Literacy instruction occurs at all levels of a child's education. Though the most basic form of literacy focuses on learning to sound out and read words, literacy also involves the ability to understand and recall what was read. In terms of teaching reading, instruction usually focuses on phonics or whole-word reading. For literary comprehension, instructors often teach strategies that students can use while reading to better understand a text.
One type of literacy instruction that is often used with students who cannot read is phonics. This system teaches students which sounds are associated with which letters. Practice can involve matching letters to objects that start with the same sound or kinesthetic activities that have students move the an appropriate letter when its corresponding sound is heard. The benefit of this type of literacy instruction is that students are given the skills to effectively read words they have never encountered before.
Beginning readers may also be asked to memorize words that are frequently encountered. These words go into a student's vocabulary of sight words that do not need to be sounded out as they are encountered. Though teaching whole-word memorization is effective literacy instruction for some students, many, especially those with dyslexia or other learning difficulties, may not be able to learn to read in this manner.
When students are learning to read, one of the most important parts of literacy instruction is providing ample time for practice. Literacy takes many years to fully develop. Students should also be exposed to a variety of different texts at levels that they can read alone, levels that they can read with assistance, and levels that they can understand when read aloud to. Providing a variety of literary experiences allows students to find topics they enjoy, increasing a student's chances of selecting reading as a leisure activity later on. Leveled reading also encourages students to continue to improve their reading skills.
Once students have basic reading skills, literacy instruction focuses more on on reading comprehension. Students may still be coached when sounding out difficult words, but literacy involves more than just the ability to read the words printed on a page. Instructors may give students a variety of different strategies for decoding a text and drawing conclusions about it. Instructors may model the strategies of effective readers, teach students how to understand what they have read, and give students lots of time to practice as part of their literacy instruction.