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Beginning Reading, Reading Automaticity/Fluency, & Core Vocabulary

To become proficient readers, beginning and struggling readers need to become automatic with a core group of words.  Other proficiencies are required as well but, without automaticity with the core vocabulary, beginning readers will become struggling readers and struggling readers will continue to lag behind.

The resources in this section address three topics related to the development of proficient reading:  Beginning Reading, Reading Automaticity/Fluency, and Core Vocabulary.

Beginning Reading


How children are initiated into reading influences their overall success and their engagement over their lifetimes. Reading opportunities that recognize young children’s developmental capacities, their interests, and their ways of learning all contribute to creating engaged and proficient, lifelong readers.

Text—whether it is on a sign or in a book—is central to reading. The texts in school can be thought of as a diet for beginning and struggling readers. To get a good start in reading (or restart, in the case of struggling readers), texts need to give students core and critical information about the written language. TextProject is the premiere site for information on appropriate texts for beginning and struggling readers.

Reading Automaticity & Fluency

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The biggest obstacle to proficient reading for many students is their lack of automaticity, or speed, in understanding words. Most students, even those in the lowest quartile, can recognize frequent words…eventually. The problem lies in the length of time that it takes them to recognize even common words. Struggling readers devote their energies to recognizing words, thus not attending to the content of what they are reading.

Core Vocabulary


Success in the digital age depends on comprehending complex text. Within any complex text, the majority of words come from a very small group of words in the written English language. On average, 90% of the words in a text are drawn from 4,000 simple word families (e.g., help, helping, helps, helped, helper, but not helpless or helpful). The other 10% of the words in texts come from the remaining 300,000 (or more) words in the English language. When readers aren’t adept with the core vocabulary (i.e., the 4,000 simple word families), they have few resources to deal with the new and unique vocabulary within texts.