The Lexical-Based Reading and Learning Process

Child holding book in excitement

The Lexical-Based Reading & Learning Process®

How to Successfully Learn Academic Content from Books Using Lexical Input and Mega-Learning Skills?

1. Organize

Integrating Mental Lexicon and Mega-skills---Organize, Study, Abstract, and Communicate

What is the Mental Lexicon?

Yes, the reading journey begins long before a child learns their ABCs. Before formal reading instruction can begin, a child's brain must have a fully functioning mental lexicon teaming with memories of letters, words, and images gathered from infancy to school age.

This Intellectual Baby and Toddler section discusses the vital role of mental lexicon and lexical input, and I know you are asking what these terms mean and why they are essential. Phonics, reading strategies, and comprehension have driven the instructional delivery conversation for some time, and l also thought significant instructional commitments around letters, sounds, decoding, and learning standards were needed.

However, my in-depth research shows that reading well (at or above grade level) evolves from a lexical-based approach supported by a robust mental lexicon through lexical input. Lexical input comes from lexical entries of letters, words, and images gathered through conversation and reading books from infancy to school age.

During my work as a homeschool mom of three children and research as an instructional consultant, the focus has been on how young children learn to read. My interest became a personal journey with a child who struggled to read until age 10. Homeschool lessons were focused on restoring his mental lexicon entries lost from chronic ear infections as an infant. From that experience, I have published the Beyond Reading Readiness curriculum series to share the lexical-based lessons and subject matter booklists used to rebuild and expand the linguistic input of my struggling reader and his two siblings who worked at and above grade level.

I adopted lexical-based learning solutions and developed the curriculum Beyond Reading Readiness© because the reading readiness guidance was too general. To better help my children during homeschooling, we need a more specific scientific and technical approach to the reading brain. The series will be available soon and will guide you on how to teach at home or school. In the meantime, I have developed Quick Start Guides to help you get started with reading and raise your awareness about the technical and scientific side of reading.

What is a Mental Lexicon, and Why is Such a Technical Term Related to Learning to Read?

The lexicon is the mental storehouse or dictionary for language, and lexical input is how parents, teachers, and families engage young learners in language. More importantly, a mental lexicon is the mental dictionary of words and their meanings that an individual acquires throughout their lifetime. Because babies begin to recognize images and discriminate sound, we know the mental lexicon starts storing information on Day 1 (Bloom,2000 & Kuhl, 2004).

Developing a baby's mental lexicon is crucial to language acquisition, especially as early as birth. Language acquisition ultimately plays a role in reading and testing well. If young learners only receive conversation over more engaging language acquisition as babies and toddlers, receiving phonics and reading instruction is much more difficult (Jakendoff, 2022).

Does a Child Need a Mental Lexicon Storehouse to Read?

Yes, a child indeed requires a mental lexicon to read effectively. The mental lexicon is an internal store of words that a person has been exposed to in spoken and written contexts, including their meanings, spellings, pronunciation, and syntactic characteristics. When reading, children draw on their mental lexicon to recognize words quickly and understand the text. A rich and well-developed mental lexicon allows for more efficient word recognition, quicker comprehension, and better reading fluency and literacy skills (Perfetti, 2007).

What Causes Word Gaps for Struggling Readers? Can the Lexicon be Repaired or Rebuilt?

The mental lexicon turns on Day 1, collecting enough entries from the baby's environment to talk by 12 months and read books a few years later. The mental lexicon is a personal library and dictionary inside our brain, storing every word and its meanings and sounds, and from what we hear from reading and conversations, it then assigns categories to store all the information away.

Imagine it as a vast, ever-growing library where each book represents a word you know. If babies and toddlers have limited lexical entries from conversation and access to books and pictures, they can only draw on that limited lexical content. As a result, their active vocabulary and reading abilities are directly impacted, causing information gaps. And yes, the mental lexicon can be restored by significantly increasing reading diverse books and ensuring readers have not just phonology but, more than that, morphology, semantics, and syntax. Beyond phonics, there are word meanings, parts of speech, grammar, prefixes, and suffixes to complete language acquisition, but they are often left aside.

