What Is a Dolch Word List?

A Dolch word list is a list of sight words, words that are not spelled phonetically or are essential to recognize on sight. The list consists of the most basic and frequently used words in the English language. Learning to quickly identify the words on the Dolch list is essential in the process of teaching basic literacy.

The 220 Dolch words and 90 Dolch nouns are the most commonly used words in books written for children. The Dolch list divides words into groups based on how common they are at certain levels of reading proficiency, measuring progress by grade. Dolch words are capable of being learned by most children by the first grade, but this is not necessary, as later Dolch words remain uncommon in childrens' books at their grade.

Dr. Edward William Dolch published the Dolch word list in 1948 as part of the book "Problems in Reading." He compiled this list from three previously made lists of words considered essential for basic literacy. He called the words shared by the lists "service words," meaning they're used in writing no matter what the subject is. Ninety-five nouns are sometimes included with the Dolch list, but Dolch excluded all nouns from his original list to emphasize the importance of universal service words over subject matter in basic literacy.