The Big Five ~ by Jane Volden

What is known as the “Big Five”
when teaching children to read?

From 1997 – 2000, the US Department of Education formed the National Reading Panel. The purpose of the panel was to determine the most effective way to teach reading. They reviewed over 100,000 reading studies to make their evaluation and put forth a recommended plan.



  1. Phonemic Awareness — The knowledge that spoken words can be broken apart into smaller segments of sound known as phonemes. Children who are read to at home often develop the basis of phonemic awareness. Materials that rhyme tend have the greatest impact. Children who are not ready to will likely need to be taught that words can be broken apart into smaller sounds.
  1. Phonics — The knowledge that letters of the alphabet represent phonemes, and that these sounds are blended together to form written words. Readers who are skilled in phonics can sound out words they haven’t seen before, without first having to memorize them.
  1. Vocabulary — Teaching new words, either as they appear in text, or by introducing new words separately. This type of instruction also aids reading ability.
  1. Fluency — The ability to recognize words easily, read with greater speed, accuracy, and expression, and to better understand what is read. Children gain fluency by practicing reading until the process becomes automatic. Repeated oral reading is one approach to helping children become fluent readers.
  1. Comprehension — A technique for helping individuals to understand what they read. Such techniques involve having students summarize what they’ve read, to gain a better understanding of the material.

The National Reading Panel was the largest reading study ever done. This evidence-based research demonstrates that solid reading programs need to incorporate the five components listed above, which has become known as the BIG FIVE.  Teaching a child to read is a serious responsibility. Voweletics takes this responsibility seriously and is designed to include these essential elements.


Guest Writer

Jane Volden, Curriculum Developer