Reading literacy overview

Reading literacy is the ability to independently read, understand, analyse and think critically about a range of different print and digital text types. Reading literacy is required for various purposes such as for personal enjoyment, to learn about the world, and to be involved in the community.

The Big Six

Reading is an active process that involves the integration of six key elements. Evidence-based research suggests that the explicit teaching of these Big Six components is the best way for children to learn to read and acquire reading literacy.

Oral language

Oral language involves the development of speaking and listening skills in order to become an effective communicator, and it forms the basis for learning to read. Involving children in rich, decontextualised, extended conversation is an important strategy for strengthening oral language growth, in order to support reading development.

Phonemic awareness

Phonemic awareness is a crucial component in early reading development. It involves hearing the 44 sounds in the English language, and isolating and identifying these phonemes within words. Students learn to blend, segment and manipulate these sounds. Phonemic awareness is a subset of the broader area of phonological awareness which involves hearing syllables and rhymes as well as individual phonemes.


Phonics is the relationship between the 44 sounds in English and the various ways they can be represented by the 26 letters of the alphabet. The understanding of phonics is crucial for young readers to be able to decode words and access texts.


Having a rich, broad vocabulary is linked to reading success. Teachers can support students in understanding and using new words so as to build an abundant vocabulary, with an increased use of more complex, precise and technical words.


Fluency is being able to read a text accurately and efficiently. When reading aloud, students develop the ability to read smoothly, and with appropriate expression. Fluency is seen as the link between decoding a text and making meaning from this text.


Comprehension is more than just understanding a text. It involves being able to make predictions, analyse, retell, summarise, make inferences, evaluate and critique texts. This involves children accessing their personal knowledge, and combining this with various skills and strategies to interpret a range of written, visual and multimodal texts.

Teaching practices

About teaching practices for reading

Find out more about best practice and how to teach the Big Six elements of reading development by using a range of teaching practices that target specific skills, and build upon existing knowledge. Choose from a range of resources below.

Modelled reading

Modelled reading allows children to enjoy texts, and access information. As the teacher reads aloud they demonstrate reading behaviours by 'thinking aloud' and explaining the skills they use.

Shared reading

Teachers and children 'share' the reading of a text. The teacher reads the text aloud, and the children join in as they feel ready. The text is revisited to focus on particular reading skills, or to explore certain aspects of the text.

Guided reading

Guided reading entails teachers supporting small groups of children to read a text at an instructional level by scaffolding their attempts at decoding and making meaning. Children can practise reading strategies in a supported environment.

Independent reading

Independent reading provides an opportunity for children to read texts at a level that is easy for them, so that they experience success, and can practise their developing reading skills.

Integrating modes

Multimodal texts combine words, images and other graphic features such as charts, graphs, and maps. Explicit teaching of how these modes work together to make meaning allows students to access and understand these printed or digital texts.

Featured resources

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Implementing the Big Six components of reading


These six skills are essential for reading proficiency.

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AITSL Illustrations of practice: Explicit language teaching

Illustration of practice

In this video, the teacher uses a lesson on 'What is happening in the story?' to...

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Types of comprehension

Observation criteria

Identifies different types of comprehension and provides a brief description of ...

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Oral language development

Teaching and learning resource

This video discusses links between oral language skills and literacy development...

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