Reading Academy

The Reading Pyramid: Understanding the Process of Building Strong Literacy Skills

There are five critical components that develop a strong reader: 1) phonemic awareness, 2) phonics, 3) fluency, 4) vocabulary, and 5) comprehension.

Research done in 1997 by the National Reading Panel, which labeled these critical components as “The Five Pillars of Reading,” found that when all five components were “effectively taught,” learners had the highest chances for success. As a consequence of the research's findings, the five pillars have figured prominently in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These core reading components have been known about for some time, yet their incorporation in instruction has not proven to be an easy task. 

In order to understand how these reading components should be taught, let's look at them as the building blocks of a pyramid. 

In order to construct the top level of the pyramid, a good foundation must first be laid. In this case, the building of a reading pyramid starts with a foundation of phonemic awareness (the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words). This ability is something that many of us take for granted, but if we did not have it, we would find reading difficult. The second and third levels of the pyramid, phonics and fluency, make up a large portion of what we learn in grades one through four, and the last two levels of the pyramid, vocabulary and comprehension, are continually being built upon so the learner can reach higher and higher levels of reading.

Learn more about each component of the reading pyramid and see how it fits into the process of learning to read.