Linguistic Foundations of Reading

5 Pillars of Reading


1. Phonemic awareness

2. Phonics

3. Vocabulary

4. Fluency

5. Comprehension


What is the link between oral language and written language?

1. Spoken language is the foundation for reading and writing development

2. Spoken language and written language build upon the other

3. Children with deficits in one area often have deficits in the other

4. Instruction in one area can result in growth in the other

*Taken from ASHA’s Position Statement

What are the oral language skills that build the foundation of literacy?

1. Phonology

2. Morphology

3. Semantics

4. Syntax

5. Pragmatics

Phonics requires underlying skills in phonology.

Comprehension requires underlying skills in morphology, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics. 


So, how can SLPs be involved?

1. Collaboration

2. Prevention

3. Identification

4. Assessment

5. Intervention

6. Consultation

7. Advocacy



intentional exposure

Joint book reading

Environmental print awareness

Print conventions and concepts

Phonology and phonological awareness

Alphabet and letter sound knowledge

Story knowledge

Literacy and writing activities


model reading a book

point out things like signs, logos, etc…

read left to right, book covers, words on page, punctuation, etc…

rhyming, nursery rhymes, finger plays, etc…

naming letters, making words with letters, etc… 

wordless books, predicting, theatre, role-play, retell, repeat readings

make lists, read instructions, follow recipes, write and draw with different implements








Participate in interdisciplinary teams

Collaborate with general education and special education teachers

Be willing to modify and expand your caseload

Participate in research

Stay informed through PD

Work with policy makers

Educate others about typical language development and its relation to literacy

Develop new methods and technologies for literacy training and assessment

Be knowledgeable of laws, regulations, and guidelines at the federal and state level.

Advocate for the specific and individual needs of students





Risk Factors:

Family dynamics – a history of reading difficulties, lack of exposure, limited awareness of print

History – developmental disorders, psychological issues, neurological issues, psychiatric issues, sensory deficits, preterm births

Phonological deficits – both phonological processes (speech) and phonological awareness

Speech sound deficits and late talking

Language deficits – word finding, naming, oral comprehension, discrepancy between receptive and expressive language, difficulties comprehending grade-level texts, inference difficulties, difficulty remembering new words

Cognitive deficits – slow processing, poor verbal and/or short term memory, poor attention, executive functioning difficulties

Reading deficits – difficulty writing, reading below grade level, reading is slow and effortful, remembering letter names/sounds

History of speech and language deficits

Early Steps:

Find ways to increase literacy exposure

Collaborate with teachers for observations and screenings

Track difficulties as they emerge


follows developmental patterns

Family history

Environmental print skills


Print concepts

Sound discrimination


Grammatical sentences.

Phonological awareness


Phonological memory

Rapid naming


Letter knowledge

Reading, writing, and oral language skills.

Complex assessment of reading, writing, and oral language skills

Curriculum-based assessment

Executive functioning skills.


General Reminders:

Match the area of weakness (phonemic awareness, orthography, fluency, comprehension, attention) to a research-based intervention

Address needs on a continuum from the basic (sleep, nutrition) to reading comprehension

Be direct and explicit. Students should know what they’re doing and why. State your purpose, tell them when and where to use it, give them the steps, and then practice.

A Continuum of Intervention Skills:

Executive function skills

Cognitive aspects

Phonological and phonemic awareness





Morphological awareness




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