The attainment of reading skill has fascinated psychologists and invited more study than any other aspect of human cognition due to its social importance and complexity.
—Moats and Tolman, 2009, p. 31
The past 40 years has yielded tremendous, interdisciplinary insights into the process of learning to read, gathered from developmental psychology, cognitive neuropsychology, developmental linguistics, and educational intervention research. Indeed, this is the most studied aspect of human learning. Dozens of journals publish empirical research on reading. Major research syntheses from English-speaking countries have been consistent in the findings on learning to read and teaching reading (NICHD 2000; Rowe & National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy, 2005; Rose, 2006; National Early Literacy Panel, 2008). Because of its volume, nature, and consistency, current research around reading embodies what is considered the science of reading.
A scientific report from an international team of psychological researchers aims to resolve the so-called “reading wars,” emphasizing the importance of teaching phonics in establishing fundamental reading skills in early childhood. The report, published in in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, shows how early phonics skills are advanced with a rich reading curriculum throughout the school years.
The National Reading Panel found that, to become good readers, children must develop:
The ability to read words in text in an accurate and fluent manner (fluency)
The ability to apply comprehension strategies consciously and deliberately as they read (comprehension)
The Panel found that many difficulties learning to read were caused by inadequate phonemic awareness and that systematic and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness directly caused improvements in children's reading and spelling skills.
The evidence for these casual claims is so clear cut that the Panel concluded that systematic and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness should be an important component of classroom reading instruction for children in preschool and beyond who have not been taught phoneme concepts or who have difficulties understanding that the words in oral language are composed of smaller speech sounds — sounds that will be linked to the letters of the alphabet. Importantly, the Panel found that even preschool children responded well to instruction in phonemic awareness when the instruction was presented in an age-appropriate and entertaining manner.
The Panel also concluded that the research literature provides solid evidence that phonics instruction produces significant benefits for children from kindergarten through 6th grade and for children having difficulty learning to read. The greatest improvements were seen from systematic phonics instruction. This type of phonics instruction consists of teaching a planned sequence of phonics elements, rather than highlighting elements as they happen to appear in a text.
Here again, the evidence was so strong that the Panel concluded that systematic phonics instruction is appropriate for routine classroom instruction. The Panel noted that, because children vary in reading ability and vary in the skills they bring to the classroom, no single approach to teaching phonics could be used in all cases. For this reason, it is important to train teachers in the different kinds of approaches to teaching phonics and in how to tailor these approaches to particular groups of students.
PHONICS - DOWNLOAD
LAURA STEWART Author and National Director for The Reading League