Recognising words automatically in written English is a key skill in literacy development.
For adults, literacy skills must relate directly to their personal needs. Selecting and focusing on essential words as a learning/teaching strategy will build motivation to develop further skills.
Personally significant words
As they begin to develop literacy expertise, most adults will be able to recognise a few personally significant words and symbols.
Examples include their own name and address, their children’s names, and words associated with the places they visit and the activities they engage in. Many of these words will be specific to individual learners.
The day-to-day literacy needs of adults begin with the need to read and write words and symbols that are personally essential to them: these are high utility words. For example, a person may need to recognise numbers and prices, ATM instructions, their home destination and departure times in a bus timetable, and the words or signs that help with finding a place.
Many of these words will be common to a group of learners but some will relate to specific learners and situations.
The ability to recognise even a few words automatically gives the learner a point from which to increase the number of words they know. It also helps with the development of phonological awareness.