How does the Brain Categorize Lexical Entries?

Lexical entries are sorted by categories, namely objects and their details. These categories are a part of the English language system and are referred to as ontological categories, a way in which the brain groups words. Lexical entries are visual or audio words and images we process through the brain. The critical issue is that the brain begins to label, sort, and store names and images of objects, analyze actions, and identify properties and relational scenarios along with routine events. Children rely on these stored entries to recognize letters and sounds once they start learning to read.

Ontological Categories:  How the Brain Sorts and Organizes Information

Ontological categories refer to the fundamental ways words and concepts are organized based on their inherent characteristics or roles in the world as follows:

objects (entities, persons, places, or things)

properties (attributes or features),

actions (verbal phrases),

relationships (ways objects related to one another).

state of being (condition the object can be in)

events (occurrences or routines),

Connecting Books and Lexical Entries, and Academic Content

For readers to be successful at learning academic content, they need to know facts and how to connect and organize ideas based on a solid mental lexicon. Readers need to develop and continuously expand foundational content knowledge to thrive academically and in life. Foundational content refers to conceptual understanding, knowledge development, and academic vocabulary growth across reading categories, including humanities, social science, natural science, and prose fiction. The reading categories consist of topics and educational content covered in school. As early as possible, our youngest intellectuals should begin to build content knowledge and abstract meaning as they learn new words, identify new objects, and hear new language sounds. These sounds translate to lexical entries that the reading brain organizes and later retrieves during test time.

Reading skills such as finding the main idea first fail to recognize the brain's high-level abilities to retain content knowledge. Children must learn concepts to understand, sort, and store massive amounts of foundational information early on. From baby to toddler to child, the brain takes a big-picture view of the world and then sorts and stores learned content through concepts like a human filing system. This learned content comes from the reading of diverse books. Thus, building a home or classroom library of books is essential for your children/students to retain critical foundational content areas, especially vocabulary.

Each child deserves a personalized library from which they can select books daily. Once parents and educators model good reading behavior, young intellectuals will transition from hearing the reader's voice during a read-aloud session to reaching for pictures on a page and eventually reading independently. We capture each phase, from baby to toddler to child, and support each learning stage with books—the ultimate goal of independent reading. Formal reading instruction is challenging Without early access to books and conversation.

First, organize books by reading category, genre, and learning stage. Our website homepage provides more information about your child's appropriate learning stage and reading category selections. School leaders and teachers should visit our Intellectual Classroom.

Next, depending on your child's or student's readiness, there are two reading approaches to consider. For instance, you can choose from the four reading categories, purchase books from a genre of interest, or select books from our suggested genres, geography, history, or language. These three genres help establish foundational content knowledge about people, places, and language development.

Lastly, shop our curated booklists to build a home or classroom library for young intellects!

The goal is to (1) identify the learning stage, (2) determine the reading experience level, (3) browse the curated booklist recommendations,  (4) use the reading categories approach to begin the reading process, (5) follow the "content knowledge guides" which highlight what content, vocabulary and concepts are essential to retain (6) use the planner to log books read and take notes as needed (7) set goals to shop for books in new genres or buy more books to deep dive into the same genre.

As readers continue to study each genre, they gain experience moving from book to book, genre to genre, and they begin to recognize patterns and trends in the range. In turn, this content builds much-needed background knowledge and strengthens vocabulary. Once readers move onto new genres and their respective sub-genres, the content range between genres interconnects through conceptual information, building the mental lexicon.

The Reading Planner gives you a head start on the genre approach to learning. The planner offers content guides across 42 genres to help young readers develop that all-too-critical foundational content that appears in school textbooks and assessment passages.

We recommend that young readers start with books in the following three genres: history, geography, and language arts. These books help readers garner a reliable picture of the world around them. Thus, when learners read content about each topic, they add information to their mental filing system. In turn, the pace of knowledge development increases. Readers learn new vocabulary, details, descriptions, and facts and then sort and store this foundational content.

