The pandemic has caused disruptions in many areas of education, including foundational reading skills. Some students were lagging before the pandemic, and upper elementary teachers noticed the increased skills gaps. Many states are responding to the issue by implementing the science of reading principles into their curriculum. They see the results. Publishers can close the gap by providing the best materials based on the science of reading and other methods.
Learning to Read Through the Science of Reading
Many approaches to teaching reading exist. Few, however, are backed by research to prove their effectiveness. Therefore, the science of reading (SoR) attempts to resolve this challenge.
SoR is a research methodology based on science-backed contributions from professionals across multiple disciplines. These disciplines include education, neurology, psychology, and others. SoR helps educators and providers who create educational materials understand how people learn to read.
More specifically, SoR demonstrates that teaching phonics and phonemic awareness is more effective overall than teaching sight words, whole word memorization, and context clues. It divides reading development into four components for both typical and atypical readers:
- Knowledge of letters and sounds
- Phonetic decoding of words
- Orthographic mapping to develop sight-word vocabulary
- Reading comprehension: through the decoding of text and the comprehension of language
Publishers can provide solutions for both students and educators to make up for learning loss and provide quality materials for learning to read. Here are four strategies to use now.
Create Content Around the Science of Reading for Students
Most importantly, publishers can create curricula based on systematic, phonics instruction. While an estimated 1–7% of children can learn to read without explicit phonemic awareness, most benefit from a strong foundation in phonics. For instance, if children learn to decode ten letters, they can read 350 three-sound words and 21,650 five-sound words. Therefore, if the child memorizes ten words, they will only know those ten words. Research shows children will not transfer these ten words to understand and learn new words.
Create Content for Teachers, Administrators, and Principals for Learning to Read
Similarly, publishers can create training materials that support teachers. Many teachers lack the training to use SoR, so they need professional development. Therefore, publishers can ensure that the content for teacher training and student learning are aligned. Publishers can create materials for colleges and districts to address this problem.
Create High-Quality Materials for Learning to Read
Therefore, teachers should not have to scour the internet to find materials to teach students how to read. Nor should they have to create instructional materials themselves. Instead, publishers should become familiar with the body of evidence for the science of reading. Then, they should incorporate it into creating high-quality evidence-based materials and make them readily available to educators.
Create Materials for Guided Reading for Learning how to Read
Furthermore, publishers can support students learning to read by creating guided reading materials. For instance, guided reading helped a California school district improve reading proficiency from a low 39% to a much higher 66% of students reading at or above proficiency. Further research shows student learning increases by at least 32% when guided reading is used to teach reading. The results show how guided reading provides students the support they need in learning to read when they need it.
In sum, the science of reading provides solutions to closing the gap students are experiencing in learning to read. When publishers apply these four principles, they can provide the materials both students and educators need to improve reading rates.