The Science of Reading and Structured Approaches

by | Apr 23, 2024


Building on our understanding of how the brain learns to read, part two of our discussion delves deeper into the science of reading. This article explores structured literacy approaches, Scarborough’s Reading Rope, and the Simple View of Reading, providing educators with evidence-based strategies to optimize reading instruction and improve student outcomes.


The Science of Reading


The science of reading is an interdisciplinary body of research spanning several decades and disciplines including cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and education. This research provides comprehensive insights into the best practices for teaching reading. It emphasizes the importance of explicit instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies.


Structured Literacy


Structured literacy is an explicit, systematic approach to teaching reading that is particularly beneficial for students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. Key components include:

  • Phonology: Teaching the sound structure of language.
  • Sound-Symbol Association: Connecting sounds to letters or groups of letters.
  • Syllables: Instruction on the rules for dividing words into syllables.
  • Morphology: Understanding the units of meaning in language, such as roots, prefixes, and suffixes.
  • Syntax: Grasping the rules of sentence structure.
  • Semantics: Teaching the meaning of words and combinations of words.


This method is characterized by its cumulative content and the use of direct teaching techniques, ensuring that no child falls behind due to gaps in foundational skills.

Scarborough’s Reading Rope


Scarborough’s Reading Rope is a visual metaphor that illustrates the many strands that are woven into skilled reading:

  • Lower Strands (Word Recognition): These include phonological awareness, decoding, and sight recognition of familiar words. These skills need to become automatic to free up cognitive resources for comprehension.
  • Upper Strands (Language Comprehension): These strands encompass background knowledge, vocabulary, language structures, verbal reasoning, and literacy knowledge. They contribute to the ability to understand and interpret text.


As students progress in their learning, these strands become increasingly intertwined and automatic, leading to fluent, skilled reading.

The Simple View of Reading


Developed by Gough and Tunmer in 1986, the Simple View of Reading posits that reading comprehension is the product of two primary components:

  • Decoding (D): The ability to translate text into words.
  • Language Comprehension (LC): The capacity to understand spoken language.


The formula �=�×��R=D×LC suggests that reading comprehension (R) can only occur effectively when both decoding and language comprehension are sufficiently developed. This model highlights the necessity for balanced instruction that builds both decoding skills and language comprehension.


Practical Applications for Educators


Educators can implement these frameworks and findings through:

  • Structured Literacy Programs: Adopting or adapting curriculum and instructional strategies that align with the structured literacy approach.
  • Integrating Components of Scarborough’s Reading Rope: Ensuring that lessons address both the lower and upper strands of reading development.
  • Applying the Simple View of Reading: Diagnosing and addressing specific weaknesses in either decoding or language comprehension to better tailor instruction.
  • Professional Development: Investing in ongoing teacher training to stay abreast of the latest research in reading science and effective teaching methodologies.


 The science of reading offers a robust framework for understanding and teaching literacy that goes beyond traditional methods. By incorporating structured literacy, the insights of Scarborough’s Reading Rope, and the Simple View of Reading, educators can enhance their instructional practices to support all students. These approaches not only help students develop strong foundational skills in reading but also promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of language, empowering them to become proficient and enthusiastic readers.



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