Science of Reading

A Scientific Approach to Developing Skilled Readers Watch Video
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What Exactly Is the Science of Reading?

Reading is essential to everyday life, and unaddressed reading struggles can have lifelong ramifications. The Science of Reading is an evidence-based approach to ensuring that all students can become skilled readers.

Thousands of international, interdisciplinary scientific and educational studies have determined that teaching reading is both an art and a science. Effective literacy instruction, using reading science, connects not only what students should know about reading but also how they learn to read.

Decades of research have proven that:

  • Humans aren’t hardwired to read like we are to speak, so reading instruction must be explicit and systematic. First, children must learn the foundational skills: Phonological Awareness, to recognize the individual sounds of spoken language, and Phonics, to associate those sounds with the letters that represent them on the page.
  • Fluency grows when Phonics lessons are followed by students reading decodable texts that connect to recently acquired skills.
  • This foundational groundwork supports future skills that interweave the word recognition and language comprehension essential for making skilled reading a reality for every student.

The Science of Reading proactively prevents reading struggles and future learning deficits while contributing to overall student growth and achievement. Successful reading instruction begins with choosing a curriculum based in the Science of Reading to guide both teaching and learning. It must include literacy selections that encourage students to become engaged, active participants in the learning process. School districts that apply the Science of Reading principles discover that cross-curricular engagement increases as students use reading comprehension to open new learning pathways.

If you’re looking for what really works in teaching reading—it’s the Science of Reading.

What Are the Components of the Science of Reading?

The Science of Reading includes concepts such as phonological awareness and decoding for younger students and moves on to more advanced concepts like literacy knowledge and verbal reasoning as students' reading skill progresses.

More specifically, this approach provides insight into how young readers learn to associate words with sounds, say words based on how they look, and map words into meanings. Educators can use Science of Reading recommendations to guide students into gaining a firm understanding of foundational reading skills, such as word recognition, phonological awareness, decoding, and sight word recognition.

Students grow to develop a deep and broad array of word meanings stored in long-term memory. They begin to build their collection of known word meanings and are ready to learn language comprehension, vocabulary, background knowledge, language structures, literacy knowledge, and verbal reasoning. Students become skilled readers by making connections based on additional information from context clues and meaningful word parts.

What Does the Science of Reading Look Like in Practice?

Scientific findings have confirmed which instructional practices and approaches are most effective in helping students become skilled readers. Here are some of the instructional practices supported by the Science of Reading:

  • Assessment should drive instruction.
  • Educators should use multiple assessment tools to screen, monitor progress, and diagnose how well students are doing.
  • Reading instruction should be systematic and explicit.

Explicit instruction includes:

  • A statement and an explanation of the learning objective focused on a requisite reading skill
  • Teachers who model the cognitive processes involved in learning the skill
  • Teachers who guide students in practicing what has been taught and gradually release more responsibility to encourage independence
  • Students who are monitored and given productive feedback
  • Teachers who assess and reteach students, if necessary

Choose a Curriculum Based in the Science of Reading

i-Ready Assessment

Provides tools to pinpoint student strengths and areas of need and measures proficiency of on-grade level standards

i-Ready Personalized Instruction

Deliver engaging online Grades K–8 reading lessons—guided by i-Ready Assessment data—to motivate students on their paths to proficiency and growth.

PHONICS for Reading

A research-based reading intervention program by Dr. Anita Archer that provides explicit phonics instruction to older students in Grades 3+ who need support in decoding

Magnetic Reading

Connects the Art of Teaching with the Science of Reading

Featured Resources

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i-Ready: Aligned with the Science of Reading

Learn about the science behind i-Ready Assessment and Personalized Instruction.

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PHONICS for Reading: Research-Based Intervention

Discover how PHONICS for Reading helps students in Grades 3+ build foundational skills.

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Putting Scientific Evidence to Work in Reading Instruction

Dr. D. Ray Reutzel clarifies additional topics about the Science of Reading and choosing an evidence-based reading curriculum in his whitepaper, Putting Scientific Evidence to Work in Reading Instruction.