by Kassi Gilmour
What is the Science of Reading?
The science of reading is a body of research that examines how children learn to read. Reading is a skill, that unlike speaking, is not acquired innately. Much research has been
conducted on how the brain responds to reading instruction and the process of reading development.
Numerous children’s reading and writing abilities have suffered due to the whole language approach that has dominated our education system for the past 40 years. Some of the hallmarks of this approach include memorising lists, copy work, learning the alphabet song before developing an understanding of sounds and letters, providing spelling shape boxes, and teaching reading strategies that encourage children to look away from the words they are trying to read, such as ‘look at the picture’ and ‘what word would make sense?’ Significant reading and writing difficulties have arisen from this approach. Initially, this approach may seem effective because children begin reading very quickly. However, after two to three years, most children’s working memory is full, and their capacity to learn new words has diminished. They become stuck, and their reading abilities plateau. They are unable to decode words. Another negative result of this approach is the distinct disparity
between their reading and writing abilities. Reading levels far
So, what approach to teaching reading and writing does the science of reading research support?
Firstly, children need to develop phonological awareness. This is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in oral language. You can’t spell a word if you are unable to segment it to hear each individual sound. Learning rhyme, alliteration, syllables, onset and rime, blending and segmenting skills are essential to practise before learning phonics.
Secondly, children are introduced to sounds in a systematic order, beginning with simple code and working towards more complex code. It is imperative that children can hear and
discriminate target sounds prior to learning the visual representation (symbol) for each sound, and the corresponding letter name. Once children learn the symbol and name of a
letter, they can learn the proper handwriting formation for that letter. Here is an example of teaching a sound and letter. Begin by introducing the sound /s/ and teach the correct articulation for the sound (tongue placement, breathing, mouth shape, voice on or off). Next, children are to identify and discriminate words that contain the sound /s/. Afterwards, the visual representation, the letter ‘s’, is taught and connected to thesound /s/. Then, the correct handwriting formation for ‘s’ is taught and practised. This approach allows children to apply new knowledge and skills to reading, spelling and writing simultaneously.
Thirdly, after five sounds/letters have been learned, children can blend the sounds to read words, and segment simple words for spelling them. Fourthly, good programs progress through the code, from simple to complex. Spelling rules and generalisations are clearly demonstrated and practised within the progression of lessons. For example, only once a child has learned three different representations, ‘c’, ‘k’ and ‘ck’, for spelling the same
sound /k/, would they examine spelling rules for /k/. As a child’s decoding and writing skills progress, good programs will introduce sentence-based writing instruction. It is within writing, that children will best learn grammar, not as an isolated skill.
Finally, the science of reading recognises the need for children to develop rich vocabulary encountered through quality literature. While children are learning to read, they read books
that are fully decodable so that they develop their decoding skills and experience success in reading. To supplement the restricted vocabulary and sentence structure of decodable
readers, quality texts are read to children and explored through language and comprehension activities.
Years of studies in cognitive science have provided us with an evidence-based approach to teaching reading and writing effectively. If this sounds complicated, it is because reading and writing are complex skills. However, the research can be summarised by the following statement, "We read to comprehend, and reading comprehension occurs
when effective decoding strategies are combined with language
I became a home schooling mum in 2021 and saw my two youngest children thrive. I see the value of home schooling, especially in our current world. Yet, as a school teacher, who has extensive experience and training in this methodology, I see the value of quality education delivered by trained and experienced professionals. I wanted to provide home schooling
families with the best English education possible. So, I created Aussie Readers. It is an all-encompassing English course that teaches children to read, comprehend, spell and write. You can be confident that this program is family friendly and based on the science of reading. For more information, visit www.aussiereaders.com