Reading is a complex skill that is made up of several building blocks, or component skills. These skills include identifying letter names and sounds, sounding out words and blending sounds together. If your child is having trouble with learning how to read or increasing their reading rate, assessing these component skills is the key to figuring out why your child is having difficulty. You see in order for your child to become a fluent reader, they need to be fluent in all of the reading component skills.

So what exactly does fluency mean anyway? Well fluency means that a skill can be performed accurately AND with a high speed of performance.

Fluency = accuracy + speed

When somebody is fluent in a skill they perform it effortlessly and with confidence, and the skill becomes second nature. Think about when you learnt how to ride a bike. You may have been wobbly at first, and needed to practice quite a bit. However, once you mastered the art of riding your bike it doesn’t matter if one week, month or year has passed – you will always be able to hop on a bike and ride it. This is because when you are fluent in a skill, you are able to maintain it (ie. perform the skill in the future without additional practice).

Now your child may know their letter sounds, but they may take a few seconds to identify a letter’s sound when asked. If it takes your child a few seconds to sound out each letter in a three letter word, it would take them 9 seconds. By the time they have finished saying the last sound, it’s likely that they would have forgotten the first sound and then they can’t blend the sounds together to say the word. If your child just practiced saying their letter sounds, you will find that their sounding out skills will also improve.

Here are our 5 building blocks for reading:

1. Phonemic Awareness

This is actually a pre-requisite skill for reading, and involves manipulating auditory sounds. This includes being able to blend sounds together (eg. saying “cat” after hearing “c…a…t”); segment words into their separate sounds (eg. saying “d…o…g” after hearing “dog”); identify missing sounds (eg. hearing “bat….at” and saying “b”) and saying a new word with a sound missing (eg. saying “go” when asked to say “goat without the t”).

2. Letter Names and Sounds

As highlighted in an earlier example, being able to identify letter sounds is key to being able to sound out words. It is also really important to be able to identify letter names.

3. Letter Sound Combinations

There are several sound combinations that appear in the English language. These include consonant digraphs (eg. sh, th, ck) and vowel pairs (eg. ea, ay, oi). 

4. Sounding out and Blending Words together

Being able to fluently sound out and blend words together is a key skill for children to have so that they can sound out and read unfamiliar and new words.

5. Reading Words


We want children to be happy, fluent and confident readers. Reading is an important life-long skill and is needed long after your child has finished school. At first children learn how to read, but then they read to learn in middle primary school and beyond. At The Helipad we identify the component skills that a child is having trouble with, and once we start working on those, the child’s reading improves even if we don’t directly target reading passages. Once a child has all of the building blocks for reading, they have a solid foundation and will be able to read anything that they come across.

The Building Blocks for Reading