Structured Literacy and the Science of Reading

“We TEACH reading in different ways; they LEARN to read proficiently in only one way.” – David Kilpatrick

Learning to read can be significantly difficult for children with learning challenges such as dyslexia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Effective reading instruction is integral to their success in overcoming this obstacle and avoiding making it a lifelong difficulty. Learning to read is a complex neurological process, and structured literacy instruction uses explicit, evidence-based methods that are appropriate for all students but essential for students with learning differences, especially those with dyslexia. This systematic approach is based on the science of reading, which is a body of scientifically validated and replicable studies of both reading instruction and human processing. Below, we break down structured literacy, the science of reading, and how they align to support all readers, especially for those with learning differences.

What is the science of reading?

The science of reading is a complex body of research in psychology and cognitive science that encompasses several questions related to how reading works, including:

  • What skills are involved in reading?
  • How do these skills work together?
  • How is reading related to speaking, spelling, or writing?
  • How do children learn to read?
  • Does experience come into play?
  • Which experiences are most important?
  • What parts of the brain prove most integral to reading?
  • Why do some children struggle with reading?

The science of reading combines several disciplines to provide a more thorough understanding of what processes are involved in reading, where challenges generally occur, and what preventative or remedial instruction can be implemented. This consensus is based on thousands of studies, conducted across several languages, and contributes to the development of a method of reading instruction that is proven to work for the broadest range of students.

How is phonics involved in the science of reading?

While the science of reading is not limited to the idea of phonics, it acknowledges that phonics is an important component in early, effective reading education. Phonics, the study of relationships between sounds and written language, is an essential aspect of teaching students with learning differences to read. Orton-Gillingham is a widely recognized science of reading method that maintains the focus on multi-sensory techniques that combine the teaching of both reading and spelling simultaneously. Although phonics requires direct instruction and multiple repetitions, teachers can utilize many engaging techniques to keep the learner focused and energized while they master challenging skills. Developing a strong understanding of phonics complements the other facets involved in the science of reading.

What else is involved in the science of reading?

The science of reading also incorporates phoneme awareness, or the awareness of sounds that make up spoken words. Improving phoneme awareness is crucial to connecting phonics and spelling instruction, making it possible for students to decode in order to read and spell unknown words. Additionally, the science of reading recognizes the importance of language and reading comprehension. This aspect focuses on building vocabulary and background knowledge for students to readily interpret and understand as they read. Any effective reading curriculum must also explicitly develop comprehension skills, with emphasis on the direct teaching of strategies such as summarizing, synthesizing, and inferencing. A well-designed reading program will teach the following foundational skills in a structured approach:

  • Phoneme awareness
  • Letter formation
  • Phonics
  • Spelling
  • Meaningful word parts
  • Comprehension

All of these aspects of the science of reading should be systematically, sequentially, and cumulatively placed in a scope and sequence that is then directly taught to students.

What is structured literacy?

Structured literacy is an approach to teaching reading that is based on the science of reading and years of research into how a child’s brain acquires and processes information. As a result, structured literacy avoids assuming a child will identify or discover patterns in words to efficiently read and spell. Structured literacy hinges on a well-developed, systematic and cumulative curriculum that directly teaches students phonology, sound-symbol association, syllables, morphology, syntax, and semantics in an explicit and diagnostic manner.

By using a systematic and cumulative approach, structured literacy remains organized and logical, starting with the easier, basic concepts and building upon those learned skills. The explicit approach requires consistent and direct student-teacher interaction, which allows for targeted and multisensory instruction to accommodate a range of different learning styles and cater to several potential areas of struggle. The diagnostic aspect of structured literacy requires teachers to continually monitor the progress of students as they learn to read using standard, measurable methods of assessment.

The structured literacy approach provides an ideal reading instruction curriculum for students of all learning styles and abilities based on reading science. Hill Learning Center utilizes structured literacy in their Hill Reading Achievement Program (HillRAP) and HillWrite methodologies, and within their Structured Literacy workshop. Hill programs offer educators scientific approaches for teaching students with learning challenges in an impactful, engaging way that will effectively cultivate skilled readers.

How Hill Learning Center Can Help

We can make a difference. Hill Learning Center is dedicated to transforming students with learning differences and challenges into confident, independent learners. Contact us if you’re interested in taking the next step.


Source: IDA, Seidenberg ReadingVoyager Sopris

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