Reading Science Resources for Educators (and Journalists): Science of Reading Edition [UPDATED]

Since around 2013 and then increasingly since 2018, states have been adopting new or revised reading legislation often prompted by or identified as the “science of reading” (SOR).

As a result districts, schools, and teachers are experiencing major changes to reading programs and materials. Some states and districts have banned and removed materials that teachers have been using for decades, and many reading teachers are required to attend new PD as well as training in new reading programs.

This upheaval is not only common in K-12 education, but also highly disruptive to teaching as well as learning by students.

At a fundamental level, this cycle of crisis and reform has never worked, and only serves to de-professionalize educators and, once again, fails to address the individual literacy needs of all students.

In this policy brief, I offer an overview of the current SOR movement and recommend a different approach to reading policy and practices, including:

On a more local level, school- and district-level policymakers should do the following:

• Develop teacher-informed reading programs based on the population of students served and the expertise of faculty serving those students, avoiding lockstep implementation of commercial reading programs and ensuring that instructional materials support—rather than dictate—teacher practice.

• Provide students struggling to read and other at-risk students with certified, experienced teachers and low student-teacher ratios to support individualized and differentiated instruction.

Thomas, P.L. (2022). The Science of Reading movement: The never-ending debate and the need for a different approach to reading instruction. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/science-of-reading

In order to achieve my recommendations, local districts and schools must have access to high-quality research and resources in order to support well informed teachers who can then be tasked with developing the sort of reading programs that match the unique and individual needs of the student populations they serve.

Additionally, journalists and mainstream media have been recycling the original claims (see Aukerman below) made by Hanford’s Hard Word, despite a lack of science behind those claims.

Therefore, below I am providing a resource collection by topic that matches the current media, parent, and political pressure that educators, schools, and districts are facing.

Links to resources are being provided for PD and educational purposes only and anyone accessing these resources are asked to respect fair use of scholarship. Further, I am available for educators or journalists who want to investigate the “science of reading” movement critically.

Resources by Topic

Access a PowerPoint of these topics HERE.

Historical Context [access materials HERE]

Betts, E., Dolch, E., Gates, A., Gray, W., Horn, E., LaBrant, L., . . . Witty, P. (1942). What shall we do about reading today?: A symposium. The Elementary English Review, 19(7), 225-256. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41382636

McQuillan, Jeff (1998) “Seven Myths about Literacy in the United States,” Practical Assessment, Research, and Evaluation: Vol. 6 , Article 1.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.7275/em9c-0h59
Available at: https://scholarworks.umass.edu/pare/vol6/iss1/1

Literacy Crises: False Claims and Real Solutions by Jeff McQuillan

Brain Research [access materials HERE]

Seidenberg, M.S., Cooper Borkenhagen, M., & Kearns, D.M. (2020). Lost in translation? Challenges in connecting reading science and educational practice. Reading Research Quarterly55(S1), S119-S130. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.341

Yaden, D.B., Reinking, D., & Smagorinsky, P. (2021). The trouble with binaries: A perspective on the science of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S119-S129. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.402

Dyslexia [access materials HERE]

Johnston, P., & Scanlon, D. (2021). An examination of dyslexia research and instruction with policy implications. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice70(1), 107. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1177/23813377211024625

International Literacy Association. (2016). Research advisory: Dyslexia. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://www.literacyworldwide.org/docs/default-source/where-we-stand/ila-dyslexia-research-advisory.pdf

Socioeconomic dissociations in the neural and cognitive bases of reading disorders, Rachel R. Romeo, Tyler K. Perrachione, Halie A. Olson, Kelly K. Halverson, John D. E. Gabrieli, and Joanna A. Christodoulou

Stevens, E. A., Austin, C., Moore, C., Scammacca, N., Boucher, A. N., & Vaughn, S. (2021). Current state of the evidence: Examining the effects of Orton-Gillingham reading interventions for students with or at risk for word-level reading disabilities. Exceptional Children87(4), 397–417. https://doi.org/10.1177/0014402921993406

