Learning to read and write – what we call literacy – is a lot like learning to play a musical instrument.
When we hear a musical performance, we often say that people are talented, as if they just woke up one day ready for their first recital. But in fact, neither playing nor reading comes “naturally” to humans, the way breathing and talking do.
Both require exposure, instruction, and practice.
The musician first listens to songs and simple tunes; the reader first listens to conversations, stories, and poems. Connecting the sounds of speech to letters and meaning is the most basic building block of reading and an essential step in structured literacy.
If these basic sounds, phonemes, can be compared to musical notes, then we can see that a growing understanding enables the student to comprehend and enjoy more complex music and stories and see how the elements join together in a tapestry-like whole.
For the reader and the musician, instruction and practice highlight the many, many sub-skills involved in fluent proficiency. Daily practice (eventually) makes them automatic. How much practice is required will vary from student to student.
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