Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Setting the stage: A critical look at your fall literacy benchmark data
As November winds down, it’s time to turn your attention to the success of the Science of Reading in elementary education.
It’s time to look critically at your upcoming fall benchmarking data. These figures are more than mere statistics; they measure the effectiveness of your literacy curriculum implementation across the district.
In your role as a curriculum leader, you’re tasked with ensuring all students, including English Language Learners, students of diverse backgrounds, economically disadvantaged families, and students with disabilities, receive top-notch reading instruction.
Have you ever paused to consider what might be missing in your current strategies? The end of November is an ideal time to pinpoint and capitalize on overlooked opportunities that could significantly boost student achievement before the next round of assessments.
Neglecting language comprehension has dire consequences
Despite misconceptions, the Science of Reading in elementary education encompasses more than just phonics and word recognition. It’s a holistic approach that, when fully leveraged in reading instruction, can significantly improve reading outcomes.
However, language comprehension is often neglected, which adversely affects students’ learning progress. Evidence shows that shortchanging language comprehension reduces the benefit of the Science of Reading.
The Learning Loss Guide for Educators, Caregivers, and Community Members delves into the far-reaching effects of reading loss, highlighting the importance of an instructional approach that includes both word recognition and language comprehension.
How half of the Reading Rope gets left behind
Our previous article, What the Science of Reading is NOT, explored common misconceptions.
Those misconceptions, along with the legacy of the Reading Wars, lead to comprehension and fluency often being overshadowed or neglected entirely.
While revisiting Scarborough’s Reading Rope, it’s crucial to ask yourself: Are you overly focused on word recognition at the expense of language comprehension? What about your curricular materials and educators in your district?
Before you finalize your January strategy, it’s worth reassessing your current practices for any inadequacies.
Source: International Dyslexia Association – Reading Rope created by Dr. Hollis Scarborough in 2001
Inadequate instruction on Science of Reading in elementary education programs
Districts look to the Science of Reading in elementary education programs to promote current, evidence-based reading instruction. This includes knowledge of the five key components of effective reading instruction, as identified in the well-known research by National Reading Panel and the Institute for Education Sciences: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Importantly, three of these five essential components relate to language comprehension — fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.
However, a 2016 study revealed that only 39% of undergraduate elementary education programs covered all five components adequately. Another 44% only required coursework on one or two components, clearly misaligned with research about what it takes to learn to read.
An updated review of graduate and undergraduate teacher preparation programs conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality in 2023 found only 28% of programs covered all five components of effective reading instruction. Further, they reported that collegiate programs are failing to prepare educators to teach literacy to struggling readers, English Language Learners, and speakers of English language varieties, such as AAVE.
This shortfall in teacher preparation can lead to a fragmented implementation of the Science of Reading.
Source: Teacher Prep Review: Strengthening Elementary Reading Instruction, National Council on Teacher Quality, June 2023
What happens when we neglect language comprehension and fluency
In too many elementary schools, students know phonics patterns but struggle to fluently read continuous text fluently understand what they mean. This issue is especially prevalent in districts that haven’t fully integrated the Science of Reading into their pedagogy.
Addressing comprehension as standalone skills often doesn’t meet the diverse needs of all learners. Consequently, students won’t transition from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn by their fourth grade year, a crucial educational milestone.
Still, there is hope! Research indicates that more than 90% of students could learn to read if they had access to teachers who employed scientifically-based reading instruction.
As curriculum leaders, you can make a difference by fully integrating all aspects of the Science of Reading in elementary education.
Kids Read Now facilitates students’ development of language comprehension
Kids Read Now steps in to fill this gap. The program sends books home, each paired with Discovery questions (available in multiple languages) designed to enhance comprehension and encourage deeper engagement with the text. Additional resources are also provided to extend the learning experience.
Next Steps: Empowering your district’s literacy with Kids Read Now
Integrating Kids Read Now’s in-home, independent reading program into your district’s literacy plan can be a game-changer. It encourages students to read outside of school, enhancing their fluency and comprehension and contributing to their overall academic success.
Embrace the full Science of Reading in elementary education this year
As you prepare for the new year, embracing the full scope of the Science of Reading in your curriculum is crucial. This approach is key to improving literacy, closing achievement gaps, and ensuring students are well-prepared for their spring assessments. Take this opportunity to make a meaningful impact on your district’s literacy outcomes.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Science of Reading encompasses five key components: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. It’s crucial to integrate all these elements into your literacy curriculum to ensure effective and comprehensive reading instruction.
To enhance language comprehension, focus on integrating fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension into your teaching strategies. Programs like Kids Read Now can supplement classroom instruction by providing resources that encourage deeper engagement with texts at home.
Start by assessing your current literacy programs against the five key components of the Science of Reading. Provide professional development for educators, adopt evidence-based instructional materials, and consider supplemental programs that reinforce these components.
Tailor reading instruction to meet the diverse needs of your district’s population. This includes using culturally responsive materials, differentiating instruction, and ensuring accessibility for all students. Programs like Kids Read Now offer materials in multiple languages, which can be particularly beneficial.
Implementing the Science of Reading can lead to improved literacy rates, better academic performance, and a stronger foundation for lifelong learning. It also helps close achievement gaps and prepares students for future educational challenges.