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Bottom-up model of reading

A system of reading instruction based on the theory that the learning of reading takes place by piecing together small parts, or phonic sounds, to form, first, a letter sound, and, eventually, a word sound. Learning takes place, in other words, from the bottom up, from sound to symbol to meaning. The model is in contrast to the TOP-DOWN MODEL, in which children learn entire words by sight, by the distinctive shape of the word, rather than individual letters. Such children must then gradually take the word apart to learn each letter and its sound. Experienced teachers recognize, however, that all children use both methods to some degree. Some children learn sight words more easily than others and instinctively distinguish words by the total shape of the word—pizza, for example, as opposed to cat. Other children, however, seem unable to distinguish entire words when first learning to read and are almost totally dependent on “sounding out” the word, letter by letter. (See also PHONICS; WHOLE LANGUAGE.)

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