The Intellectual Bookshop provides curated book lists organized by the learning stage, genre, and reading categories. These books open up a world of content to young readers.

Mega-reading and learning skills accompany the ontological categories and lexical content gathered from those years of listening to books read and conversations. The Mega-skills provide a quick start on how to read and learn independently. The mega skills-reading and learning process uses a "skills and steps" outline to chart the course so that new or advanced readers learn how to gain knowledge independently. It's the process of teaching me to learn on my own. (Teach Me to Learn also publication coming soon..  For instance, the "organizing skill" renders the first step to reading and learning: gathering books. Our primary goal is to organize a library and begin reading aloud with younger or struggling readers or partake in independent reading for advanced readers. Once genre-based libraries are in place, learning begins. Young intellectuals notice patterns and gain vocabulary and concepts while reading and re-reading the exact text. As the content becomes more familiar, readers study and learn the meaning of new terms, ideas, details, and topics within the genre while making significant gains in lexical input.

Young intellectuals also begin to organize their thinking through books and content guides. This process of (1) gathering content knowledge via the organized library, (2) studying and abstracting new ideas and words, and (3) chatting about all the newly learned information refers to Mega-Learning and demonstrates how lexical input is at the heart of the work. 

Readers learn the necessary concepts and then store important lexical content first. They then progress to using mega-learning skills, organizing, studying, abstracting, and communicating (OSAC skills) to gather content intentionally and independently. This process, in turn, fast-tracks building or expanding concepts, vocabulary, and content knowledge. 

As a result, once children are in school, tasks such as finding the main idea, analyzing text, and meta-cognitive thinking will become easier. At this foundational level, Mega-reading and learning's OSAC skills make sense as young intellectuals excitedly communicate new words, combine ideas, and discover trends between books.

Here is a full scope of the mega-skills and the steps for each area:





Build a diverse library of books and resources.

Acquire, read, research, and pursue content knowledge and vocabulary through academic study.

Derive meaning from the academic study, including literature, science, social science, and mathematical materials.

Communicate and demonstrate knowledge of information through research, assessments, speaking, and writing.

Gather and categorize complex concepts to deepen content knowledge and vocabulary.

Study and retain concepts about how book features and text features build vocabulary, content knowledge, and concepts.

Develop a reading and learning process that includes spatial, creative, and lateral skills.

Organize written, verbal, or graphic skills to show how the information applies.

Identify patterns, systems, and cycles to understand relationships across academic subjects.

Independently discover patterns, systems, cycles, principles, and theories.

Combine reading and learning mega-skills, organize and study to activate abstracting skills (text analysis to sort information).

Employ and embrace the ability to ask and answer open-ended questions.

Employ a graphic organizer to outline information.

Observe and learn to recognize relations within school subjects and how they connect throughout our world.

Draw meaning from facts, ideas, and details within book and text features to increase comprehension.

Discuss how facts, ideas, and details within books and text features increase comprehension.

Identify the organization of book and text features to build vocabulary, content knowledge, and concepts.

Continuously research new topics to build a deep, rich information base.




The Reading and Learning process emphasizes the basis of our company's signature lexile-based reading-to-learn tool, Mega Reading and Learning Skills (OSAC). When combined with genre-based content guides and ontological categories, these tools have a significant impact on helping young readers gain foundational content knowledge.

When we review the reading methods currently used within the educational industry, typical instruction focuses more on meta-skills over foundational content knowledge, knowledge development, academic vocabulary, and conceptual understanding. When we look at traditional reading lessons, meta-cognitive analysis often appears first, like finding the main idea or character traits.

Moreover, meta-thinking asks the reader what she thinks about while reading and why. However, this approach may be too advanced for inexperienced readers. Metacognition assumes students have sufficient foundational content knowledge. Thus, young readers with limited foundational content knowledge in vocabulary or background information will find it difficult to analyze a text or book.

