How Did Fry Come up With His List of Sight Words?

Dr. Edward B. Fry’s list of 1,000 instant words was compiled in 1996, and is based upon his own research of the English language words that appear most frequently in children’s books, articles, novels and textbooks. His research states that approximately 1/3 of all published text is made up of just 25 words, while ½ of all published text is made up of just 100 words and 65 percent of all written material is made up of just 300 words.

The words in Fry’s list of sight words is divided into groups of 25 words and 10 levels, based on difficulty and ranked in order of frequency. His list of “instant words” is widely accepted as the resource of most used words in writing and reading. Academics for young readers emphasize the importance of instant recognition of the words it contains.

It is suggested that readers practice the words on Fry’s list in meaningful context through sentence reading and phrase practice. The first five words in the list are the, of, and, a and to. Often referred to as the “Fry Words,” this list is an expansion of Dolch’s sight word lists, developed by Edward William Dolch, PhD in 1948, which includes the 220 most frequently used words in the English language.