The Science of Reading: Why It Matters More than You Think

by | Jun 29, 2023


Greetings school leaders and educators! Have you ever stopped to ponder the intricacies of reading? The seemingly simple act of picking up a book and absorbing its contents is a marvel of cognitive processing. Understanding the science of reading can significantly influence how we teach this essential skill, and it holds far-reaching implications that may surprise you.


The Wonders of Reading: More Than Meets the Eye

Reading is a fundamental skill we often take for granted. However, it’s a complex cognitive task that involves multiple brain systems working in harmony. When we read, we’re not just translating symbols on a page into meaning; we’re also stimulating brain development, cognitive functions, and emotional empathy.


Unveiling the Science of Reading


Reading: A Brainy Business

The process of reading engages numerous regions of the brain. Initially, the visual cortex responds to the visual stimuli, like the shapes of letters. Then, the angular gyrus, a region involved in number and letter recognition, comes into play. Our memory systems, located in the hippocampus, assist in linking these visuals with our existing knowledge.


Genes and Environment: The Dynamic Duo

Reading ability, like many cognitive skills, is influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Genetically, some people may be predisposed to dyslexia or other reading challenges. However, the environment, such as the home literacy environment and instructional methods used in school, plays a vital role in shaping reading skills.


The Stages of Reading: Decoding, Fluency, and Comprehension

Reading development typically progresses through three key stages. Initially, children decode by learning to match letters and sounds, forming words. With practice, they achieve fluency, reading smoothly and accurately. Finally, they reach the stage of comprehension, where they understand and interpret the meaning of the text.


In K-3 classrooms, educators can support these stages by using structured phonics programs for decoding, guided repeated oral reading strategies for fluency, and explicit instruction in vocabulary and text structures for comprehension.


The Relationship between Reading and Other Skills


The Linguistic Tango: Reading and Language Development

Language and reading are tightly interwoven. Reading exposes children to a rich array of vocabulary, sentence structures, and discourse styles, thereby enhancing their language skills. Conversely, strong language skills facilitate more effective reading. By incorporating diverse reading materials into the curriculum, we can support both reading and language development simultaneously.


Reading and the Art of Thinking Critically

Reading is a stepping-stone to critical thinking. As students progress from reading words to sentences to stories, they start to make predictions, infer meanings, analyze characters, and evaluate plots. Encouraging students to engage in book discussions or write book reviews can further bolster these skills.


The Dynamic Duo: Reading and Writing

Reading and writing are two sides of the same coin. Reading exposes students to different writing styles, tones, structures, and conventions, which can inspire and improve their writing. Similarly, writing activities can deepen reading comprehension as students learn to craft narratives, arguments, or informational texts.


One strategy for integrating reading and writing is to use mentor texts – high-quality examples of writing that students can study and emulate in their own work. After reading these texts, students can engage in activities such as retelling the story, writing from a different character’s perspective, or creating a sequel.



Understanding the science of reading is crucial for all educators, particularly those in the early grades. It not only allows us to appreciate the complexities of reading but also provides valuable insights to enhance our teaching practices. So let’s embrace the science of reading and make the most of its myriad benefits for our students’ cognitive, linguistic, and emotional development. Happy reading, and even happier teaching!