In traditional learning environments, meta-thinking skills are commonly used in prose fiction; teachers often discuss the plot, setting, author's purpose, and character descriptions. These teaching methods form the base of reading comprehension from pre-K to high school.

Instead of starting with these metacognitive skills, we suggest studying more diverse genre types and doing more independent reading. Students will gain background knowledge, acquire vocabulary, deepen conceptual understanding, and effectively prepare for reading comprehension.

To better understand the author's purpose, readers may need to know why the setting is essential to the plot or comprehend key ideas and details in the story. While reading, students' background knowledge informs their thought processes.

Additionally, readers need to understand geography terms to understand the details within a story. For instance, knowledge about a mountainous landform, a region's attributes, or a fictional animal's habitat may be necessary for a book's plot development. However, if a reader has limited geography knowledge, the reader will not comprehend this information. Similarly, there is little comprehension if a student encounters a fictional war story and has little experience with real-life historical events. Without language development knowledge, how can a reader understand when an author uses figurative speech, idioms, or metaphors?

Introducing mega-learning skills helps young intellectuals gather critical foundational content knowledge early on. Mega-learning takes place before meta-thinking. The idea behind mega-learning reveals a more obvious content or informational gap for young, inexperienced readers than a perceived achievement gap.

Suppose young readers can access diverse books or have classroom environments that fully integrate foundational content knowledge and reading comprehension skills during instructional time. We could see a shift in academic performance. Some considerations include increasing independent reading time, increasing informational content within instruction, and ensuring complete mastery of foundational word knowledge content.

The Intellectual Bookshop recommends that young intellectuals increase their independent reading time. Independent reading at home or school allows young scholars to explore more books and subjects in depth. In turn, this activity supports building crucial foundational content knowledge and mental lexicon. This process will enable students to gain background knowledge, acquire vocabulary, and deepen conceptual understanding. As a result, students with a solid lexical basis can tackle complex text later in school.

Independent reading prepares students for complex sentences within lengthy informational and fictional texts, technical vocabulary, and the high demands of navigating dense ideas. To prepare readers for rigorous, complex books, we recommend that young learners read three genres we term "super genre": geography, history, and language development. These three genres capture content for all the other 42 genres on our official booklists and thus provide an excellent way to fast-track content building.

The core components of foundational content knowledge include reading the history, geography, and language arts "super genres." If learners have little background knowledge and vocabulary or difficulty connecting concepts, these three starter super genres are a great jump-off into placing readers at the appropriate learning stage. Download the Quick Start Guide to learn more about using the Words Correct toolkit to find the appropriate reading level. Of course, student data may also be used for schools.  

History, geography, and language arts represent significant portions of the world. Featured in our Beyond Reading Readiness curriculum series, the super genre lessons directly align with ontological categories. For young readers to learn new concepts, the super genre outline provides a manageable way to begin reading by studying different genres. They can draw on lexical content to help discover patterns and trends that connect the world's big-picture view drawing.

A review of the bookstacks shows the commonalities between the super genres and the other genre types. For instance, geography includes physical geography, landforms, and human geography, studying how human activity affects the earth. Through geography, a connection between geology, theater, and architecture, for example, is revealed. The same trend occurs in the genre study of history. Through studying past events, readers learn to make appropriate connections with geography by learning the location of past events. As experience grows, so does content knowledge and vocabulary acceleration using diverse books.

Strong readers should already have solid foundational content knowledge as they move on to the reading categories. In other words, they should be familiar with subject-specific content areas vocabulary and connect concepts across genre types.

Both educators and advanced readers can use specific reading categories when building a diverse library. The reading categories, prose, humanities, natural science, and social science, generate a mental big-picture view of the world. At this advanced level, it is essential that reading occurs with a purpose in mind. Genre selections and reading categories derive diversity and balance.

The Humanities and Prose Fiction

Humanities cover the factual side of reading about people, places, music, art, dance, events, and relationships. The humanities category also looks at historical figures, contemporary people, idealism, and points of view. Prose fiction, on the other hand, consists of narrative accounts where fictional characters reflect real life. Literary elements like setting, plot, mood, and tone drive prose fiction's story organization. Thus, literature comprehension can be difficult if readers do not understand history, geography, or language content.

