To succeed in school, your child needs to be able to read 220 vitally important, high-frequency words---words like I, and, go, what, are, etc., which are "connecting" words that give sentences their meaning.
These 220 words were identified by Edward William Dolch PhD. in 1948. Dr. Dolch’s theory was that if children could read these words rapidly and without conscious effort, they would be well on their way to becoming good readers
For example, the blue words in the following sentence are all “Dolch” words:
The dog ran after the cat, but the cat got away.
Here is the percent of Dolch words in some well-known children’s books:
- 87% - Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss - 78% - Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman - 78% - Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman - 82% - I Want to Be Somebody New! by Robert Lopshire - 83% - A Fly Went By! by Mike McClintock - 78% - The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss - 81% - The Cat in the Hat Comes Back by Dr. Seuss - 75% - One fish two fish red fish blue fish by Dr. Seuss
(List compiled by - and available at - www.picturemereading.com)
And not just children's books. Dolch words constitute 50--80% of the words in ALL materials written in the English language. For instance, 62% of the words in the Gettysburg Address are Dolch words.
Many schools in the United States recognize the Dolch high-frequency word lists as a VITAL step in creating a good reader. However, Dolch word lists are often presented as SIGHT-WORDS (words to be taught with memorization, without regard to the number of syllables or phonic content). As a result, words like yellow, where, said, make, three and little are among the very first sight-words taught to small children!
We think that is a little bit steep. Therefore, we took it upon ourselves to rearrange the Dolch word list according to the phonics principles that the words follow or break. As a result, the simpler Dolch words (such as big, not, let, ran, on, is, it, etc.) are among the first Dolch words taught in our program.
Unfortunately, some phonics programs ignore these words, possibly because almost a third of the Dolch words violate phonics rules—words like where, there, are, come, was, etc. But not Progressive Phonics. We built our program around the Dolch words, and the words are prioritized in each of our books.
By the end of our phonics program, a child will not only know every single word on the Dolch list, but how to say it, spell it and what it means in context.
And that pays off in terms of literacy and fluency.
According to a major study done by the U.S. National Institute for Literacy, guided oral reading (reading aloud) is THE best method of teaching fluency in reading --- here is their summary on the subject (emphasis is their own):
"Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately and quickly. When fluent readers read silently, they recognize words automatically. They group words quickly to help them gain meaning from what they read. They read aloud effortlessly and with expression. Fluency is important because it provides a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding the words, they can focus their attention on what the text means.
"Fluency develops gradually over time and through substantial practice. At the earliest stage of reading development, a student's oral reading is slow and labored because they are just learning to "break the code" - to attach sounds to letters and to blend letter sounds into recognizable words.
"Fluency is not a stage of development at which readers can read all words quickly and easily. Fluency changes, depending on what readers are reading, their familiarity with the words, and the amount of their practice with reading text.
"Here are some of the highlights from the evidence-based research on fluency instruction:
"Repeated and monitored oral reading improves fluency and overall reading achievement. Students who read and reread passages out loud as they receive guidance and feedback become better readers. Researchers have found several techniques to be effective including the reading and rereading of text a number of times (usually four times) until a certain level of fluency is reached, and practicing oral reading through the use of audiotapes, tutors, peer guidance, or other means.
"No research evidence is available currently to confirm that instructional time spent on silent, independent reading with minimal guidance and feedback improves reading fluency or overall reading achievement. Although this activity's value has neither been proved nor disproved, the research suggests that there are more beneficial ways to spend in-class instructional time."