As children get better at reading, the number of words they need to decode decreases. This means that children increase the number of sight words in their vocabulary. Sight words are just that—those words that we recognize the moment we see them because they’re stored in our memories. We know how to say them and what they mean without having to use decoding tools. They help us read quickly and without interruptions.
For most adults, reading is a quick way of learning, either for pleasure or for practical purposes. We can read a newspaper or Internet article to ourselves far faster than it would take someone else to tell us the same information. For skilled readers, almost every word has become a sight word.
Think about what it would be like if you had to decode every word every time you read something. The whole process would take too long, and it wouldn’t be enjoyable or useful. Indeed, the more words you recognize by sight, the easier it is to read. In fact, the goal of decoding is to increase the number of sight words.