There have been thousands of studies and scholarly articles that have been published over the last few decades. In this article, we will summarize some of the latest findings and entries surrounding the Science of Reading.
In June 2020, the National Council for Teacher Quality released an action guide for states looking to boost their reading scores. The purveying message is that reading does not come naturally and lays out the four components that states can have a direct impact on.
These four pillars are:
- Insisting that prep programs build teacher candidate knowledge
- Recommending to districts the best tools for assessing their students’ reading proficiency
- Evaluating and recommending instructional materials
- Giving resources to districts so they can provide external supports for classroom teachers
When it comes to prep programs, the report states that teachers should avoid any program that includes drawing shapes around words, making alphabetic word walls, teaching the “cueing systems” approach of appealing to context to guess at unknown words, or that does not follow a clear scope and sequence where one skill is built upon another.
This study cites research that indicates we should be successfully teaching 95% of children to read, yet, in reality, high rates of reading failure are common in western, industrialized nations.
The author suggests the Science of Language and Reading (SOLAR) framework as a way of positioning oral language as the main factor in reading comprehension. The SOLAR framework is illustrated via the Language House schema, which considers the social-emotional contexts for language acquisition and reading instruction, alongside the ongoing development of prosocial interpersonal skills and mastery of sufficient language and reading skills by early adulthood to be able to function as part of the social and economic mainstream.
- Solid ground: The emotional and interpersonal experience of infancy
- Strong foundations: Oral language development in the preschool years
- First wall: The prosocial interpersonal skills and the home language and literacy environment
- Second wall: The reading, writing, and spelling and instructional environment
- A structural beam to support the roof: Social-emotional and behavioral wellbeing
- The roof: Access to the social and economic mainstream through marketable employment skills
The author argues that speech-language therapy has much to offer to the promotion of evidence-based early reading and writing instruction and support, given the linguistic nature of reading and the high comorbidity between language and reading difficulties and social-emotional disturbances in childhood and adolescence.
Dr. Louisa Moats states that much of the research surrounding the science of reading is not yet included in teacher preparation programs, widely used curricula, or professional development. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that typical classroom practices often deviate substantially from what is recommended by our most credible sources.
She states the professional development and teacher preparation courses should ensure teachers should have knowledge of all the following subjects and how they can be applied in the classroom.
- Phonetics and Phonology
- Syntax and Text Structure
As a whole, Moats identifies seven steps that states and schools need to take to make noticeable and lasting improvements.
- Use research to guide the profession
- Establish core professional standards, curricula, and entry-level assessments for new teachers.
- Align teacher education curricula, standards for students, and licensing requirements for teachers.
- Create professional development institutes for professors and masters teachers
- Press the developers of textbooks and instructional materials to improve their products
- Promote high-quality professional development for teachers.
- Invest in teaching
This study dives into the history of science of reading research and why it is such a contested topic. It compares approaches such as the whole language approach or three-cueing system to that of observational research, but states, “observational research devoid of rigorous methodology, testing, and replication produces spurious results and leads to biased inferences.”
While identifying research that has ample evidence, the authors state that teaching children to decode words using systematic and explicit phonics instruction results in improved word-decoding skills.
Such instruction is effective both for monolingual English-speaking children and children whose home language is other than English (i.e., dual-language learners; Baker et al., 2014; Gersten et al., 2007) as well as children who are having difficulties learning to read or who have an identified reading disability (Ehri, Nunes, Stahl et al., 2001; Gersten et al., 2008).
The article also touches on how important building knowledge in other areas is vital to reading comprehension.
Compelling evidence is available to guide understanding of how reading develops and identify proven instructional practices that impact both decoding and linguistic comprehension.
The scientific literature on reading is ever-expanding through contributions from education, psychology, linguistics, communication science, neuroscience, and computational sciences.
Phonological Awareness Materials in Utah Kindergartens: A Case Study in the Science of Reading (April, 2021)
This study looked into the instruction and materials that were being used in Utah kindergarten classrooms. While many classrooms are incorporating phonemic awareness and phonics into their instruction, much of it is still inconsistent with the science of reading research.
In this instance, the current study found that the most widely used materials in the state did not incorporate explicit, direct instruction that was sequential and structured. Moreover, orthographic mapping was not taken into sufficient account when teaching literacy to their students.
Additionally, the materials did not use letters and did not limit focus to one or two skills. With all of these findings, the state’s most widely used materials do not align with the science of reading.
We will leave you with the words of Dr. Louisa Moats, published in “Teaching Reading is Rocket Science”.
“The fact that teachers need better training to carry out deliberate instruction in reading, spelling, and writing should prompt action rather than criticism. It should highlight the chronic gap between what teachers need and what they have been given. It should underscore the obligation of licensing programs to combine coursework with practice on a range of predefined skills and knowledge. The deficiencies in teacher preparation represent both a misunderstanding of what reading instruction demands and a mistaken notion that any literate person should be able to teach children to read. We do not expect that anyone who appreciates music can teach music appreciation, or that anyone who can balance a check- book can teach math,” Moats writes.
“Just about all children can be taught to read and deserve no less from their teachers. Teachers, in turn, deserve no less than the knowledge, skills, and supported practice that will enable their teaching to succeed. There is no more important challenge for education to undertake.”
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The IMSE approach allows teachers to incorporate the five components essential to an effective reading program into their daily lessons: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
The approach is based on the Orton-Gillingham methodology and focuses on explicit, direct instruction that is sequential, structured, and multi-sensory.
It is IMSE’s mission that all children must have the ability to read to fully realize their potential. We are committed to providing teachers with the knowledge and tools to prepare future minds.
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