Hall, C., et al. (2022, September 13). Forty years of reading intervention research for elementary students with or at risk for dyslexia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Reading Research Quarterly. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.477

[UPDATE]

Odegard, T. N., Farris, E. A., Middleton, A. E., Oslund, E., & Rimrodt-Frierson, S. (2020). Characteristics of Students Identified With Dyslexia Within the Context of State Legislation. Journal of Learning Disabilities53(5), 366–379. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022219420914551

[UPDATE]

The nonsense of teaching nonsense words, Abigail Marshall

LETRS [access materials HERE]

Hoffman, J.V., Hikida, M., & Sailors, M. (2020). Contesting science that silences: Amplifying equity, agency, and design research in literacy teacher preparation. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S255–S266. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.353

Research Roundup: LETRS (PDF in link above also)

Media Coverage of SOR [access materials HERE]

Hoffman, J.V., Hikida, M., & Sailors, M. (2020). Contesting science that silences: Amplifying equity, agency, and design research in literacy teacher preparation. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S255–S266. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.353

MacPhee, D., Handsfield, L.J., & Paugh, P. (2021). Conflict or conversation? Media portrayals of the science of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S145-S155. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.384

Cryonics Phonics: Inequality’s Little Helper – New Politics

[UPDATE]

The Science of Reading and the Media: Is Reporting Biased?, Maren Aukerman, The University of Calgary

The Science of Reading and the Media: Does the Media Draw on High-Quality Reading Research?, Maren Aukerman

The Science of Reading and the Media: How Do Current Reporting Patterns Cause Damage?, Maren Aukerman

Making sense of reading’s forever wars, Leah Durán and Michiko Hikida

[UPDATE]

Harvard EdCast: To Weather the “Literacy Crisis,” Do What Works

Disrupting the Disruptors: Reimagining Policy Advocacy in a Post-Truth Era, Helen Aydarova

Caught In a Web of Privatizers: Science of Reading Reforms in the State of Tennessee, Helen Aydarova

“Whatever You Want to Call It”: Science of Reading Mythologies in the Educational Reform Movement, Helen Aydarova

Mississippi

Mississippi Miracle, Mirage, or Political Lie?: 2019 NAEP Reading Scores Prompt Questions, Not Answers [Update 7 December 2022]

Multiple Cueing Approaches [access materials HERE]

Compton-Lilly, C.F., Mitra, A., Guay, M., & Spence, L.K. (2020). A confluence of complexity: Intersections among reading theory, neuroscience, and observations of young readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S185-S195. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.348

Simple View of Reading (SVR) and Structured Literacy [access materials HERE]

Compton-Lilly, C.F., Mitra, A., Guay, M., & Spence, L.K. (2020). A confluence of complexity: Intersections among reading theory, neuroscience, and observations of young readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S185-S195. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.348

Duke, N.K. & Cartwright, K.B. (2021). The science of reading progresses: Communicating advances beyond the simple view of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S25-S44. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.411

Filderman, M.J., Austin, C.R., Boucher, A.N., O’Donnell, K., & Swanson, E.A. (2022). A meta-analysis of the effects of reading comprehension interventions on the reading comprehension outcomes of struggling readers in third through 12th grades. Exceptional Children88(2), 163-184. https://doi.org/10.1177/00144029211050860

Barber, A.T., Cartwright, K.B., Hancock, G.R., & Klauda, S.L. (2021). Beyond the simple view of reading: The role of executive functions in emergent bilinguals’ and English monolinguals’ reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly56(S1), S45-S64. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.385

Cervetti, G.N., Pearson, P.D., Palincsar, A.S., Afflerbach, P., Kendeou, P., Biancarosa, G., Higgs, J., Fitzgerald, M.S., & Berman, A.I. (2020). How the reading for understanding initiative’s research complicates the simple view of reading invoked in the science of reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S161-S172. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.343

