Science of Reading Series: Introduction

Any teacher can tell you they don’t have to go far or search long to find a new program being implemented in their school. In fact, most teachers have a myriad of stories of the different initiatives and training that were thrust upon their classrooms over the years. If you’ve talked to your educator friends lately, they will probably mention three new buzz words: Science of Reading.

Science of Reading is a teaching methodology that relies on systematic and explicit instruction on “how to read,” including phonics and phonemic awareness. It’s most commonly depicted as Scarborough’s Reading Rope and implies that children should be taught the decoding of learning to read by learning the rules of the English Language paired with comprehension and vocabulary strategies. Science of Reading is a methodology and not a curriculum but it is often delivered to children through curriculum like “Into Reading” or “Fundations.”

Let’s start with a correction: Science of Reading is not a fad or a buzz word.  In fact, five decades of research with thousands of studies laid the groundwork for this “movement”.  The research included work with neuroscientists and educators and primarily focused on the development of reading and writing skills and the reasons some people struggle in literacy.

Science of Reading expects that children learning to read require explicit instruction in phonics and language.  This means, children need to learn that words are made of letters that represent sounds and those sounds blend together to form words.  Science of Reading enthusiasts often refer to learning the letters and sounds as “learning the code” of reading.

The Science of Reading has Five Essential Pillars:
  1. Phonemic Awareness
  2. Phonics
  3. Vocabulary
  4. Oral Reading Fluency
  5. Comprehension

*Some Science of Reading programs also include sight word recognition. However, much of the research indicates that schools have long put too much emphasis on sight word lists and memorization and not enough on teaching children to decode their reading.

In this series, we will explore the different pillars and explain the definition and teaching methods behind all of them.  The Science of Reading expects that educators understand and believe that:
  1. Learning to read is not natural for children and requires explicit instruction.
  2. All readers are constantly mapping/decoding words even when it seems as though they have a word memorized.
  3. All children benefit from learning to “crack the code” of reading through gaining decoding skills and putting them to practice.
  4. Solid reading instruction expects explicit language and phonics instruction and ample opportunities for reading practice.
  5. Quality reading instruction includes Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Oral Reading Fluency, Vocabulary Development, and Comprehension practice.
  6. All children deserve to be masterful readers

Throughout this series, we will explore these concepts and the pillars more deeply.  Science of Reading is more than a movement.  It’s a deep belief in cognitive science to inform the practice of teaching reading.  Over the last twenty years, there have been significant reports of children not attaining reading levels and achievement due to the lack of Science of Reading practices and through these articles we hope to inform and advocate for all children receiving the tools they need to succeed as readers.

Many schools look to Amira Learning for a reading fluency product that deploys Science of Reading Research to help students and teachers.  As schools make the transition to using Science of Reading practices, they appreciate that Amira expects students to practice reading out loud and then uses Science of Reading based interventions to help students grow as readers.  Teachers value Amira’s reports and their direct ties to Science of Reading based data that helps them employ best practices based on research.
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