The Social and Natural Sciences

Social Science studies the cause-and-effect relationships in human society. Genre types within the social sciences pay close attention to subject areas, including politics, history, and geography. Social Science also delves into education by outlining dates, concepts of thought, philosophy, and social views. That said, social science differs from natural science, which tends to explain nature and the scientific world.

Readers are encouraged to spend time reading independently. At the same time, readers should maintain the right balance of reading and making connections across categories and genre types.


2. Study

What to Study, When to Study, and Why?

The art of reading, writing, and reasoning form a traditional liberal arts education — otherwise known as "The Arts." The Arts consist of (1) the field of all knowledge and (2) set timeframes to study different knowledge levels.

The field of all knowledge includes four reading categories: humanities, prose fiction, natural science, and social science. Each reading category further divides all knowledge into subject-specific areas or genres. To also help our young readers, The Intellectual Bookshop uses the division of liberal arts genres as a starting point to build background knowledge.

Young intellectuals study the Arts from Pre-K-12th grade to prepare for college, while students interested in the applied arts might pursue the appropriate schools for trade careers. Applied Arts, or the career side as we know it, differs from the Liberal Arts side. Specifically, the Applied Arts address essential work skills in trades such as carpentry, plumbing, masonry, or salesmanship.

In comparison, the liberal arts are both science and art; science is to know, and art is to do something. Subject-specific genres like math, music, geometry, and astronomy comprise liberal arts under the humanities umbrella. The fine arts refer to architecture, music, sculpture, painting, literature, drama, and dance. On the other hand, medicine, law, engineering, or theology require a Bachelor of Arts or Science at a minimum, with the option to pursue a master's or doctorate to complete mastery of a subject area.

Parents' and educators' participation is critical to passing the tradition of the liberal arts onto young intellectuals in grades K-12. After all, K-12 education provides the foundational layer of the arts and works in the same two ways—even at a young age. Schooling offers the knowledge and study techniques our youngest benefactors need to thrive.

Scholars move onto higher education levels throughout their careers by obtaining degrees and diplomas at colleges and universities. The Bachelor's degree is another way of dividing the arts into specific subjects or genres. Young intellectuals often go on to higher education with a major and minor interest in studying. Higher education provides even more complex subject-specific content and study techniques. Through the Master's and Doctorate degrees of study, students further expand their knowledge base and learn more complex content and research skills.

Thus, K-12 requisite learning provides students with the foundation and preparation needed to succeed and move forward. Through this process, well-trained educators and parents guide young intellectuals through the arts tradition.

To be more specific, K-12 arts education may look like the following:

Students begin their journey by reading prose or narrative accounts where fictional characters reflect life. They learn how literary elements shape the storyline, such as setting, plot, mood, and tone. Young readers use history and geography to deepen their focus when reading fictional books; whenever there is a lack of knowledge, any information gap in readers increases.

The understanding lies in acquiring background knowledge from the content areas long before kindergarten starts. Following the reading planner and study guide, readers build background knowledge and vocabulary and connect concepts as early as possible.

Please note that the planner works at any learning stage — even for older children who may need to play catch-up. To avoid late-stage learning, the baby and toddler stages are opportune times to begin the reading process. However, if needed, audiobooks and read-aloud books are among the most impactful ways to support learning during the child stage.

In an authentic arts-based education, young intellectuals need reading, writing, and reckoning to relate learned facts into a unified, organic conceptual whole. To properly prepare young intellectuals, they should know about as many genre areas as possible. As you will see, the Arts all fit together through concepts, systems, cycles, patterns, laws, principles, and theories.

Students acquire a three-dimensional Arts understanding when using facts, ideas, and details to connect information from one genre's conceptual answers to big questions to another. Also, the reading process becomes more deliberate at this stage because as readers read a particular genre, they can ask appropriate questions and compare one book to the next. We want readers to read for a purpose and be curious about the discovery of new information.