[UPDATE]

The Never-Ending Debate and the Need for a Different Approach to Reading Instruction, P.L. Thomas

The Science of Reading and the Perils of State Literacy Policies: Virginia’s Cautionary Tale, Dorothy Suskind

[UPDATE]

Burns, M. K., Duke, N. K., & Cartwright, K. B. (2023). Evaluating components of the active view of reading as intervention targets: Implications for social justice. School Psychology, 38(1), 30–41. https://doi.org/10.1037/spq0000519

[UPDATE]

Reading a philosophical investigation, Andrew Davis

Systematic Phonics [access materials HERE]

Bowers, J.S. (2020). Reconsidering the evidence that systematic phonics is more effective than alternative methods of reading instruction. Educational Psychology Review, 32(2020), 681-705. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10648-019-09515-y

Wyse, D., & Bradbury, A. (2022). Reading wars or reading reconciliation? A critical examination of robust research evidence, curriculum policy and teachers’ practices for teaching phonics and reading. Review of Education10(1), e3314. https://doi.org/10.1002/rev3.3314

Testing the impact of a systematic and rigorous phonics programme on early readers and also those that have fallen behind at the end of Key Stage 2. (2022, October). Education Endowment Foundation. https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects-and-evaluation/projects/read-write-inc-and-fresh-start

Cryonics Phonics: Inequality’s Little Helper, G. Coles (2019) New Politics

[UPDATE]

(Decodable texts)

The Case Against Decodable Texts, Jeff McQuillan, Language and Language Teaching, Issue No. 21, January 2022 

[UPDATE]

Bowers, J.S. Yes Children Need to Learn Their GPCs but There Really Is Little or No Evidence that Systematic or Explicit Phonics Is Effective: a response to Fletcher, Savage, and Sharon (2020). Educ Psychol Rev 33, 1965–1979 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-021-09602-z

(Fluency)

A Meta-Analysis of Non-Repetitive Reading Fluency Interventions for Students With Reading Difficulties, Leah M. Zimmermann, Deborah K. Reed, and Ariel M. Aloe. Remedial and Special Education 2019 42:2, 78-93

[UPDATE]

(comprehension)

Connor C. M. (2016). A Lattice Model of the Development of Reading Comprehension. Child development perspectives10(4), 269–274. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12200

[UPDATE}

Legislating Phonics: Settled Science or Political Polemics? David Reinking, George G. Hruby, and Victoria J. Risko

NCTQ

NEPC Review: 2020 Teacher Prep Review: Clinical Practice and Classroom Management (National Council on Teacher Quality, October 2020)

NEPC Review: 2018 Teacher Prep Review (National Council on Teacher Quality, April 2018)

NEPC Review: Learning about Learning: What Every New Teacher Needs to Know (National Council on Teacher Quality [NCTQ])


As a career educator for about 40 years, including almost two decades in K-12 teaching, I am advocating for teacher autonomy and professionalism to serve the individual needs of students.

Therefore, I think curriculum and instruction must be driven by classroom teachers—not media narratives, parental advocacy, or political mandate.

Regretfully, media, parental, and political pressure for policy and practice are too often oversimplified and misleading, but honored over teacher experience and expertise.


Recommended

Reading Science: Current and On-Going Research (updated bibliography)

Research Based…Questions to Ask

Reading Research Quarterly:

Volume 55, Issue S1, Special Issue: The Science of Reading: Supports, Critiques, and Questions

Volume 56, Issue S1, Special Issue: The Science of Reading: Supports, Critiques, and Questions


Please feel free to reach out for additional resources or revising as needed (paul.thomas@furman.edu).

I am available for interviews, podcasts, webinars, PD, or possible professional reading groups, etc.

How to End the Reading War and Serve the Literacy Needs of All Students (2nd Ed)

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