English is an alphabetic language. Children need to have a clear understanding of how letters relate to sounds (to read) and sounds relate to letters (to spell). An understanding of sounds in words (phonological awareness) helps children to do this together with systematic, explicit and intense instruction in phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension strategies.
When learning to read, children often start to recognise whole words from memory (e.g. their name, mum, dad) however, as they encounter more words they cannot memorise them all. They need to start developing decoding skills. Children need to recognise each letter or letter combination (e.g. sh, ar, k), the sound associated with it and then blend these sounds together to read the word (e.g. sh-ar-k = shark). These skills are crucial and are commonly impaired in children with learning difficulties. However, reading is more than just decoding words, children also need to comprehend what they read.
The majority of children learn all these processes effortlessly but for some children cracking the code of English and comprehending text is extremely difficult and frustrating. Children with speech and language difficulties are at high risk to experience reading and spelling difficulties. This is due to the huge role that oral language skills play in learning to read.