What is the difference between emergent and beginner reader?

What is the difference between emergent and beginner reader?

Reading proficiency is a critical milestone for children of all abilities and backgrounds, 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 educators to understand the differences between an ‘emergent’ reader and a ‘beginner’ reader so that they are better equipped to help their child develop crucial literacy skills in the most effective way.

At the emergent level, readers have just started taking their first steps towards understanding written words. At this stage, building phonemic awareness and phonics are essential - these two processes are closely linked but differ in terms of what they communicate; while phonemic awareness is concerned with teaching learners how individual sounds connect together to make up words (or phonemes), phonics focuses on teaching students which letter or combination of letters stand in for those particular sounds according to standard orthography (Lavelle et al., 2020).

At the beginner level of reading, readers should be able to read full sentences as well as comprehend basic stories or arguments presented within a text by forming associations between different objects or characters within it. Strategies such as asking open-ended questions after being read stories can also help foster independent thinking amongst young readers with special needs and allow them the opportunity really explore its deeper themes and meanings (Berman et al., 1993).

These two stages of literacy – from learning how words sound to making more complex interpretations of texts – lay the foundation for developing strong language skills in children with special needs that will follow them throughout life as well as empowering them with the ability form provide their own insights through critical analysis.

In conclusion, having an understanding of each level of reading proficiency can vastly improve literacy among kids with special needs. By focusing on building up both phonemic awareness and then phonics at the emergent stage followed by providing opportunities for active learning at the beginner stage – such as engaging critically with texts independently – both adults and students alike can ensure success across all areas!


Berman, R., Slobin D., & Charnov E.(1993). Young Children Generate Appropriate Questions After Stories: A Developmental Study Viewed Retrospectively Through Transcripts. Discourse Processes 16(2) 127–151
Lavelle, E., Savageaux, S., & Eckert M. K.-L.(2020). Phonemic Awareness: A Definition And Examples [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www2.education/phonemic-awareness/

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