Reading Instruction Research Findings – Things May Not Be as They Seem

by | Dec 29, 2017


Around every corner is someone professing to have the answer to reading education. There are systems, programs, well-known books, videos, step-by-step instructions, core comprehensive reading program experts…all sorts of instruction and delivery methods.  How can you sort through it all, filter out the inaccurate, flawed, or biased teachings? No program is perfect, nor is any specific program the best for all schools within a district. In many cases, an individualized teaching plan combining multiple programs is the best solution.

However, in order to assess the right choice for you and the children, first, you must know what scientifically defines a good reading program. Every language learning program should always include these essential components: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension. Those are just the foundational concepts, but if fully incorporated, qualify the program as “scientifically-based reading research” (SBRR) programs.­­­

A good reading program, well implemented, teaches each of the five components thoroughly, explicitly, and with planned connections to the others.  By Louisa Moats

What Does the Research Say?

Here is where some have experienced issues. Just because a reading program incorporates those five pillars, doesn’t mean they truly teach the material. They may still be incorporating their own teachings, such as the Whole-Language teaching philosophy, which has been proven ineffective. Whole-Language learning has significant shortcomings including failure to teach phonics, using a non-systematic approach, and having an “overly personalized, non-directive approach to reading comprehension.”

Rather than fight the five components, trendy reading gurus have placed them under the banner of “balanced instruction” and some students never learn to read at fluent and advanced levels with these approaches.  Some of these approaches focus on exposure and not mastery. By Louisa Moats

Another failing method of reading education is tutoring. Those who are high risk are sometimes sent to a tutor for small group instruction. “Reading Recovery” is a very high-profile tutorial approach and statistics have shown that many students perform so poorly that they cannot maintain the required level to stay in the program.

SBRR – General Rule to Reading

The general rule is that SBRR programs, if available, are the most effective. However, even where available, many schools choose not to use them. Why you might ask? These programs require aggressive practices for reading, writing, and language educations. Meaning…it takes work, dedication, investments, time, and more hard work!

So, what next, what else can supplement current programs? There is plenty of research to be done on what the National Reading Panel recommends. There also needs to be a pool of knowledgeable teachers, mentors, and coaches, as well as administrators willing to take a hardstand. Then, the right assessments would have to be performed, followed by analyzing the results and applying the knowledge by implementing changes.

There are many options, many variations of available reading education plans. Choosing the best or optimal program should be done with careful intention, after much research. If you would like some guidance or to simply ask a quick question about a style or approach, I’d be honored to help! Send me a message or visit our website