Fry's first 100 sight words are the 100 most common English words in writing; they include "the," "of," "a," "an" and "and." They are the first tenth of the list of 1,000 words that Dr. Edward Fry determined to be the most frequently used words in the English language; the 1,000 words are divided into groups of 100 by frequency of use.
The Fry sight words are an update to the Dolch list, the most commonly utilized sight words among educators. The Dolch list has 220 "service words" in addition to 95 "high frequency" nouns; put together, they make up 80 percent of words in children's books and 50 percent of adult books. In comparison, the 1,000 Fry sight words comprise about 90 percent of words one encounters in most reading material. The first 100 words make up about 50 percent of those words, and the first 300 compose about 65 percent.
The idea of teaching sight words revolves around the belief that if there is a body of words students immediately recognize, reading fluency improves. Some basic words on the list of 100 sight words are "to," "in," "from," "is" and "was." More complicated ones are "people," "number," "would," "write" and "water."
Dr. Fry, a professor emeritus at Rutgers University, was an expert in the teaching of reading and had a particular passion for education on the African continent. As a Fulbright scholar, he taught at Makerere University in Uganda, and authored numerous books and articles.