What is the Science of Reading? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Being a prolific reader is often an underrated skill, but we know that it’s actually a critical skill that can have a massive impact on someone’s personal and professional development in the long run. Cultivating a love of reading in young students is crucial to ensuring they reach their true potential, both academically and in their day to day lives. 

Reading enhances language and vocabulary skills, it taps into one’s imagination and unlocks creativity, and it helps children learn to better express themselves. A rich vocabulary and strong language and communication skills are critical tools that empower children and adults in their academic and professional journeys. Reading also helps broaden a young student’s horizon, helping them understand and embrace different cultures and different opinions and teaching them empathy. 

There are so many other benefits to being a prolific reader, benefits that can serve someone academically, professionally, and emotionally. Being fluent in reading is the foundation of a soli education, and without fluency and literacy, students are unable to make progress and reach their true academic potential. 

Unfortunately, more than 130 million adults in the U.S. have low literacy skills, meaning 1 in 5 adults struggles to understand printed or digital reading materials. Research shows that adults with low literacy skills face a myriad of challenges compared to the rest of the population, from limited unemployment opportunities, financial difficulties, healthcare and health literacy, limited civic participation, parenting challenges, and lifelong learning and personal development issues. 

This is where the Science of Reading comes in. As the country continues to grapple with finding effective ways to teach literacy and improve test scores, the concept of the Science of Reading is starting to take center stage. But what does it entail, exactly, and how can it make a difference? 

The Science of Reading, explained

The Science of Reading is a multidisciplinary field that focuses on how we develop, enhance, and use our language skills. It has already accumulated years of scientific knowledge and is an invaluable tool that can empower and enable educators to teach reading and help their students reach literacy in an effective and data-driven way. 

The strategies and resources that form an integral part of the Science of Reading are based on extensive research spanning fields like education, neurology, behavioral science, or psychology. Based on this data and findings, the Science of Reading helps us understand how reading development happens, what skills are involved, and provides a framework for teaching literacy skills, known as Structured Literacy. 

What is Structured Literacy?

Structured Literacy is an educational approach that aims to teach writing and reading skills to students struggling with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, and other learning disabilities. It’s a systematic method that focuses on laying the foundational skills of reading, including phonics, decoding, spelling, word recognition, or phonemic awareness. These are all areas that can be challenging for students dealing with learning disabilities, and they require a teacher who is trained and specialized in the workings of Structured Literacy and the Science of Reading. 

Structured Literacy is basically the application of the principles of the Science of Reading in the classroom. It’s an instructional approach developed and trademarked by the IDA, or International Dyslexia Association, focused on the following core principles:

  • Explicit – Educators teach concepts and ideas through direct instruction and direct interaction, while being as clear and concise as possible. 
  • Systematic – The lessons are organized in a sequential manner, allowing students to build upon their knowledge step by step.
  • Cumulative – Each new lesson builds on the previous one, moving gradually from simple to complex concepts while building knowledge.
  • Supportive – Students are encouraged, supported, and assisted whenever necessary, and teachers work to build self-confidence, motivation, and improve communication. 
  • Corrective – Teachers make adjustments based on each individual student’s pace, and incorporate assistive technology and supportive tools (visual or auditory aids) where needed. 

What is taught in Structured Literacy? 

Structured Literacy is an instructional approach that revolves around building the foundational skills of writing, reading, and spelling. These are the key components that make up the core of this approach, components that can support and guide both general education students and those struggling with learning disabilities or special needs. 

  • Phonological awareness: research shows that phonological awareness is a core skill for proficient reading, encompassing a student’s capacity to discern and use sounds that exist in spoken language, breaking words into syllables, recognizing words and individual sounds within them. 
  • Phonics & word recognition: Structured Literacy teaches letter-sound associations, morphology, and presents students with strategies that help them decode and process multi-syllable words or complicated structures.
  • Reading fluency: Fluency represents someone’s ability to read words quickly and process their meaning (what we might also know as ‘scanning’). Fluency is achieved through repeated readings and constant practice to improve reading rate and comprehension.
  • Listening & reading comprehension: Structured Literacy teaches vocabulary, semantics, reasoning, syntax structures, sentence processing, and more, to help students with reading comprehension. 
  • Vocabulary: A strong vocabulary lies at the core of reading comprehension and fluency. The Science of Reading approach focuses on exploring language and expanding students’ vocabularies, through classroom conversations and interactions, reading aloud, listening to audiobooks, as well as word play and word-learning strategies. 
  • Written expression: Instruction includes lessons in punctuation, syntax, spelling, semantics, handwriting, as well editing and revision. 

Structured Literacy and the Science of Reading teach effective methods that are beneficial and supportive for all students in a classroom, whether they have learning disabilities or not. This approach involves constant monitoring of progress and assessment, assisting students in their individualized learning journeys, and using feedback and results to guide differentiation. 

It’s the most effective and successful approach to teaching reading to students struggling with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, ADHD, autism, and other challenges, but also highly benefits general education students, helping them achieve reading fluency and literacy skills that will serve them throughout their entire lives. 

Want to learn more about the Science of Reading and find ways to integrate this approach in your classroom? Reach out to Da Vinci Collaborative and let’s see how we can help. 

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