What's the Science of Reading All About?

Early Childhood Education, Literacy | 07/30/2020

Claire Bresnahan
State Operations Coordinator

At Stand for Children Colorado, we are champions of early literacy, knowing that reading by the end of 3rd grade is a critical milestone for future student success. Schools, districts, and law makers have been talking about literacy and the best ways to teach students reading. You may have heard or been a part of these conversations and with all the related terms and phrases, you may be wondering “What does it all mean”? 

We’re excited to share a little bit more about this research as well as some activities you can try at home!  

The Reading to Ensure Academic Development (READ) Act, passed in 2012 and updated several times since, is grounded in research that identifies the most effective ways to teach reading and it also targets state funding to identify and support those students that need it the most. 

Decades of research have made it clear: there are five essential skills students need to learn to be successful readers.

  1. “Phonemic awareness” is a technical term to describe our ability to hear, recognize, and differentiate between sounds, even when they sound a lot alike.  For example, students learn that the letter “B” makes a different sound than the letter “D.”  This is one of the skills they need to hear and know the difference between the word “big” and “dig.”  
  2. Phonics (knowing letters make a sound) Phonics is the relationship between sounds and letters. In English, phonics can be very tricky and students need a lot of practice!  They learn how letters sound when they are by themselves and they learn how letters sound when they are together.  They learn about the sound a “T” makes and an “H” makes and then they learn how to sound out letter combinations that have their own sounds, like “TH”.
  3. Vocabulary (words and what they mean) Vocabulary = words and definitions of words. The more words a child knows, the more they can use that information when they are learning to read.  Even at a young age, children who have a large vocabulary will know that there are many different words to describe something as “big.”  As they get older, they will start to learn the slight differences in the meaning of words and know that “enormous” is slightly different than “large.”
  4.  Fluency (reading quickly and correctly) Fluency is the ability to read quickly but still read correctly. The goal is for students to be able to read a sentence at the same pace that they would speak it. When students start learning how letters and sounds work together to make words, it will likely take time to sound out the different parts of a word and reading even a few words can take a long time.
  5. Reading Comprehension (understanding what you are reading) Reading comprehension is understanding the meaning of the words as you read them. Reading comprehension is perhaps one skill that they will work on in every grade (ECE-12), as readings become more difficult and complex. Students who are on-track with reading comprehension will be able to not only read the words in a book but also be able to explain the “main idea” of a book or a “lesson learned” from a book.

 Over the next week, we will be sharing more information about these skills and activities you can do with your child to practice these skills at home!  In the meantime, you can learn more about the science of reading by clicking on the following recommended resources:   

At a Loss for Words: How a flawed idea is teaching millions of kids to be poor readers 

What Research Tells Us About Reading Instruction 

How More Teachers are Being Taught the Science of Reading

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