The Time Is Now: Shining a Brighter Light on the Science of Reading
At Cambium Learning® Group, we focus on providing the elements that are most essential to the success of education. And the most fundamental skill not only for school success, but lifelong success, is reading.
Given that 85% of the curriculum in school is presented through reading, using effective instruction is critical (Fielding, Rosier & Kerr, 2007). There has been much debate over the best approach to teaching reading, but the Science of Reading provides certainty to the answer of the best approach.
The Science of Reading has shown that learning to read and write is not a natural act, rather, this undertaking requires explicit, systematic, and cumulative instruction (Castles, Rastle, & Nation, 2018; Gough & Hillinger, 1980; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2000; Seidenberg, 2017).
After years of debate, even some long-standing champions of Balanced Literacy are acknowledging the need for an increased emphasis on Structured Literacy.
Structured Literacy instruction is beneficial for all students and essential for students who are most at risk for reading difficulties due to dyslexia, language-based learning disabilities, processing weaknesses, low socioeconomic status, status as an English learner (EL), or other factors.
But what is the Science of Reading? It is evidence: Evidence from the accumulation of research on reading acquisition and instruction that has been conducted using gold-standard methodologies and has identified effective practices (Reyna, 2004; Seidenberg, 2017). Simply put, the Science of Reading is not an opinion, nor is it a philosophical belief.
Structured Literacy is an instructional approach that is informed by the Science of Reading and integrates listening, speaking, reading, and writing (Moats, 2020). The approach includes the components of phonology (the speech sound system), orthography (the writing system), morphology (the meaningful parts of words), semantics (the relationships among words), syntax (the structure of sentences), pragmatics (the use of spoken and written language to achieve a goal), and discourse (the organization of spoken and written communication).
The principles of Structured Literacy instruction emphasize that skills are directly taught (explicit), and there is a logically ordered presentation of skills that begins with the most basic concepts and progresses to more difficult concepts (systematic), with new learning builds on prior learning (cumulative). Students’ instructional needs are identified (diagnostic), and instruction is adjusted accordingly (responsive). And yet many teachers are not prepared in college to employ these principles in their classrooms. That's why so many districts are now embracing professional learning solutions like LETRS and literacy programs like Core5, PowerUp and LANGUAGE! Live. After all, if we don't teach teachers research-based principles of Structured Literacy and then give the right corresponding tools, how can we expect to improve student reading proficiency?
The fact that some well-known advocates of balanced literacy may or may not be walking back years of pronouncements that phonics-based reading instruction should not be emphasized when teaching reading, is extremely positive. The real proof that they are embracing the Science of Reading will come through a new curriculum that uses a scientific approach, rather than de-emphasizing phonics and teaching children to make guesses, a damaging habit that can lead to lifelong difficulty for young readers. By implementing the components, principles, and instructional practice that align to both the Science of Reading and Structured Literacy now, administrators, teachers, and parents are assured that all students will receive the multifaceted literacy instruction they need for reading and academic success not just today, but throughout their lives.