Reading skills are critical to educational and professional success. Though often lumped together, your reading skills actually include several subskills that contribute to effective and efficient reading. You typically begin to develop pre-reading skills as a baby with parent or caregiver influence and continue to develop them through preschool. These provide the basis for reading skills as you get into elementary school.

Print and Phonics

Your earliest reading skills are print awareness and phonics. Babies begin to develop pre-reading in these areas very early with support from parents and child-care providers. Looking at books and playing with them helps small children understand print. You gain phonics skills as you learn to recognize word parts, syllables and sounds. Phonetic reading programs are popular with small children to help them learn the process of sounding out words to form sentences. Print recognition and phonics are some of the most foundational abilities in an effective reader.

Vocabulary

You also begin to form language fluency and vocabulary skills at an early age, but these skills help you advance from basic reading processes to more advanced language understanding and word recognition in school. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers develop vocabulary rapidly, especially when engaged verbally by adults. While verbal skills lag, small children absorb vocabulary rapidly. As children grow, the more language experiences and vocabulary they are exposed to the more advanced their reading abilities become. You can enhance reading abilities in elementary school by getting into chapter books and tackling new words.

Reading Comprehension

Ultimately, the most critical reading skill needed for school success in junior high, high school and college is reading comprehension. With this skill, you not only have the ability to read words and sentences in books, but you can interpret the meaning of passages and stories. Reading assessments given to students beginning in elementary school typically center on this ability. Reading comprehension is essential in college as students spend a lot of time reading textbooks to learn, interpret, analyze and understand concepts.

Advanced Reading

Beyond the basic technical components of reading, advanced readers can read and understand various styles of writing. Poetry, papers, articles, fiction and nonfiction are all written in distinct structures. An advanced reader has experience and abilities to understand writing in each. Additionally, elite readers become active readers, meaning they can quickly analyze an author's points in each passage, from one passage to the next and in total chapters or books. Active reading can help you with college-level reading. The most advanced readers can also take speed reading courses and develop the ability to quickly grasp the most critical points when reading.