Beginning with kindergarten, teachers present reading as if it were a matter of “decoding” symbols for meaning.
Reading is not “decoding.”
Reading is the end product of a process that begins with speech, passes through writing (encoding) and ends with taking meaning from written symbols that represent familiar speech sounds for words in the reader’s vocabulary.
Before children can be expected to read, they must have language.
Having language means they are able to form the speech sounds of their language. They must be able to hear the individual speech sounds that make up words. They must learn how the sounds are represented in writing. And they must have acquired a vocabulary that enables them to talk about their environment and activities.
I’ve noticed with some confusion that the word reading has been replaced in the new education climate by the word literacy. Children are no longer tested on “reading,” but on “literacy.” Some high schools offer courses in both “English” and in “literacy.”
I don’t really know what the politicians, statisticians, and educationists mean when they use the word literacy. I do know what I mean by it.
Here are the four levels of literacy as defined at the American English Doctor: