Reading Instruction

What Is Reading Instruction?

Reading instruction refers to teaching methods that are designed to build students’ literacy inside and outside the classroom. By using foundational reading concepts and leveraging effective assessment data, educators can help young students become stronger, more confident readers — and instill a lifelong love of the written word.

The Scientific Approach to Building Skilled Readers

Students’ ability to make sense of the world around them is considerably affected by their reading comprehension. The goal of reading instruction, therefore, is for students to fully comprehend what they’re learning as they advance from foundational reading skills to becoming confident, fluent readers. The Science of Reading has proven that effective literacy instruction must be explicit, intuitive, systematic, and tailored to the specific learning needs of all students. Additionally, it must connect not only what students should know about reading but also how they learn to read.

The Essential Components of Reading Instruction

It’s been more than two decades since the National Reading Panel’s seminal research report initially identified five key concepts at the core of every effective reading instruction program. The Panel called them the 5 Pillars of Reading Instruction. Evidence gleaned from the growing compilation of Science of Reading research over the past 20 years has led to an expansion of the original five pillars. Read on to learn more about these research-based, essential components of effective reading instruction:

  • Phonemic awareness: Phonemic awareness refers to building sound-symbol awareness, teaching students individual sound identification, segmenting words, and blending sounds together.
  • Phonics: Understanding phonics helps young readers sound out unfamiliar words to decode them.
  • Fluency: The goal of fluency is for students to quickly, accurately, and with expression read and comprehend the majority of the written words in a text.
  • Vocabulary: School-age children should be learning several thousand new words each year, mostly through the reading instruction process.
  • Comprehension: Effective reading instruction helps build text comprehension in even the youngest readers, helping them make sense of and expand their knowledge of the world around them.
  • Writing: Grade-level-appropriate writing tasks help students understand how to form letters, spell words correctly, and form sentences and paragraphs — all of which help build on their ability to read well.
  • Assessment: Monitoring students’ progress over time and using the results to enhance lesson planning can help students overcome areas of weakness and become stronger readers.
  • Motivation: Making the process of learning to read enjoyable and instilling an appreciation for books can have a meaningful impact on students’ success.

Practicing the Fundamentals 

Just as a natural structure needs a solid foundation to withstand the test of time, building reading skills must begin with the basic five components of reading. Young readers start by learning to associate words with sounds, say words based on how they look, and map words into meanings. Their comprehension of the foundational reading components phonemic awareness and phonics become stronger as they continue to build a store of word meanings. With abundant practice, students’ reading ability grows, and they are ready for more advanced skills such as fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. These five main literacy instruction components are interconnected to help teachers engage, nurture, and develop a classroom of skilled, grade-level readers. A crucial first step to helping students become fluent readers is finding a curriculum rooted in the Science of Reading.

Utilize Reading Data to Enhance Your Instruction 

Every student is different. To strengthen readers’ instruction, teachers must meet students where they are and elevate their learning step by step. Teachers can identify students' strengths and learning priorities by using reading assessment data. Reading data also guides teachers in accurately selecting the best instructional resources or lessons to initiate the next step in the learning process. This solid evidence ensures that each student receives a tailor-made learning path. Having actionable data helps teachers feel prepared, confident, and supported as they deliver effective literacy instruction that guides students to fluency and grade-level reading. Additionally, administrators can use it to set schoolwide and districtwide intervention strategies and inform resource allocation decisions.

Motivate Students and Make Reading Fun 

All teachers strive to encourage students to participate in their learning. Teachers can draw students to the center of daily literacy instruction with complex, authentic texts that engage them in opportunities to practice close reading strategies across various genres and formats. As students’ skill level advances, teachers should introduce more complex, real-world source texts, from literature and poetry to blogs and news articles. Effective literacy instruction also includes allocating time for writing instruction. Over time, students learn to clearly express, through writing, what they comprehended in written text. They begin to see the difference good writing skills make in improving achievement in every content area. Through teacher-led instruction—which fosters independence—students learn to engage actively with source texts, research for evidence, and acquire writing strategies that last for a lifetime.

Our Reading Programs

Magnetic Reading Student Worktext.

Magnetic Reading

This Grades K–5 program connects the art of teaching with the Science of Reading to strengthen students' comprehension of the foundational reading components.

PHONICS for Reading student book.

PHONICS for Reading

This systematic, research-based intervention program helps older students become fluent and independent readers.

Ready Writing Grade 4 Student Instruction Book.

Ready Writing

Students learn to use writing as a tool for thinking and communicating through this program aligned to the writing and content-area standards.

Ready Reading Grade 4 Student Instruction Book.

Ready Reading

Teacher-led instruction and practice put an emphasis on close reading of complex, authentic texts from a wide range of genres.

Laptop showing the Teacher Toolbox for English Language Arts.

Teacher Toolbox

Teacher Toolbox is a digital collection of easily accessible instructional resources that support differentiated instruction for all learners.


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