What are the 4 levels of reading?

What are the 4 levels of reading?

Reading proficiency is a key skill which children of all abilities and backgrounds must learn in order to succeed later on in life. However, for kids with special needs the task can be particularly challenging due to additional physical, emotional or behavioral needs.

As such it is important for parents and special educator to understand the four levels of reading proficiency - phonemic awareness, phonics, reading comprehension and fluency - so that they are better equipped to help their child learn how to read in the most effective way.

At level one - phonemic awareness - readers have just begun taking their first steps towards understanding written words.

Here activities such as clapping out syllables or using rhyming games can help students become aware of specific sounds within words (Gillespie et al., 2020).

At level two – known as phonics – readers should now be able to recognize letter shapes and sound them out accordingly (Bus & Van Ijzendoorn 1999).

It is also important that learners learn what combinations of letters stand for particular sounds at this stage so that they can begin forming basic words from given texts (Lavelle et al., 2020).

At level threereading comprehension – readers should now be able to form basic sentences from given texts as well as comprehend simple stories or arguments presented in passages. Here activities such as tracking characters within a story or creating longer plots around pictures can help develop students’ comprehension skills further still (Kuchara 2020).

Finally at level four – fluency – readers are expected reach an almost automatic level with regards confidently sounding out and piecing together unknown words while also being able to focus more on understanding the story as a whole instead of laboring over individual words (Curry 2016).

Dr Jovana Kuchara (2020), professor of English Language Learning and Teaching notes: “It's essential that children with special needs learn language naturally…the key is ensure that learning becomes more active so that children can build up associations over time and internalize language gradually.”

She emphasizes the importance of keeping things varied at this stage too so that students don't become bored or overwhelmed by focusing on only one particular type of text too often.

In conclusion, having an understanding of each of these four levels of reading proficiency can vastly improve literacy among kids with special needs.

By following a clear progression from building phonemic awareness through phonics before finally developing reading comprehension skills while introducing elements of fluency where necessary parents and special educators can ensure both academic success alongside long-term confidence in their child’s ability!


Bus, A G & Van Ijzendoorn M H.(1999). Phonological Awareness And Early Reading: A Meta-analysis Of Experimental Training Studies [Research Paper]. Journal Of Educational Psychology 91(3):403–414
Curry C.(2016) What Is Fluency? [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www2scholasticcom/browse/articlejsppid=3757678
Gillespie M & Parker T.(2020) Activities To Improve Phonemic Awareness [Blog post]. Retrieved from http



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