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There are so many words in the English language, yet 50% of written material is made of on one hundred high frequency words. If children can learn this 'magic one hundred', they can already read 50% of the vocabulary in popular literature for children or adults!

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Phonics For Crinklies: A Primer for Parents 3

28th January, 2007

100 magic words

Phonics and the One Hundred Magic Words

In the sixties learning to read meant ladybird books and one hundred words. These words happen to be the one hundred most commonly used, or high frequency words, in written text, both high quality childrens or adult books.

The implication is clear, if children master these words and have highly developed phonemic skills that enable them to decode new words on sight, they have access to almost all written material. This can transform the efficientcy of learning to read for many children( and adult learners.)

And what are these one hundred magic words*?

Grouped alphabetically, the one hundred high frequency words are:

  • a, about, after, all, am, an, and, are, as, at, away
  • back, be, because, big, but, by
  • call, came, can, come, could
  • did, do, down
  • for, from
  • get, go, got
  • ad, has, have, he, her, here, him, his
  • I, in, into, is, it
  • last, like, little, live, look
  • made, make, me, my
  • new, next, not, now
  • of, off, old, on, once, one, other, our, out, over
  • put
  • saw, said, see, she, so, some
  • take, that, the, their, them, then, there, they, this, three, time, to, today, too, two
  • up, us
  • very
  • was, we, were, went, what, when, will, with
  • you
  • -

With a mastery of these high frequency words, learning to read is transformed. Students can confidently begin to explore the books and other written material that excites and motivates them. Using their well developed phonic skills, children can tackle unknown words with confidence. These words are learned in a context that supports memory and understanding, helping children to rapidly expand their vocabulary and knowledge.

Of course, simply learning to read one hundred words is not the end of the learning process, on the contrary, this is the real beginning of each childs discovery and exploration of language and literature. Nonetheless, they will still require considerable mentoring to navigate the beguiling and frustrating complexities of the English language.

Supported by parents and teachers, children can use these phonics skills provide access to one life's great adventures. The one hundred words rapidly multiply into an extended vocabulary for reading and writing - the basic tools of self expression and discovery.

*From Early Reading Research project by Jonathan Solity and Janet Vousden (Warwick)

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