The Importance of Sight Words

In classrooms across America, the development of sight word recognition continues to be a top priority when instructing emerging and beginning readers.

The purpose of reading is to construct meaning from text. This “meaning” is dependent on the rapid, automatic, and effortless recognition of words. According to Patricia Cunningham in Phonics They Use, “In order to read and write fluently with comprehension and meaning, children must be able to automatically read and spell the most frequent words. As the store of words they can automatically read and spell increases, so will their speed and comprehension.” (Cunningham, 2000).  This need to build accuracy and speed is critical  for at-risk students with reading and learning disabilities.

Sight word recognition improves reading fluency and automaticity, allowing the student to focus their efforts on the more mentally demanding task of reading comprehension.

Students become efficient and confident readers and their attention can now center on decoding words that carry meaning to the text. This allows students to focus their efforts on “reading to learn” rather than “learning to read.” As a result, their ability to verbally recall and organize information from text drastically improves. These students not only begin to develop reading comprehension skills, but also become more accurate, detailed, and organized when verbally recalling the information.

Examples of sight words in children’s text:

The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day.”

The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table forbreakfast.”

Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White

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