • Learning to read begins long before a child starts school.  Print is everywhere in our society and children can’t help but be curious about all the squiggly lines they see.  Children begin to understand that certain symbols represent meaning – the golden arches mean McDonald’s.  Soon they begin to notice that adults point to those squiggly lines and say words.  Some children may even start to “read” those same words. 

    Before preschool most children do not understand that those squiggly lines are made up of individual letters and that those letters have a sound that is blended together to create the pronunciation.  They have just memorized the shape of that word or its location on the page. 

    As adults it is hard for us to remember how many concepts have to be learned to become an effect reader.  Many of the very early skills we take for granted.  But these very skills are predictors of future reading achievement and “… serve as the very foundation on which orthographic and phonological skills are built.” (Adams, page 338)

    Literacy knowledge includes understanding concepts such as (not an exhaustive list):

    • The words carry the meaning, not the pictures.
    • A word is different from a letter.
    • Words are made up of letters that occur in a specific sequence.
    • It matters which way a letter faces (p, b, d, q)
    • English is read and written left to right and top to bottom.
    • When you get to the end of a line of print you return to the left side of the page to continue reading.
    • Books have parts:front, back, title page, table of contents, index, glossary, chapters, headings, subheading, bold type, etc.
    • Authors write in different genres and media: fiction, non-fiction, mystery, graphic novels, blogs, webpages, newspapers, magazine articles, etc.
A teacher working with elementary children sitting at a table.
This section includes a library of instructional strategies that help students understand and navigate the different types of print.
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Videos show how instructional strategies look in the classroom.  These videos focus on teaching students how print works.
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This section contains additional resources related to literacy knowledge.

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  • Cara Wyly
    Project Manager, Progress in the General Curriculum Network
    (210) 370-5413