Literature has the ability to take students to new places, and it allows them to experience many things they will never encounter in their lifetimes. In an effort to afford this opportunity to experience new things to all children, numerous studies have been conducted to examine ways to improve elementary students’ reading skills and overall reading comprehension. Within these studies, scholars have discussed links between vocabulary acquisition, vocabulary knowledge, fluency, and reading comprehension. This paper discusses these links and strategies to help students improve all aspects of their reading.
In 1997, Congress asked the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD, 2000) to select an independent panel of reviewers to evaluate research and literature in order to determine the most effective way to teach children how to read. This panel was comprised of fourteen individuals from a variety of backgrounds; scientists in reading research, representatives of colleges of education, reading teachers, educational administrators, and parents. The panel came to be known as the National Reading Panel (NRP). The result of the NRP research was that the most effective way to teach children to read is through diverse instructional methods and techniques. According to the panel, effective reading instruction should consist of teaching students to break apart words and listen for sounds (phonemic awareness), teaching students that sounds form words (phonics), having students read aloud and provide them with feedback (guided oral reading), and applying comprehension strategies to guide and build complete reading comprehension. With this new wealth of knowledge, the NICHD began distributing their findings to law makers, educators, and parents in an effort to increase reading skills in America’s children (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000).
The National Reading Panel (NICHD, 2000) found that almost 44% of fourth graders did not read with grade level appropriate accuracy or speed. The NRP concluded that these deficits are likely the cause of students’ decreased reading comprehension. As a result of these findings, the NRP recommended that fluency instruction become a fixture in all reading curricula. Along with these findings, the NRP also identified fluency, reading with accuracy, speed, and appropriate expression, to be the step preceding reading comprehension.
In the area of vocabulary acquisition, Coyne, Simmons, Kame’enui, and Stoolmiller (2004) conducted an experimental study with 34 kindergarten students. The treatment group received lucid vocabulary instruction through an intervention program. The results showed that the treatment group had greater gains in vocabulary acquisition than the control group. Based on these results, Coyne, Simmons, Kame’enui, and Stoolmiller (2004) concluded, “Explicitly teaching word meanings within the context of shared storybook reading is an...