The Reading Planners are organized and published by learning stages, such as baby, toddler, and child, for easy reference to what to read. Each planner provides genre-based content guides organized by reading category, book trackers, and study tools to guide your reading and learning process. When books reflect the world around us, the planner highlights and frames how to access critical background knowledge to engage students in class discussions, perform better on comprehension assessments, and gather vital concepts connecting school subjects.

The content guides give a scope of what you should encounter while reading. The guides tell us the order in which to read genre-based books, key concepts that connect these subjects, and how to incorporate the Mega Reading and Learning skills when reading critical content and accessing academic vocabulary. Developing knowledge about people, places, and events using book and text features is the core work young intellectuals will gain in our reading and learning process.


3. Abstract

Abstraction helps learners diagram ideas or create visualizations of complex data. Abstraction in learning refers to using a general thought or word to represent a physical concept. All representations, i.e., ideas, are abstractions. Readers grow their abstracting skills, noting the similarities and differences as they sort information into categories based on physical concepts.

It is not enough for children to receive and retain academic material and new information. To prepare for academic success, children must abstract meaning from literature, texts, math, and science-related learning materials. The upcoming publication, Teach Me How to Learn, will cover additional mega-reading and learning informationThis document shows parents and educators the most effective ways to support children as they increase their ability to abstract information across academic areas.  

Readers need to (1) know how to organize facts, (2) acquire and retain knowledge related to facts, ideas, details, and terms, and (3) unify these concepts in a concise conceptual way. Additionally, the reading process encourages students to learn logic and reasoning skills. Readers turn facts into knowledge by connecting layers of facts — versus merely memorizing facts. The facts turn into knowledge-building, allowing readers to tackle new reading experiences and acquire new vocabulary. Through intentional study across genre types, readers make critical conceptual connections.

To fill this gap, we connect content to determine how facts and information fit the world around us. The Reading to Learn planner uses textual attributes to show how knowledge acquisition builds as readers develop big-thinking conceptual ideas.

Readers are encouraged to discover how people, places, things, and language all come together through the study of genres. As students read more books, they abstract meaning, draw conclusions, and generalize new information by connecting information from different genre types. Once reading begins, facts, ideas, principles, systems, and cycles are essential learning tools supporting knowledge building. This technique creates conceptual understanding and concurrently builds both background knowledge and vocabulary.


4. Communicate

After students observe, organize, process, and understand information, they must demonstrate mastery of the material. Effective communication involves using written, oral, or graphic skills to understand and apply key concepts to different ideas or content areas.

Readers successfully activate and use mega reading and learning skills at this stage in the reading process. Personalized libraries are organized by genre, and readers study a specific genre. Once reading begins, readers discover patterns from learning new words, terms, facts, ideas, principles, systems, and cycles.

These patterns then become essential learning tools that, in turn, support knowledge acquisition, conceptual understanding, and vocabulary. These trends and patterns generate an innate curiosity and discovery for continuous content study. When the foundational content areas begin to connect, we know that readers' mega-learning skills are fully engaged. At the Intellectual Bookshop, we measure student understanding through your young learners' discussions and conversations about different topics and how they interrelate.

Also, somewhere within one of the subject areas lies a child's interest that may turn into a passion as the child matures. That particular passion can follow them beyond school life and, later on, become a child's lifework to change the world as an adult. Our job as parents and educators is to help find and nurture that passion or interest and help children discover their purpose in life.

Mega-learning skills provide children with the tools to gather concepts from different subjects. Understanding the relationship between other subject areas demonstrates academic growth and a deeper breadth of knowledge.

Look for the upcoming publication, Beyond Reading Readiness, for more ways to apply the mega-skills at all stages of the reading and learning process—including the Intellectual Baby, the Intellectual Toddler, and the Intellectual Child—and align grade levels.



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The Intellectual BookShop is an independent educational publisher and resource company committed to providing simple learning solutions for use at home or school.


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