Science of Reading for Newbies

Learning the Science of Reading doesn’t just happen after reading a book, taking a course, or watching a webinar. Learning the Science of Reading is a process just like learning to play an instrument, learning to drive, or learning a new language. It takes time to assimilate the information into your practice. Think back to your first few years as a teacher. You had to learn how to teach, organize your classroom, and manage your classroom. It was like the circus act of keeping all the plates spinning without them falling. This journey may be difficult and long, but I promise you it will be a professional game changer.

Unfortunately for many teachers, teacher training programs in the United States and around the world have woefully underprepared many educators to be effective reading teachers. Colleges and universities have continued to use outdated pedagogy resulting in the use of what is called "whole language" or "balanced literacy." Influenced by the Constructivist Theory, proponents of the whole-language methodology believe that children draw from their perspective and prior experiences to form the framework for new knowledge.

This approach became popular in the 1980’s and encourages students to use context first to read the words in front of them. They are encouraged to use pictures to guess unknown words and rely heavily on their visual memory to remember those words. They build a sight vocabulary through predictable text. Students are discouraged from sounding out words and told to look at the first letter and guess. The results are that up to 40% of students will have difficulty with reading and spelling and up to 15-20% will be diagnosed with a learning disability.

Since the mid 1970’s and probably earlier, research on reading acquisition had been taking place. In the 1980’s a phonological program called Equipped for Reading Success by Rosner was developed. It is the earlier version of today’s Equipped for Reading Success by David Kilpatrick.

Unfortunately, phonemic and phonological awareness (P.A.) never got the attention it deserved, in spite of the 1999-2000 findings of the National Reading Panel that verified the importance of P.A. as one of the five pillars of literacy (P.A., Phonics, Vocabulary, Fluency, Comprehension). We can all agree that comprehension is the desired outcome of reading, but how do we get there?