What if high-utility words were viewed not merely as memorization tasks, but rather as strategic access points to bolstering literacy skills?

Have you ever had a reader who was slow and laborious with their reading? For example, you observed the reader struggling to decode each word in the text with words like “the”, “because” and “again.” Or you notice frequent pauses by the reader at words such as “eight” or “believe.” Or you may observe the reader struggling with fluency as they spend a lot of energy decoding and processing words such as “analyze” and “equation” and “enough,” which ultimately impacts their reading comprehension and confidence.

This is an example of a reader that may struggle with high-utility word recognition who would benefit from explicit instruction and word learning activities to build their bank of known high-utility words. Research has shown that high-utility words make up a significant portion of written text, sometimes as high as 50% of the words encountered in text. Imagine how the positive effects daily practice aimed at strengthening a reader’s known bank of high-utility words would contribute to their reading comprehension and their reading and writing fluency!

There are additional benefits in helping readers grow their known high-utility words. They will be able to:

  • Tackle texts independently with increasing success

  • Improve their spelling

  • Enrich their vocabulary knowledge and deeper understanding of language

  • Boost their confidence in their reading and writing skills.

Building high-utility word knowledge enhances comprehension and reading and writing fluency. Automaticity of commonly occurring words enables learners to read more effortlessly and understand text more deeply, contributing to overall reading success.

Download the Flying Start to Literacy: PHONICS™ brochure at https://flying-start-phonics.myokapi.com and look at the sample high-utility word lesson on page 7. Take note of the goals under the section titled “High-utility words.” Jot down what you noticed.

Remember, daily practice aimed at building your readers’ core of known high-utility words will strengthen their reading, writing and comprehension skills. It will also boost their confidence and engagement as readers and writers! Nilaja Taylor.