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Helping Parents Understand The Science of Reading

The Science of Reading. You may have heard about it in the news or noticed that there's a new reading program being used in your child's classroom and wondered what's all the fuss about. Are schools just reaching for the newest shiny object in reading instruction?

Yes... and no.

The Science of Reading (SoR) is a vast , interdisciplinary body of scientifically-based research about reading and the issues related to reading and writing.

The research includes multiple fields such as cognitive psychology, communication sciences, developmental psychology, and neuroscience among others.

Education researcher, Louisa Moats, Ed. D., sums it up by stating that "reading is rocket science. Reading is a complicated, ever-shifting psychological process and a lot of what goes on in our brain as we learn to read is hidden from view." (PaTTanpod [S1E5])

The Science of Reading is NOT a curriculum, a reading program, or simply phonics instruction.

SoR is the research that guides teachers to provide effective reading instruction by including:

  • Phonemic Awareness (the sounds that make up words)

  • Phonics (the relationship between letter sounds and written letters)

  • Vocabulary (the meaning of words)

  • Fluency (reading aloud with appropriate speed, accuracy, and expression)

  • Reading Comprehension (understanding what's being read)

What's interesting is that this list is nothing new. In fact, a report published by the National Reading Panel in 2000 listed the same 5 components as key to effective reading instruction.

What's clear is cherry picking some of the components of reading instruction and ignoring others is not effective. Reading comprehension is the product of decoding (e.g., phonics) and language comprehension (e.g., vocabulary and background knowledge)

So the answer to the question whether your child's teacher is using a new reading program is, maybe.

Over the past several years, more states have required schools use researched based reading instruction.

Therefore, you may see more emphasis being placed on phonics instruction (or other components of reading instruction) depending on the curriculum used in the past compared to the one currently being used.

We can use the wisdom of Maya Angelou:

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."

Comment below if you've noticed a change in your child's reading instruction. If so, has it helped your child improve reading skills?


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