Researchers estimate that more than 90% of students could learn to read using approaches based on the science of reading. These ten essential books on the science of reading are a good place to start, as they provide readers with a comprehensive understanding of how individuals learn to read along with proven strategies that are the most effective for all students. By analyzing these key texts, we can equip educators with the tools to drive meaningful literacy instruction in the classroom.

Start your learning journey with this list of ten essential books about the science of reading.


Ten Books to Read About the Science of Reading


1. 7 Mighty Moves: Research-Backed, Classroom-Tested Strategies to Ensure K-to-3 Reading Success (The Science of Reading in Practice)

Lindsay Kemeny

Who it’s for: This book is a practical guide for lower primary (K-3) teachers who need easy-to-use strategies to incorporate the science of reading into their practice. 

Why read it: Kemeny, an IMSE Orton-Gillingham Certified Teacher, offers seven straightforward ways K-3 teachers can boost foundational reading skills, including phonemic awareness, phonics, and comprehension. Teachers will love having access to the literacy routines and lessons Kemeny uses with her own students, as well as evidence-based, top-priority IMSE strategies she has incorporated in the book to make a difference for readers in a hurry.


2. Climbing the Ladder of Reading and Writing: Meeting the Needs of ALL Learners

Edited by Nancy Young and Jan Hasbrouck

Who it’s for: This book is a user-friendly guide intended for a broad audience, from educators to parents, caregivers and community members, or anybody else involved in teaching another how to read or write.

Why read it: This comprehensive guide will allow readers to connect the science of reading to their teaching methods, along with how to cater to the needs of each student and develop their reading skills.


3. The Reading Comprehension Blueprint: Helping Students Make Meaning from Text

Nancy Hennessy

Who it’s for: This book is a go-to resource for K-8 educators looking to understand the basics of the science of reading and effectively incorporate the years of research on reading comprehension into their teaching.

Why read it: Hennessy equips teachers with a comprehensive blueprint for effectively teaching reading comprehension, and delivering evidence-based instruction so they can apply the science of reading in their classrooms too.


4. The Art and Science of Teaching Primary Reading

Christopher Such

Who it’s for: This book offers K-5 teachers a comprehensive guide to applying the science of reading in the classroom.

Why read it: To effectively teach reading, teachers need to understand the theories behind the science of reading and how they can translate these concepts into the classroom. Captured in small chapters, this book addresses fundamental elements of reading such as phonics, decodable texts, comprehension, and how to teach children experiencing reading difficulties.


5. Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention

Stanislas Dehaene

Who it’s for: This book is geared towards any general audience interested in understanding the human brain.

Why read it: Stanislas Dehaene, a neuroscientist, takes readers on a journey based on the science of reading and how the brain understands reading and processes the English language. By understanding how the brain learns, educators can supercharge the acquisition of reading skills in the classroom.


6. Know Better, Do Better: Comprehension

David and Meredith Liben

Who it’s for: This book provides K-12 educators with new ways to think critically about how and why they teach students.

Why read it: Based on decades of research and knowledge, Liben demonstrates the best ways for educators to teach essential elements of literacy, comprehension, and the retention of high-frequency words. This action-oriented book maps out what students truly need to develop their English language literacy skills with an emphasis on vocabulary, knowledge building, and language structures.


7. Reading for Life: High-Quality Literacy Instruction for All

Lyn Stone

Who it’s for: This book is a guide for educators to help them discern when teaching methods will be effective and when they should be rejected. It also serves as a source to empower parents by outlining the questions they should be asking professionals and policymakers.

Why read it: Lyn states that illiteracy is “everybody’s problem,” and offers readers an overview of the main literacy practices currently used in elementary schools. Through the scope of the science of reading, this book offers timely solutions to how literacy instruction can be improved for students going forward.


8. Next Steps in Literacy Instruction

Susan M. Smartt and Deborah R. Glaser

Who it’s for: This book offers strategies, scenarios, and planning worksheets to guide K-6 educators as they make decisions based on assessment results and plan instruction to help students struggling to read.

Why read it: Structured around the National Reading Panel’s big five ideas and based on the science of reading, Smartt and Glaser offer teachers a user-friendly guide packed with strategies and activities to meet the literacy needs of all students.


9. Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It

Mark Seidenberg

Who it’s for: This book is geared toward all educators, offering readers concrete proposals based on decades of linguistic and psychological data for how our society can produce better readers.

Why read it: Seidenberg walks readers through the science of reading and proposes that when it comes to literacy instruction, we need to go back to the basics, starting with phonics and decodable texts as the primary pathway to literacy instruction.


10. Effective Universal Instruction: An Action-Oriented Approach to Improving Tier 1

Kimberly Gibbons, Sarah Brown, and Bradley C. Niebling

Who it’s for: This book is a guide for principals and school leaders aimed at improving Tier 1 instruction in schools.

Why read it: Universal instruction is essential to improving student outcomes. Gibbons, Brown, and Niebling provide school leaders with practical ways to evaluate the effectiveness of their school’s universal instruction, remove barriers to improving instruction, and gauge the success of their own efforts.



Bonus: Academic Papers on the Science of Reading


The science of reading is based on a robust body of research, which means that scholars and educators are always looking for new ways to analyze existing data and knowledge. That’s why academic papers are an essential resource, as they open the conversation to anybody who wants to remain actively engaged in the evolving science of reading.

Go beyond the books and learn more from these academic papers based on the science of reading.


1. Ending the Reading Wars: Reading Acquisition From Novice to Expert 

Anne Castles, Kathleen Rastle and Kate Nation

Who it’s for: This academic paper is for educators looking to move beyond phonological awareness and decodable texts to improve student literacy needs in the classroom.

Why read it: By addressing the gap between literacy research and educators’ understanding of it, schools can start to implement truly effective and informed literacy instruction.


2. Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science, 2020: What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able to Do

Louisa Moats

Who it’s for: This academic paper communicates to both educators and school leaders the gap between what teachers need to effectively teach students to read the English language and what they are actually given.

Why read it: For teachers to teach reading successfully, the quality of professional development needs to improve and be prioritized by district leaders.


3. Meeting the Challenges of Early Literacy Phonics Instruction

Wiley Blevins

Who it’s for: This academic paper is for teachers looking to successfully teach phonological awareness to students.

Why read it: There needs to be equal amounts of time spent on teaching basic phonological awareness skills and decodable texts as there is spent on the actual meaning of high-frequency words. This report describes the importance of phonics on students’ reading skills, and the common causes of phonics not resonating with students in the classroom.


4. How Knowledge Helps

Daniel T. Willingham

Who it’s for: This academic paper is a resource for educators to help students strengthen reading comprehension and learn to develop deep and meaningful knowledge.

Why read it: In this article, cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham describes knowledge as an exponential resource, explaining that logical thinking and problem-solving are directly connected with knowledge.



Go Further Than the Books With IMSE Today



If you want to delve deeper into the science of reading, explore IMSE training sessions for individuals or consider a private group training for even more impact. Each program offers hands-on instruction and emphasizes real-world implementation of proven strategies in the classroom. IMSE’s industry-leading resources provide educators with a detailed and complete roadmap, setting them up for long-term success with professional development that can advance their careers and proven tools that further the English language reading skills of every student.


FAQs on the Books About the Science of Reading

Why do we need the science of reading?


According to the U.S. Department of Education, 130 million, or 54%, of adults read below a 6th-grade level. What’s more, on an individual level, illiteracy can negatively impact a person’s lifetime earning potential by 30-42%. Backed by research to teach every student how to read, the science of reading is the key to solving this deepening crisis. It is essential for teachers to have effective tools that reach every student, which is why the science of reading has become increasingly important in teaching the English language. By implementing strategies that are proven to work, students will be able to not only engage with grade-level assignments and rigorous work but also live fulfilling lives outside of school.


What are the big 5 of the science of reading?


Effective reading instruction incorporates five components: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.


What are these pillars of the science of reading instruction?



Who came up with the science of reading?


The science of reading is a body of research developed over the last five decades with contributions from many scientists, educators, and reading experts. Our understanding of how we read is based on findings from a wide range of research designs, experimental methods, participants, and statistical analyses.


What should I teach first in the science of reading?


Phonology, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension are the building blocks for teaching the science of reading.


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