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Making Sense of the Science of Reading

Look! Up at the School! Is it balanced literacy? Is it Whole Language? No, it’s the Science of Reading!

Whether you are a beginning teacher or a veteran like me, I’m sure you have taught reading or were taught to read in one of the ways listed above. Let’s face it, no matter what method we have used in the past, it has never been easy to teach all children to read. That’s why the Science of Reading is like a breath of fresh air. To me, it is exactly what we need to help children become successful readers.

The Science of Reading is not just the latest reading “fad,” it is a movement. It comes from neuroscience research — studies on the brain and how the brain learns to read.

The Science of Reading began with two researchers, Philip Gough and Bill Tunmer, who developed the Simple View of Reading theory.

The Science of Reading

The Simple View of Reading looks at how readers get meaning from text, and it’s written as a multiplication equation, not an addition equation.

Reading Comprehension = listening comprehension x decoding

Breaking down this simple view in a simple way means that if you can’t decode, you can’t read, but that’s not enough. You also have to understand the words that you decode.

To unpack the Simple View of Reading even further, another researcher, Hollis Scarborough, developed Scarborough’s Reading Rope. It shows the complexity of teaching children to read like this:

Studying the rope and the Simple View of Reading highlights why it was important for us to rethink how we were teaching children to read. That’s how the Science of Reading movement began. All of this research is what made me buy into the Science of Reading. I’ve been teaching reading for 30 years, and everything that I learned about the Science of Reading made so much sense to me; I wanted to learn more and more so that I could do all that I could do to teach children to read.

By studying the Science of Reading, I learned that children are born knowing how to speak, but learning to read and write does not come naturally. Our brains are not naturally wired to read and write — it takes direct instruction for students to master the skill of reading.

Implementing The Science of Reading

So, what does this direct instruction look like? It involves teaching phonics and phonemic awareness in a sequential and systematic way to strengthen students’ ability to decode. It involves manipulating phonemes and teaching students to study words more intensely than before. The Science of Reading encourages teachers to teach students to look at the word, not the picture, to figure out what the word is.

I don’t jump onto every bandwagon that comes along in education, but in the chaos of the very challenging school year of 2020-2021, I saw huge growth in my struggling readers by using the instructional techniques I learned through the Science of Reading. I also learned how to balance what I knew about reading real texts with the instructional techniques used in the Science of Reading. I learned to make sense of what worked with my readers and what I needed to hold onto from my experience of reading instruction.

Whether you have only begun to dip your toes into the Science of Reading or tried implementing it fully, I offer workshops that can help you. Both workshops share practical ideas for using the techniques from the Science of Reading. I will help you make sense of the Science of Reading without abandoning everything you’ve done in the past.

Learn More about The Science of Reading

If you consider yourself a novice in your knowledge of the Science of Reading and would like to attend a workshop, please click here. If you feel like you have a good understanding of the Science of Reading and would like more ideas for implementation, please click here.

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